What are Soft Skills? Top 10 Soft Skills for Career Growth
Jan 30, 2023 1.3K Reads
Do you often wonder what it is that makes a particular employee in a team stand out among colleagues and seniors? Why is it that among two equally knowledgeable people, one is usually able to thrive more successfully than the other? The answers to both of these questions probably is the presence of an additional set of skills in addition to job knowledge and skills. These are the skills that we commonly refer to as ‘soft skills’.
But what are soft skills? How can one use it to grow their career? Which soft skills should one focus upon more? These are a few of the questions that we will answer in this blog, along with clearing all your concepts about soft skills. Keep reading to know more!!
What are Soft Skills? Definition and Meaning
Soft skills encompasses a variety of skills in addition to technical knowledge and skills that help an individual to interact and thrive better in a group setting, especially the workplace.
Soft skills can be defined as the set of skills apart from core technical knowledge and skills of an occupation that help a person to thrive in the workplace through interaction and relations with others.
So soft skills are general skills, irrespective of the job or level of seniority that help a person to interact and relate to others in a more effective manner. However, soft skills are not only limited to interaction with others, they also include skills that help a person to function better at an individual level in the job.
Some examples of soft skills include problem-solving ability, communication skills, team-spirit, decision-making, stress management, time management etc.
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Top 10 Soft Skills for Enhanced Your Career In 2023
If hard skills can lay the path for your career escalation, soft skills can help you to improve the quality of your career and relations with your colleagues and seniors. There are some key soft skills which are looked for in candidates during hiring as well as help an employee to improve professional performance after selection.
Here we have elaborated on the top 10 soft skills which can be useful in career growth in today’s professional landscape.
1. Communication skills
Communication skills are one of the most essential soft skills not just in the workplace but in every life situation. When in the workplace, one constantly requires to communicate ideas, opinions and information to others, be it colleagues, team leader or seniors.
Efficient communication skills help you to communicate your ideas and inputs more articulately, honestly and genuinely, without hurting the sentiments of anyone. Good communication skills are also central to forming cordial and positive professional relationships in the workplace. Moreover, they help to improve your client relations and success rates too.
Top examples of communication skills include:
- Ability To Speak Well (Eloquence)
- Ability To Listen Attentively
- Non-Verbal Communication Skills (E.G. Through Body Language, Gestures Etc.)
- Ability To Give Constructive Feedback
- Accept Constructive Criticism Etc.
Top companies and organisations thrive mainly because they regularly come up with creative solutions to problems and innovative services and products. Thus, creativity is one of the essential soft skills needed in any job position or job role. A creative approach to problem-solving and creative ideas are useful in all job domains ranging from engineering, management, marketing to liberal arts.
Corporate firms and companies today look for candidates with a creative mindset and approach to company problems, so that innovative as well as feasible solutions are devised which will help in business growth and maximum performance and profits.
Examples of creativity in problem-solving include :
- Being Able To Think Out Of The Box
- Being Able To Come Up With Innovative Solutions
- Adapting Solutions As Per The Need Of The Hour Etc.
3. Problem Solving & Conflict Resolution
The ability to solve problems in the organisational setup is important to come up with feasible solutions that help to resolve the concern at hand as well as ultimately work towards company growth. Problem-solving ability is also needed to be able to devise solutions to new concerns or company needs that may arise during a project or task. Problem solving ability helps to set you apart from a team as well as help improve your position in the team.
Similarly, conflict resolution is a closely related skill. In many professional settings, irrespective of your field or job position, you will be faced with a conflict situation, whether between colleagues, between a team and management, or between two or more conflicting decisions. The ability to resolve conflicts will then be helpful to arrive at effective solutions as well as dissolve the negative ambience that may get created due to conflict.
Examples of problem solving ability and conflict resolution include :
- Ability To Understand The Nature Of The Problem As Well As The Needed Solution
- Weighing Out Various Alternative Solutions
- Evaluating Risks In A Particular Approach
- Coming Up With The Most Viable Solution
- Communicating Your Reasons To The Team
- Negotiating And Helping To Find A Common Ground Etc.
4. Analytical & Critical Thought
Analytical and critical thought help you to find solutions to problems that others may not be able to arrive at. Moreover, they help you to carefully analyse a solution, scrutinise all aspects involved in a problem, weigh out stakes involved, identify loopholes in plans of action and accordingly modify them as per the need.
They are especially helpful in career domains that require high stake decisions, careful planning and strategizing such as engineering, medicine, management, law etc.
Examples of critical and analytical ability include:
- Understand Nature of Problems
- Identify Loopholes as well as Strengths of Plans
- Modify Problems and Plans of Action
- Critically Appraise Solutions
- Evaluate Stakes Involved in a Solution etc.
5. Team Orientation
Team orientation is one of the most essential interpersonal skills needed to be successful in the modern workplace. In most organisations (or rather life situations), you cannot work solely on an individual basis. Your work and performance has implications on that of others while the actions of others affect your work too. So you will find yourself in team situations often.
Being able to function well in a team is an important skill, maintaining the spirit of a team task, and delivering collective results through goal fulfilment are the need of the hour in corporate and other organisational setups, and can help you to develop cordial relationships with your team as well as grow your career through networking.
Some examples of team orientation and related skills include:
- Ability to Insubordinate Personal Goals and Agendas
- Focusing on Team Goals
- Being Cooperative with Team Members
- Open and Genuine Communication about Ideas and Opinions
- Collective Decision-Making
- Collaborative Approach Rather than Individual Approach etc.
With the constantly changing and evolving nature of professional fields, it is a need of the hour to have a flexible and adaptive approach to problem solving and strategizing. During major projects and job duties, problems or concerns requiring a change of strategy may be needed.
In such situations, an adaptive approach of problem-solving and decision-making that is responsive to the situational needs of the company is important. Adaptability and responsiveness to change is a key soft skill that helps an organisation to thrive and grow its business and scope in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) society.
Examples of an adaptive approach includes:
- Being Responsive to the Changing Situations
- Understanding How to Change One’s Solution as per the Need of the Hour
- Evaluating Alternative Solutions with their Feasibility
- Being Updated With Changes in Your Relevant Field
- Having a Creative Approach to Problem-Solving etc.
7. Work Ethic
Maintaining and respecting the work ethic is a basic professional soft skill that can help in maintaining a positive image in front of colleagues and seniors as well as contribute significantly to preserving a healthy, decorous and professional culture at the workplace.
Respecting work ethics is an important area evaluated for hiring and recruitment because hirers and selectors consider how well you fit with the organisational culture as well as if you would respect the company policies and ethics or not as an employee in the future. Hence, working on your work ethics is important for a successful and cordial professional life.
A few examples of work ethics in a professional setting include:
- Respect for & Obedience of Company Policies
- Avoiding Insubordination
- Maintaining Professional Boundaries between Colleagues
- Respecting Workplace Diversity
- Maintaining Confidentiality of Company Information
- Protecting Company Property etc.
8. Time Management
Effective time management is needed for meeting company deadlines, delivering concrete results within a time frame as well as ensuring that all company members are performing their job duties regularly and on time. Thus, time management is an important soft skill to possess from the perspective of an employee as well as the company as a whole.
Companies as well as individual employees need to set clear and realistic, achievable goals which can be measured, in order to achieve them in a particular time frame. Time management ensures that company and individual employee goals are being met on a timely basis and that time is not being wasted in other activities by employees.
Some skills related to effective time management include:
- Evaluation of Approximate Time Needed to Accomplish a Task
- Planning Out Activities in Advance
- Setting Realistic and Achievable Goals and Deadlines
- Maintaining a Focused Approach towards Goal Achievement
- Dividing a Major Task into Subtasks etc.
9. Decision-Making Skills
The ability to make sound and reasonable decisions can make all the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful company endeavour. At various stages in your career, you will need to make career decisions, even in your current job, you will face situations where you will inevitably have to make decisions regarding work-life balance, tasks order priority, expressing a particular opinion etc.
So, being able to make logical, feasible, and effective decisions that will yield successful results for the employee and the company at large is a skill one needs to master today. Decision-making ability becomes even more important if you have a leadership position in a company such as at the team leader level, middle to top managerial level and executive level.
Some of the skills related to effective decision-making ability include:
- Ability to Identify All Possible Courses of Action
- Ability to Weigh and Evaluate These Alternatives
- Ability to Come Up with Logical and Feasible Decisions
- Ability to Make Quick but Efficient Decisions
- Take Decisions Considering Broader Company Goals rather than Short-Term Goals etc.
10. Negotiation and Persuasion
Negotiation and persuasion skills are useful for not only articulating your ideas well but also to convince others to buy them. They can be especially helpful in careers that require frequent interaction with and persuasion of clients, e.g. in marketing and sales jobs, HRM jobs, counseling jobs, hospitality jobs etc.
Negotiation and persuasion ability can also be helpful to persuade your leader or seniors to be on board with your ideas and plans of action for a task, during increments and so on.
Some skills related to negotiation and persuasion ability include:
- Confidence in Your Opinion and Words
- Being Genuine and Not Purely Manipulative
- Ability to Arrive on a Common Ground
- Being Polite but Convincing
- Backing Your Opinions/Ideas With Research etc.
So, as can be seen, there are many important soft skills that can be helpful in your career or along your professional journey. It is as important to focus on soft skills before and during a job, as they help you to grow and enhance your career and professional relationships along the way.
Soft Skills vs Hard Skills
Soft skills and hard skills are two of the most commonly used terms in domains of hiring and placement, human resource management and in the corporate world. But before getting to know specific soft skills and hard skills, it is important to know what the two terms mean. So, without further ado, let's understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that are useful for efficient occupational performance.
Hard skills are the technical knowledge, skills and expertise that help a person to thrive in a particular profession.
These include the general skills irrespective of professions or one’s position in their career.
These skills vary from one profession to another.
These include the skills relating to effective self management as well as interaction with others.
These include the skills and technical expertise that help to perform the job functions effectively.
Examples of soft skills include problem solving ability, decision making ability, creativity, analytical skills, team orientation etc.
Hard skills would vary from one job to another but examples include mathematical skills, spatial skills, mechanical skills etc.
So, soft skills will help you thrive generally at any stage of your career and establish a positive image of yourself to others working with you. On the other hand, hard skills help you to escalate in your career as with experience, your technical expertise also grows, helping you grab better job opportunities.
Importance of Soft Skills: Why Do You Need Soft Skills
Soft skills play a central role in enhancing your career and complement your hard skills for the job. They are important for career development and your overall professional and personal success in a number of ways.
Here are a few reasons that make soft skills very important in our lives.
1. Soft Skills Help You Grab Excellent Job Opportunities
Soft skills are a need of the hour if you want to develop a good professional network and explore the best job opportunities. Skills such as networking and interpersonal communication help you to not only develop a strong professional network through which you can explore the best career opportunities, but recruiters of big companies and for top job positions actively look for your soft skills and abilities in addition to your technical knowledge.
So, soft skills are one of the keys to cracking top job opportunities and growing your career, and you need to place active emphasis on them in addition to your hard skills.
2. Soft Skills Help to Set You Apart in a Job Interview
As already stated, recruiters in the professional domain today not only want potential candidates to have a host of necessary job skills, but also possess important soft skills that will help to build an efficient team as well as grow the organisation. Most companies in the modern workplace function from a human resource-oriented perspective which requires that the employees not only possess the necessary technical expertise but also the interpersonal and individual skills that help to create a professional environment conducive to the growth of all.
For this, hirers and recruiters carefully assess your soft skills along with your technical knowledge in a job interview. If you are adept at your interpersonal and professional skills, then it will help you to establish your ground as well as stand out as a strong candidate among other applicants. So, focusing on your soft skills can help you get leverage over your contemporaries in job interviews.
3. Soft Skills Help You Shine in a Team
As an employee, especially in the corporate sector, you may often find yourself in group situations where you have to work with your colleagues in a team to meet deadlines and goals. Among such tasks are also the implicit goal of being able to work in a team successfully but shine out from the rest at the same time.
But what is it that helps you to shine out from the rest on a shared task? It is your soft skills that determine how well you are able to perform in a team, collaborate with others, lead the team and deliver outputs. So, soft skills are very important as they help you establish firm grounds during team tasks, shine out to your seniors and make your way to promotions and better job appraisals as well.
4. Soft Skills Improve Your Relations with Colleagues
Not only from a careeristic perspective, soft skills also help you to improve your interpersonal relations with others. They help you work better in teams, establish cordial and positive professional relationships with colleagues and seniors, as well as lead others more effectively (in case you are a team or unit leader), all of which will consequently help to deliver better professional outcomes.
So, from a social and professional perspective, soft skills can help you and your team thrive as well as deliver better, innovative and creative results that will help the company to grow its business.
5. Soft Skills Complement your Hard Skills
Soft skills are very important in the professional domain in that they help to complement and support your hard skills. Most employees possess the necessary technical knowledge and skills needed to perform the job roles, but soft skills such as time management, professionalism, team orientation etc. help to support the hard skills and deliver actual results of value to the company.
So, in complementing the hard skills, soft skills help you deliver a variety of job tasks and climb the ladder of your career.
6. Soft Skills Also Warrant Personal Growth
Soft skills like time management, professionalism, adaptability, analytical ability etc. are essential not only from the point of view of your career but also from the perspective of personal growth and fulfilment, as they promote helpful habits and practices that help you to grow your personal skills, abilities and interpersonal relations with others.
For example, time management is not only helpful in meeting work deadlines effectively but also in managing your time in your personal life, thereby fostering a helpful habit.
7. Soft Skills Warrant Organisational Growth
Soft skills help in the overall better performance of individual employees, teams, departments and consequently the organisation. Effective soft skills help to foster good interpersonal relationships within professional boundaries among employees, improve the team spirit, help to develop a healthy organisational culture and thereby lead to the growth of business of the company.
Moreover, soft skills in employees are also conducive to improved professional performance, which means that the employees come up with better solutions, creative business ideas, and better strategies to grow the business and deliver results.
8. Soft Skills Can Be Trained but not Automated
With different arenas of jobs getting taken over by automation and technology, many job domains have eliminated the need for human assets completely. But soft skills set humans apart from machines, and their role cannot be fulfilled by machines.
As a result, even though soft skills can be developed in humans with training and practice, they can never be taken over completely by automated systems anytime in the future, and their role remains unquestioned and essential.
9. Soft Skills Help to Make a Good Leader
From the perspective of leadership, being an efficient leader requires many skills, of which one of the most essential is interpersonal skills. A good leader in an organisation should be able to connect with the employees as well as motivate and inspire them, manage them and lead them towards goal fulfilment.
All these aspects require soft skills such as team orientation, problem solving ability, communication skills etc. which will help a leader to guide the team and ultimately the organisation towards better performance.
So, soft skills have a hidden but very important role to play in any organisation or group as well as for an individual as it is beneficial towards personal and organisational growth.
Types of Soft Skills
There are a number of top soft skills that can help you to thrive in the workplace or elsewhere. These skills can be categorised as belonging to mainly 3 categories, all of which have been explained in detail below with relevant examples.
1. Personal Soft Skills
This category includes the soft skills that are beneficial and practised at a more individual level and can help a person to thrive as well as manage work better. While all soft skills are beneficial at the personal level, these soft skills are also practised at a more personal level.
Examples of personal soft skills include:
- Time Management
- Analytical Ability
- Critical Thinking Skills
2. Interpersonal Skills
This includes the class of soft skills that help a person to interact with others more effectively and positively. Interpersonal skills are a very important aspect of soft skills, and are especially relevant in the workplace as employees are frequently required to interact with colleagues and work in teams.
Interpersonal skills help you to communicate with others effectively, present your ideas, form cordial relationships with others as well as increase the trust and dependability an organisation has on you. Moreover if your job requires you to interact with clients regularly, interpersonal skills can be the key to successful client relations and ultimately better professional outcomes.
Examples of interpersonal skills include:
- Team Orientation
- Communication Skills
- Ability To Listen, Cooperative Mentality
- Negotiation And Persuasion Skills
- Leadership Ability Etc.
3. Professional Skills
While personal and interpersonal soft skills are also important from a professional perspective, professional skills include those soft skills that help an employee to maintain the ethos and professional ambience of the workplace and contribute positively to the organisational culture.
Examples of this category include :
- Abiding By Company Policies
- Team Orientation
- Ethical And Conscientious Work Behaviour
- Commitment To The Company etc.
Soft Skills for Résumé
When it comes to including particular soft skills in your résumé, you should take a number of factors into account. Here we will give you a quick and easy guide about how to effectively include the right set of soft skills in your résumé that will help you to shine out from other potential job candidates.
When you are including soft skills or deciding upon which soft skills to include in your résumé, you should keep in mind the nature of the job you are applying to and accordingly select the skills which help to convey that you are a perfect fit for the job.
For example, if you are applying to a job that requires frequent interaction with clients and colleagues, then you should focus on soft skills like team orientation, communication ability; if you are applying to a sales or marketing job role, you should emphasise your negotiation, communication and persuasion abilities; if you are applying to a job role that requires careful technical expertise, you can focus on your analytical skills, attention to detail, critical ability etc.
Here are a few of the top skills to include in your résumé:
Critical Thinking Skills
Attention to Detail
Ability to Work in Groups
Negotiation and Persuasion Skills
While mentioning these above skills in your résumé, you should consider the ones which are relevant to the particular job role that you are seeking, as already exemplified above.
Here are a few ways in which you can mention soft skills in your résumé:
1. Make a Separate Section for Soft Skills
Many modern résumé templates offer you a separate segment in your résumé dedicated to your soft skills and interpersonal abilities. In this section you can mention the various soft skills that you feel are relevant for the particular job position. A good idea is to focus on the skills that the company recruiters mention in the job requirements.
This will help you to communicate to the recruiters that you are an apt candidate for the job and can serve the role efficiently.
2. Incorporate Your Soft Skills in Your Hard Skills
A good way to communicate your soft skills to the company employers without directly stating them is to incorporate them in your hard skills. You can do this by including examples of effective team management, organisational abilities, leadership quality etc. in your work experience and accomplishments.
Here are a few examples:
- Instead of saying “responsible for XYZ team”, express your job responsibility as “Managed, Interacted and Integrated All Responsibilities and Functions of XYZ Team”.
- Instead of Writing “Managed Project ABC”, express it as “Strategised, Planned, Implemented and Met Deadlines for Project ABC By Integrating All Team Functions and Roles”.
- Instead of Writing “Handling Sales of XYZ Division”, Express it as “Managing, Meeting and Persuading Clients in Division XYZ to Invest in Company Product and Maintain Positive Client Relations”.
3. Use Active and Engaging Verbs to Describe Your Soft Skills
When mentioning your job responsibilities or soft skills in the résumé, you should try to use active and engaging verbs like “develop”, “engage”, “maintain”, “integrate”, “lead” etc. instead of simple verbs like “handle”, “responsible”, “sell” etc.
This is recommended because it helps you to convey to the potential employer that you are a person who takes an active lead in various professional situations as well as like to take initiative towards action, creating a positive first impression.
4. Support Your Claims with Your Job Responsibilities
It is important to back your claims about the possessed soft skills with evidence in the form of job responsibilities and professional accomplishments. So, irrespective of the soft skills that you mention on your résumé, it is important to ensure that your mentioned job roles and responsibilities are consistent with them.
For example, if you mention a soft skill like attention to detail and commit a grammatical or spelling error in your résumé, it reflects an inconsistency between your claim and your actual potential as a professional.
Hence, you must pay careful attention while mentioning soft skills on your résumé and ensure that you support them accordingly by mentioning relevant job responsibilities and accomplishments.
Top Soft Skills in the Corporate World
When it comes to the valued soft skills in the world of the corporate sector, interpersonal as well as individual soft skills that can lead to company growth take the central role. Professional soft skills are understandably a key aspect as well.
If you are an employee in the corporate sector or someone who is looking to explore your job options in the corporate domain, there are certain soft skills which are highly valued by professionals. These skills, whether highlighted in your résumé or through your past professional experiences and accomplishments, can be very beneficial for your professional profile and provide you leverage over your contemporaries.
So, which are the top soft skills that can help you set your best foot forward for a corporate job? Here we have curated a list of the most valued soft skills in the corporate world:
Critical & Analytical Skills
Adaptability & Responsiveness to Change
Creativity & Innovation
Time Management Ability
Persuasion & Negotiation Skills
The skills mentioned above are beneficial to corporate employees in various domains of professions. They help corporate employees to
Communicate with clients and colleagues more effectively
Take Crucial Decisions More Easily
Relate to your corporate employees more efficiently and genuinely
Devise Innovative and Creative Solutions to Problems
Form Cordial Relationships with Clients and Colleagues
Critically Analyse Plans and Projects
Network More Effectively
Maintain the Work Ethic and Contribute to an Optimum Work Environment
Manage your Deadlines Effectively
Thrive in the Corporate Setting
So, it is important to highlight the various soft skills that you possess, whether through your résumé, your job interview or your past professional record. Soft skills can help set you apart in a crowd and grow your corporate career as they support your hard skills.
Soft Skills for Education
In the field of education, both students and teachers need to possess certain soft skills that help them to function better and thrive in the educational situation. The role of individual soft skills are essential for students while teachers need both interpersonal and individual skills to perform their job role more efficiently.
Some of the important soft skills that can help a student to deliver enhanced academic performance include:
- Enthusiasm & Initiative: An enthusiastic approach in students can help them to discover their areas of interest and many new academic domains. Moreover, initiative can help undertake academic ventures which will be conducive to growth.
- Discipline: Discipline can become the cornerstone of a successful life as a student. A disciplined approach in a student’s life can lead to better time management and better academic performance as well.
- Team Orientation: Students must know how to work collaboratively and successfully in teams since most future situations, whether professional or otherwise, will require them to interact with groups. So, an early start and insightful experiences with teams and groups can lay the path for a successful future.
- Time Management: Time management is absolutely essential in the life of a student, who needs to manage multiple aspects such as academic life, personal life, leisure, exploratory projects, social life etc. simultaneously. Effective time management will enable a student to compartmentalise these aspects as well as devote quality time to each.
- Critical & Analytical Thinking: Critical and analytical thinking is needed at various levels of education, especially as a student begins to get promoted to the higher grades and consequently to higher education. Analytical and critical abilities help students to understand, analyse, scrutinise as well as develop insights about various concepts.
- Problem-Solving Ability: The ability to devise solutions and solve problems effectively is a key skill that can help a student a long way, well into their future professional lives as well. Problem solving ability enables students to deal with the various problems that may arise resiliently as well as resolve possible conflicts without suffering from excessive stress.
- Creative Thinking: Creative thinking is highly valued in both conventional and contemporary educational networks. A student’s ability to come up with innovative approaches and creative solutions in academic settings is helpful in developing insights and their overall growth.
- Stress Management: Needless to say, a student’s life is filled with stress-inducing aspects. Whether it be academic pressure, cut-throat competition, pending deadlines for assignments and projects or examinations, the situations that arise can be highly stressful. Students who are able to manage stress are able to thrive amidst it and deliver results of value. Students should indeed be given stress management training by educational institutions to help them alleviate stress and avoid its various negative effects.
Teachers and professionals in educational settings also need to possess certain soft skills that will help them to perform their job better and deliver satisfactory teaching-learning outcomes. Here are a few essential soft skills for teachers and professionals in an educational setting.
- Communication Ability: The job role of a teacher includes frequent communication with others, be it students, colleagues, higher management and authorities or parents of students. So, good communication skills are needed to thrive in this job sector. Moreover, to be able to teach and manage a class effectively as well, a teacher needs to be a good communicator.
- Discipline: Maintaining a disciplined approach is important in an educational setting, both for the students and the teachers. Teachers, although shouldn’t adopt a strictly disciplinarian approach, should still have a basic discipline in the classroom and educational setting to prevent chaos.
- Empathy: A teacher must be able to connect to students genuinely in order to be able to perform their job role effectively. Afterall, a teacher has the responsibility of not only teaching a class, but also to ensure student well-being, for which an empathetic approach and understanding of student perspectives is needed.
- Emotional Intelligence: Similarly, a teacher also needs to possess emotional intelligence and understanding to be able to provide support to the students as well as ensure their well-being. Students can approach a teacher with many problems that are not strictly academic, and to be able to address such issues, teachers must take an emotionally intelligent and empathetic stance.
- Public Speaking: The job role of a teacher in any conventional educational setting includes addressing a crowd of students in a classroom. As a result, a competence in public speaking is needed to be able to teach in a classroom.
- Professionalism and Work Ethic: Like any other profession, the teaching profession also needs professionalism and work ethics, and more so since the role of a teacher also includes many added aspects of responsibilities and duties towards the welfare of others. So teachers need to have a strong sense of professionalism and respect for their professional ethics in order to thrive in this domain.
- Leadership Ability: A teacher, although has a collaborative role with students, has a major leadership role as well. A teacher should not only be able to effectively teach students, but also mentor them, guide them, inspire them and lead them. All such aspects need good leadership qualities in a teacher.
- Cultural Competence: With modern classrooms and educational settings becoming increasingly diverse, the same classroom has students from diverse cultures, religious backgrounds, family backgrounds etc. A teacher thus needs to have cultural competence and an inclusive approach to teaching in the classroom which will enable all students to feel included and ensure that no one’s sentiments or feelings are hurt or dismissed in the socio-cultural context.
- Organisational Skills: To ensure decorum and organisation in the educational setting, a teacher needs to possess organisational skills, whether it be in terms of discipline, time management, team management or academic planning and strategizing. So, organisational skills are much needed in the profession of teaching to ensure systematic progress and decorum.
- Time Management: Teachers must manage time in various aspects in their profession, whether it be managing class timings, time devoted to student enquiries, time devoted to functions and programmes or time devoted to examinations and parent meetings. Hence, they need to have effective time management skills to be able to organise the various activities in an educational setting.
- Problem-Solving: A teacher must not only guide students towards solving their problems, they must address many aspects professionally as well that need them to possess effective problem-solving ability. Examples include addressing organisational concerns, addressing parental grievances, managing academic concerns of students, managing relations with colleagues etc. In order to manage all such aspects, teachers need to have efficient problem-solving skills.
- Conflict Resolution: Conflicts can arise sometimes in an educational setting, such as between students, from the parents of students, between parents and higher school authorities and so on. A teacher should have the ability to mitigate such conflicts or resolve them when they arise so as to minimise stress and maintain the decorum of the educational setup.
Thus, soft skills are a very essential part of educational settings, both from the perspective of teachers and students.
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How to Assess Soft Skills in Employees and During Hiring
From the perspective of an employer, it is important to identify soft skills in potential candidates who you may be considering for hiring. But how to go about identifying or looking for soft skills in a candidate through their résumé? Afterall, it is tough to evaluate if a job applicant has the necessary soft skills in addition to the technical knowledge about the field.
However, through some simple approaches, it is possible to identify certain soft skills in candidates. Here are a few simple approaches to identifying soft skills among employees or job candidates.
- Identify the Soft Skills Needed for the Job
The very first approach is to effectively identify and enlist the desirable soft skills for a particular job position. Depending upon whether it is a sales job, a managerial job, a STEM job or a teaching job, the employers can prepare a list of the needed individual, professional and interpersonal skills for performing it effectively.
- Make the Interview Standardised
While interviewers can certainly incorporate certain individually-oriented questions for each candidate in the job interview, the key aspect to objectively assess the soft skills of every candidate is to ask the same questions to all candidates.
This will help the interviewers to assess the degree to which different candidates are adept in the same skills and accordingly screen and select the best fit for the organisation and the job position.
- Ask Questions Pertaining to Past Job Experience
In order to assess various soft skills that will be needed for the particular job position, you can ask the candidate about any experiences in their previous jobs where they may have used the relevant skill to deal with a particular professional situation.
It is a good idea to prepare questions in advance that will help to ask a standardised set of questions across candidates and will enable you to assess the necessary soft skills for similar problems. You can ask questions such as:
How did the candidate deal with a difficult client?
How did the candidate make a decision in a tough professional situation?
How did the candidate catch up with due deadlines and tasks in the past job?
How did the candidate address a work ethic-related dilemma?
Does the client believe in working overtime for a colleague?
How does the candidate like to organise their work?
How did the candidate perform a group task or work with a group to accomplish a goal?
How did the candidate deal with project responsibilities?
How does the candidate handle criticism as well as provide criticism to others’ ideas?
How did the candidate deal with or handle changing demands of a project?
You can ask general questions as listed above or you can also ask individual experiences at previous jobs such as about particular situations in which they exhibited the skill in question. Such questions help to evaluate how well the candidate can practise soft skills in the actual work environment.
- Assess the Presence of Soft Skills through Assessment Tasks
When designated with assignment tasks for job interviews, employers can assess the soft skills of the candidates. Individual skills such as organisational skills, decision-making, problem-solving abilities, time management, research ability, team interaction and communication abilities etc. can be assessed through the way in which the candidate performs/completes/works upon the assignment.
- Try to Minimise Personal Biases
It is important to minimise any biases that can result from the interviewer's perceptions, opinions and personal preferences. All the candidates must be assessed on both their hard and soft skills as objectively as possible.
This can be done by ensuring that there is a definite rubric for the various skills to be assessed, and similar questions are asked to all candidates. The scoring of candidates should also be done objectively and interviewers can be trained to minimise the impact of their personal biases on the judgement of candidates.
There are a large number of resources available on open source journals, the virtual domain as well as corporate domains to design questionnaires for job interviews, soft skill assessment as well as candidate evaluation.
How to Develop Soft Skills? Soft Skills Training
As has already been exhibited above, soft skills are as essential a part (if not more) for business growth and company longevity as hard skills and technical expertise of the employees. With changing times and the volatile nature of the work environment in the 21st century, there is a constant need for employees and the organisation to upskill and hone interpersonal and individual abilities.
So, training and assessment of soft skills in the workforce becomes an important aspect of the overall growth of the company. Hence, companies take on a variety of measures and steps to grow and train the workforce in soft skills beneficial for the job roles. The Human Resource Department of a company can play a central role in soft skill development of employees and teams as a whole.
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Here we have mentioned a few of the salient aspects of soft skills training as well as simple measures that can be taken up by companies to develop soft skills:
- During hiring, ensure that you assess the requisite soft skills for the job role in the candidates and select the ones who fit most appropriately with the company goals.
- In the present workforce, identify and enlist the desirable soft skills that will be helpful in better functioning of the company.
- Assess the current levels of soft skills across various domains possessed by the workforce. This will help in knowing the soft skills gap in the employees in terms of desirable level and possessed level of skills and abilities.
- Identify the domains in which different employees need to focus (vis a vis interpersonal, individual, professional or multiple) to hone their skills.
- Divide your workforce accordingly on the basis of such deficit areas or areas of soft skills that need further upskilling and reskilling.
- The organisation can take on a variety of measures to train the employees and the teams in various soft skills areas like:
Seminars and Sessions with Trained Industry Experts
Give Employees Access to Various Digital Courses for Soft Skill Training
Training Sessions on the Soft Skill Area
Arrange Counseling Sessions with Career and Vocational Counselors for Employees
Peer Training and Coaching Sessions
Arrange Group Bonding and Team Building Exercises and Activities
- Further, to ensure that such practices are effective in producing the desired effect and help in soft skill development of employees, provide active feedback to employees.
- Feedback helps employees to evaluate their progress and accordingly improve practices and professional habits.
- A good measure is to attach some incentive (which can be monetary or non-monetary in terms of praise, identification, acknowledgement or certificates) to the soft skill training and outcomes. Incentives provide motivation to employees towards actually investing efforts towards improvement of their soft skills.
- At the individual level of an employee, one should observe their own behaviour as well as the behaviour of others, to learn and incorporate various aspects pertaining to soft skills.
- Moreover, employees should have an open mindset towards feedback and constructive criticism and accordingly modify their approach towards their workplace practices and soft skills.
- In many situations in the professional setting, employees may need to step out of their comfort zones and work in teams or with other colleagues in groups to achieve shared goals. Such settings can be a good stimulus to work upon various interpersonal skills.
- While developing interventions or employee training programmes for soft skill development, it is important to set realistic goals for the individual employees as well as the team in its entirety.
Therefore, through collective as well as individual efforts of employees and the company as a unit, it is possible to develop and hone the various soft skills needed to function in the workplace and ensure company growth.
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Soft skills have become an essential aspect of organisational growth in contemporary times. With a large workforce which is well-versed in technical expertise and knowledge, soft skills can become a deciding factor towards success. Hence there are a number of individual, professional and interpersonal soft skills that employees and aspiring candidates need to be adept in such as communication ability, team orientation, collaborative skills, critical and analytical ability etc. Through effective training, observation, guidance and feedback, it is possible to develop one’s soft skills as well as that of a team.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Soft skills include the skills apart from core technical knowledge and skills of an occupation that help a person to thrive in the workplace through personal management, interaction and relations with others. So, they are the interpersonal and personal skills that help in better functioning in a profession.
Some typical examples of highly valued soft skills include time management, leadership ability, conflict resolution, problem solving ability, critical and analytical ability, team orientation, cooperation, decision making ability etc.
Soft skills comprise of 3 main types- personal skills (e.g. time management, problem-solving ability, decision-making ability etc.), interpersonal skills (e.g. team orientation, communication skills, leadership ability etc.) and professional skills (e.g. discipline, work ethic, respect towards company property and policies, professionalism etc.)
The three categories of soft skills include personal skills (which help in professional performance at an individual level), professional skills (which help to contribute to the work culture and maintain professionalism at the workplace) and interpersonal skills (which help in effective interaction and maintaining cordial professional relationships at the workplace).
You can mention the relevant soft skills in a résumé either as a separate section, or by incorporating them in your professional experience (see examples given above). While mentioning soft skills in your résumé, do them as per the job role you are applying to. Moreover, try to support the stated soft skills with your past accomplishments and professional performance.
Soft skills are the general personal and interpersonal skills that help an individual to function better and more efficiently at the workplace through interaction and relation with others. Examples include problem solving ability, communication skills etc. On the other hand, hard skills include technical knowledge and expertise related to the particular field that you work in and that help you to fulfill your job duties. Examples include mechanical skills, engineering skills, spatial skills etc.
The top 10 most highly valued soft skills in the professional world are communication skills, creativity, problem solving ability, analytical and critical thought, decision-making ability, team orientation, time management, negotiation and persuasion, work ethic and adaptability.
Soft skills are important not only in your professional life but in the personal life or in the real, day-to-day life as well. They help you to communicate more effectively with others around you, manage your time more effectively and through that achieve your short-term and long-term goals, take well-thought and mindful decisions, resolve conflicts that arise more effectively and so on. Moreover, having ample soft skills can be helpful for bagging top job options in your career as well since they help to set you apart from other potential candidates and in a group.
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