Knowledge and book smarts get you only so far in today’s workplace as employers look to find the best candidates for a position, and that often focuses on soft skills. Hard skills acquired through school or training are measurable – soft skills are interpersonal and behavioral skills that show how you handle situations and interact with those around you.
If you want to succeed and watch your career soar, you must develop and improve your soft skills for maximum potential. Doing so can help you get that promotion, leadership role, or salary increase.
As many older adults know, there was a time when employers looked for the most qualified and experienced candidates. Today significantly more goes into the hiring decision. Candidates with strong interpersonal, social abilities, communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills often rise to the top of the list.
We want to help you develop your soft skills to move ahead and accomplish your goals.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are abilities that go beyond your technical and educational knowledge base. That does not mean you should not get a degree, learn a trade, or attain essential experience. These are still bankable aspects of a successful career. However, you must develop soft skills not part of your typical curriculum for ongoing success. These skills may seem intangible or immeasurable, yet they will prove effective in the workplace, helping you stand out from the competition.
Developing soft skills can boost your self-confidence and how you present yourself to the world. No matter your job, improving your soft skills can make a positive difference. As your self-confidence grows, you will feel it throughout your body. That positive attitude will help reduce stress, improve your health, and benefit everyone around you.
Part of achieving success in your career is ensuring you keep your health and mental well-being in check. Learning to communicate, lead, and motivate others will not work if you feel tired, stressed, or ill. Optimum physical and mental health go hand in hand with being effective in your professional life. When you feel your best, you present that image to the world.
Emotional intelligence is another area employers look at, as being able to manage your emotions in the workplace is crucial. Stressful situations can happen anywhere and to anyone. Being able to read others’ emotions is just as important.
How do soft skills work?
Soft skills go beyond the routine performing of your assigned tasks. They relate to how you use your skills, such as communicating, listening, managing your time, solving problems, leadership, interpersonal skills, teamwork, and identifying ways to improve productivity. Because soft skills are transferable and valuable in all jobs, employers see these as benefits of adaptability and flexibility in their employees.
Most Common Undeveloped Soft Skills
Whether you are applying for your first job, looking to change careers later in life, starting over after being out of the workforce, or hoping for that big promotion, developing and improving your soft skills is crucial.
According to Adecco, 92% of executives in America believe workers are not as skilled as they should be. More than half of the hiring managers surveyed said that interpersonal and listening skills were the hardest to find in job applicants. The ensuing “skills gap” is why it is vital to develop soft skills.
There is a fine line between common undeveloped soft skills and those that are the most important.
The list below highlights many of the soft skills that employers would like to see further developed in their employees:
- Creativity: transcending what many people believe creativity to be, such as art, writing, and design, creative skills are vital in innovation and improving current methods of operation. Questioning, experimentation, and imagination provide many benefits to employers.
- Data analysis: the ability to analyze data is essential in many industries. Any area that can be measured, such as sales, productivity, client attainment, retention, and finances, requires analytic abilities. If you have any Excel certifications, analytical courses, or skills, highlight them.
- Interpersonal skills: How you interact with others and the impression you make on them is crucial. Openness, empathy, awareness, diplomacy, tolerance, humor, and networking abilities all play a role in developing strong interpersonal skills.
- Leadership: employers look for candidates with leadership skills, as that shows initiative, mentorship, and management abilities. They want authentic employees who work well with everyone. Be prepared to discuss a situation when you used your leadership skills during an interview.
- Public speaking: while most people do not have to stand up in front of a roomful of people, meetings, client interactions, and networking all require a degree of public speaking. Interviewers look for how comfortable a person is during the conversation, the ability to maintain eye contact, and body language as clues to a person’s comfort level with speaking.
- Teamwork: post-pandemic, more people are still working at home, yet part of a team. Being able to work together in any situation, collaborate, exchange ideas, manage conflicts, and create resolutions are crucial.
- Writing proficiency: many people are lacking in writing skills, especially when it comes to professional communication through email. Employers and hiring managers notice these shortcomings when mistakes are present in cover letters and resumes.
Most Important Soft Skills In 2023
Just as with the most common undeveloped soft skills, the ones listed below are some of the most important ones employers look for in their employees today. These soft skills can help you get the job, advance your career, and succeed in everything you do.
Important soft skills to learn:
- Adaptability: companies look for employees who can adapt to and embrace change with optimism rather than negativity. Staying calm, optimistic, self-motivating, and analyzing a situation will show you can go with whatever comes next.
- Attention to detail: mistakes can cost a company significantly. Accuracy, critical observation, questioning and speaking up when something seems wrong, introspection and self-thought, and proper scheduling are crucial.
- Communication: clearly conveying ideas verbally, in writing, and in a presentation to a group is crucial. Communication skills also include active listening (not thinking about what you want to say next) and being open to receiving, processing, and implementing constructive feedback. Non-verbal communication, such as body language, how you dress, whether you smile, and eye contact, are essential.
- Problem-solving/critical thinking: rather than complaining about an issue or problem, employers want workers to come up with solutions on their own. That means observing what is happening around you, analyzing the situation, brainstorming with others, using logical reasoning to create solutions, and making decisions based on facts. Companies look for creative problem-solvers to help improve productivity and their bottom line. If interviewing for a job, be prepared with a situation you have faced, the skills you used to address it, the actions you took, and the resolution.
- Time management: one of the biggest problems for employers is when employees do not manage their time well. Being late to a meeting or not getting the job done by the deadline can cost a company money, not to mention holding you back in your career. Organization, prioritizing, goal setting, planning, and stress management skills are crucial.
- Work ethic: Commitment to the company, dependability, professionalism, responsibility, performance, and discipline are excellent skills to cultivate to show your work ethic.
How to Improve Your Soft Skills
There are many ways to improve your soft skills, including reading books on the subject, online research and classes, mentorship programs, leadership training, and networking.
Online research and books allow you to go at your own pace, focusing on topics of importance or need in your life. Some companies offer in-house leadership training. Local business groups and Chambers of Commerce may also have leadership programs. Every opportunity to connect with people and network helps build your interpersonal abilities.
If speaking in public is difficult, Toastmasters groups can help you improve that skill. You will improve your speech, and your listening skills will skyrocket. You can then transfer that ability to the workplace, focusing on what your co-workers say.
Look at the soft skills discussed here and determine which are the most important and beneficial for you to develop. Prioritize those first, as you do not want to try to improve all areas simultaneously. Be willing to ask for feedback and use it wisely. You might have to step outside your comfort zone, but it will ultimately pay off.
The other aspect of improving your soft skills is knowing how to highlight them to your benefit.
How to highlight your soft skills:
When looking for a new job, read the desired qualifications or job requirements list. Think about your soft skills and compare that to the job posting. Update your resume to mention some of these in the “skills section” to help you stand out. Remember, resumes today are put through computer programs that send those that have matching keywords to the top of the pile for review.
Also, mention one or two of the most essential soft skills that apply to the job in your cover letter, and provide information backing up your expertise with those skills. Once you get the interview, highlight your soft skills during the conversation. Listen attentively to everything the interviewer says, follow comments or questions with honest answers, and be open, approachable, and friendly.
If you want a promotion or salary increase, use your soft skills to provide added benefits to your company. If your on-the-job performance stands out, so will you. Be a team player and look for ways to help others. Find solutions to workplace problems. Provide quantifiable benefits on your accomplishments and how you have helped others and the company during your meeting.
Self-Confidence Boosters to Help with Soft Skills
One of the things that holds people back from career advancement is a lack of self-confidence. Trusting in your ability is crucial, and taking on new challenges by improving your social skills can help you achieve better self-confidence in your value and ability.
Taking care of yourself is essential at any age. Whether in your twenties or seventies, keeping your body and mind fit and healthy will also help your sense of worthiness or self-esteem. If you look and feel good, you will present a positive image. Conversely, if you are tired, ill, depressed, or unhappy, that image will also come across.
While you are working on your soft skills, consider taking some other steps to ensure that you are always at your physical and mental best, such as the following:
- Exercise: physical activity provides many benefits, including gaining a sense of accomplishment, reducing anxiety and depression, decreasing stress, enhancing brain functions, improving your appearance, and improving your overall health.
- Vitamins: taking vitamins is especially crucial for people who do not get enough essential nutrients from their food. Proper nutrition can boost your mood and help you feel your best, improving your self-confidence. Whether from food or supplements, vitamin B, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium are excellent for your health and self-esteem.
- HGH therapy: if you are over thirty, hormonal imbalance or deficiency may affect your health, focus, mood, motivation, and job performance. Low human growth hormone is a common problem in older adults. HGH deficiency can only be diagnosed by a doctor, with a hormone specialist being the best provider to call for help. Only those with an HGH deficiency should receive this treatment. The HGH cost in the US is affordable for adults with a growth hormone deficiency.
- Sleep: getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night is detrimental to your health, mental abilities, job performance, and self-esteem. Those getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep have higher confidence and productivity levels. Sleep is also when the body produces and uses essential hormones, so getting a good night’s sleep provides many benefits. You will also look and feel refreshed, which can help with many soft skills mentioned above.
Your ability to speak with and listen to others plays a significant role in improving your soft skills. Networking is one of the best ways to boost those abilities. Here are some suggestions for boosting your self-confidence and soft skills in this area:
- Just say hello: do not try to sell anything or advance your job. Networking is about building relationships, so get out and meet people.
- Listen more: we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Speak half as much as you listen. The more you learn about others, the better you will connect with people.
- Make connections for others: introduce people to others who can benefit them. That will show you listen and care. They will then “want” to reciprocate when they can.
- Set goals: build your self-confidence by setting goals for social skills you want to improve while networking. Celebrate your successes – no matter how small.
- Prepare: have some questions in advance that you feel comfortable asking people. Know what you want to share about yourself and practice ahead of time to improve your comfort level.
- Make one good connection: rather than trying to meet many people, focus on developing one or two connections. Ask that person for a one-on-one for breakfast, coffee, or lunch.
Mastering essential soft skills that can help your career can mean the difference between getting the job, being turned down, or advancing or remaining stagnant in the same position.
While hard and soft skills are essential, recruiters and employers today look at candidates with the best soft skills as they are the most adaptable and promotable. List any soft skills applicable to your job or promotion to help you get ahead.