Soft Skills Aren’t So Soft After All
What are hard skills and soft skills?
Hard skills are the technical knowledge you must have to do your job. Every job position requires a number of hard skills the employee must have to apply. That is, the languages they should speak, what software they must have experience with, their degree, etc.
Soft skills are the personal or behavior characteristics you have that help you do your job. For example, communication, pro activity, leadership, etc. Differently from the hard skills, soft skills are trickier to measure and to prove experience and ability on. They can be either related to your personality or based on how you react to certain situations.
People tend to focus more on improving their hard skills because of that, which makes sense, right? The logical idea is to focus your time on courses, books and specializations on skills that you are able to certify that you have. However, soft skills are just as important as hard skills in the long run. If you aren’t a great communicator, how can you be promoted to a team management role, for example?
In fact, people have a hard time noticing they have to improve their soft skills compared to their hard skills for 2 reasons:
- You need to acknowledge it
It doesn’t seem too hard, right? Well, IT IS! Why? Because to notice you need to improve some soft skills, you need another soft skill: self knowledge. That one is VERY complex. Therefore, most people don’t have it. In fact, in my opinion, it’s impossible to have it completely. Self knowledge is very important and as such, it requires A LOT of self discovery and overcoming frustrations.
Therefore, without self knowledge, you definitely won’t know that you may have a professional personality setback, that is, something you need to improve personally that may affect you at work.
For that, you either received negative feedback, which you have already digested and accepted (which is also very hard) or you noticed it while you were being bad at it compared to someone else (which means that maybe or probably someone has noticed it too. So, let’s hope it wasn’t the boss).
But having a personality setback is normal. Nobody is good at everything. In general we are very critical of ourselves, especially women. We are not supposed to look at it like it’s a defect, but look at it like it’s a point of improvement. The day that we start thinking that we know everything or that we are good at everything, it’s when you know that you actually know nothing. It’s cliche, but it’s true, like Socrates said:
All I know is that I know nothing.
- You need experience
You need experience! You need experience! You need experience! I hate to hear it too. Especially if you are at the beginning of your career or changing career paths. However, there is a reason why it’s valued so much. It means you have stories to tell and you have passed through more situations. Consequently, there is a greater chance that you will know how to act and solve problems in various circumstances.
How to improve soft skills?
There are always ways to boost your soft skills:
First, there are courses out there, like leadership, communication, teamwork, time management training, even customer success. But don’t fall for a coach’s leadership course, PLEASE! Always try to get these courses from certified places, like good universities, or courses that focus on management in your area of expertise. A lot of companies are investing in improving employee performance too, so if your company offers it, take the chance!
Also, you could try some volunteering! That can give you some great experiences that will DEFINITELY enhance some soft skills, for example productivity, time management, team work, problem-solving skills etc.
- Personal projects
Finally, there are some personal projects you can start. Don’t think about whether they will actually work. Just do it. The fact that they didn’t work will be already something you can explain about in an interview, for example.
In summary, soft skills are difficult to be good at, because they are so subjective. You don’t know for sure if you have it or not, how to improve it… They are a long term investment. A lot of people don’t put much effort in them because of that, but it is just as important. Everyone can have a great CV, but you can actually differentiate yourself with the soft skills. Interviews and cover letters are great ways for you to focus on that and showcase it. It’s really about how you tell your story.