Why Soft Skills Are the Secret to Career Success

If you’re in the job market, you’ve probably tweaked your resume to ensure it’s a strong and accurate representation of your abilities. Many of the attributes you list are hard skills, which directly relate to your job. For example, if you’re a medical professional, hard skills may include assessing or diagnosing a patient, delivering care or dealing with specific technologies. If you’re in marketing, you might list your industry knowledge, sales experience and notable projects.

But there’s something else most resumes ignore – soft skills, which are equally as crucial. Why are soft skills so instrumental to a rewarding career, and how can you highlight them? Here’s what you need to know for your professional future.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills relate to how you interact with others, as well as your character traits. The good news is, even if you’ve never considered yourself a “people person,” you can develop your soft skills through dedicated efforts. Doing so will make you more of an asset to your employer and co-workers, no matter which role you fill.

Which Soft Skills Do Employers Want?

Some of the soft skills employers value most include communication abilities, excelling at teamwork, having a positive attitude and being able to solve problems. There are so many more soft skills that enhance your career adaptability and performance, and each has its own unique attributes.

For example, communication means expressing yourself verbally, as well as through writing. It also requires being aware of your body language and making sure you don’t send mixed messages. Being a good listener also ties into communication-related soft skills. It’s ideal if you can learn to tune into what someone says, then repeat it back to them to see if you understood it correctly.

professional advancement

Soft skills under the teamwork umbrella include negotiation, mediation and decision-making. You may also need to tap into leadership skills to motivate other team members or develop more tolerance of people who have differing opinions or beliefs.

When it comes to showing a positive attitude, the associated soft skills may be enthusiasm, determination and an ability to adapt to change. Another relevant soft skill is showing a willingness to learn new things and stay upbeat when you do.

Some examples of soft skills in problem-solving are going outside the box, using critical thinking to tackle issues and persisting despite the possibility of failure.

Why Are Soft Skills Critical in the Workplace?

Soft skills help you become more beneficial to your employer, but they could also affect how much you earn. Long-standing statistics indicate that 85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Conversely, technical knowledge comprises only the remaining 15%.

Moreover, possessing soft skills could make the difference in whether you get the job. In a 2019 LinkedIn report, 92% of respondents said soft skills are increasingly important for candidates to have. The same study showed 89% of participants admitting that “bad hires” typically had poor soft skills.

When you consider that your earnings and chances of scoring a position are both linked to soft skills, you know how crucial it is to hone and highlight them to your potential employers.

Developing Your Soft Skills

Hoping to improve your abilities and accelerate your career growth? Here are some tips for enhancing your soft skills, no matter what industry you’re in:

1. Engage in Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is all about tuning into yourself and being honest about what’s going well and what to improve. Having a regular self-reflection practice could also make you a better leader. It only takes a couple of minutes per day to do. You can do it through things like walking, sitting with your eyes closed or writing in a journal.

2. Become More Aware of How You Portray Yourself to Others

As you interact with people, try to monitor how you come across to them and what it could mean. For example, how’s your posture, your tone of voice and your attitude? Those things could all impact the interpersonal connections you make.

3. Make Stress Management a Priority

Stress could affect numerous soft skills before you ever pinpoint it as a cause for concern. For example, if you’re not dealing with stress well, you might yell at a colleague or find that you’re not patient enough when working in a group. Figure out what techniques help you address stress best. You might meditate, exercise, confide in a friend or learn deep breathing exercises, for example.

4. Have a Sense of Humor

It may seem that humor and the workplace don’t mix, but being willing to laugh at yourself or a situation could benefit your career. If you don’t take things too seriously all the time, people should be more willing to approach you. Humor can build morale and foster teamwork. It can also help you cope with adverse circumstances and remain positive even when things get hard.

5. Spend More Time Building Relationships

You have plenty of resources when it comes to reading about soft skills, and indeed, you can get a lot out of top-quality content. However, the only way you’ll really make progress is when you put those concepts into action. Since soft skills are interpersonal, that means you need to devote more time to being around people and nurturing the connections you have with them.

Charge Your Career With Soft Skill Development

You can’t develop soft skills overnight – think of the process as a lifelong learning opportunity. When you make a conscious effort to enhance your soft skills, you’ll see the payoff both professionally and personally – and boost your path to success.

This guest post was authored by Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is a college and career writer who offers advice on strategies to success. Read more of her work on her blog, Syllabusy.


Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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