What are soft skills? 9 you should master

Soft skills are qualities and abilities that contribute to the way you behave and interact with others. Unlike hard skills, they’re more about who you are as a person than what you know. 

Soft skills are important in all sorts of environments, including the workplace. Read on to learn more about different types of soft skills, as well as steps you can take to sharpen yours.

Key takeaways

  • Soft skills refer to your personality and your interpersonal skills.
  • Soft skills include communication, time management, leadership, problem-solving and positivity.
  • People with good soft skills can be valuable in the working world.

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Why are soft skills important?

Whatever line of business a company is in, relationships—with customers, clients, shareholders and more—are often at the center. So employers value people with soft skills because they can help build and maintain those relationships.

For employees, the good thing about soft skills is that once you have them, you can apply them to any job you take. Hard skills might be more specific to a particular job or subject matter.

Soft skill examples

Soft skills are those you use to relate to, understand and work with other people. Here are nine soft skills it could be worthwhile to master. 

1. Communication

The ability to give and receive information effectively is vital in business. This includes speaking, writing, listening and even using body language. The U.S. Department of Labor says employers consistently rank effective communication skills as one of the most important qualities when they’re hiring. 

2. Adaptability 

With technological advances, companies may be looking for better ways to accomplish and streamline tasks. So being open to learning and implementing new strategies can be a valuable quality.

3. Positivity

From acing the job interview to advancing your career, a positive and enthusiastic attitude can be crucial to success in the workplace. Enthusiastic employees are likely to provide good customer service, resolve interpersonal conflict effectively and work productively with others.  

4. Time management

Good time management helps employees be more efficient and productive in their work. You can show this quality by meeting deadlines, being punctual for meetings, setting priorities and establishing goals. 

5. Critical thinking and problem-solving

No one expects you to have instant solutions. But if you can stay calm and use both smarts and data to work through a problem, you could be a big asset to many companies. Strategic and creative thinkers can save a company time, effort and money. 

6. Teamwork

Most jobs will require you to work with other people of varying ages, opinions and backgrounds to reach a common goal. Good teamwork can include contributing equal effort, deferring to your team lead and demonstrating respect for everyone’s input.

7. Professionalism

It’s not just about the job title you have. There’s room for professionalism in every job, in every industry. Professionalism is a combination of qualities, like integrity, accountability and timeliness, that can help you and your company stand out and succeed.

8. Ownership 

Taking ownership of a role means showing initiative and holding yourself accountable. If you’re willing to take responsibility for the outcome of your work, you’re likely to make more thoughtful decisions and be more driven and engaged. 

9. Leadership

Not everyone wants to lead or manage others. But there are other ways to lead. In the workplace, leadership may be about sharing and communicating ideas, setting a personal example, taking initiative or using influence.

Improving soft skills in the workplace

There’s always something to learn when it comes to improving soft skills. You can start identifying what you want to improve by reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses. These tips can help:

  • Ask for feedback from managers or teammates.
  • Observe how others behave in the workplace.
  • Make a list of soft skills you’d like to improve.
  • Look for online training opportunities or courses available through colleges and universities.
  • Identify a colleague who could mentor you.
  • Seek out opportunities to learn on the job.

Soft skills in a nutshell

Being good at your job is vital. But having the technical skills may only take you so far. If you want to be a valued employee and a leader in your field, soft skills can be just as important. Their role may be difficult to measure, but they can be critical to your success at work. 

Soft skills won’t just help you in your day-to-day job responsibilities. They may also come in handy when having difficult conversations, like asking for a raise.

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