What Are the 7 Soft Skills? How to Develop Them
Soft skills training is essential if you want to take a step up in your career. Mastering soft skills is important in every workplace, and the need for them is constantly changing. In a fast-paced digital working world, having a list of soft skills that employers are looking for will really make you stand out from the crowd.
According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, around two-thirds of all jobs will require intensive amounts of soft skills by 2030.  But why are soft skills important? And how do you develop them? Read on to find out.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills aren’t skills that you necessarily earn by sitting a qualification – they are more about personal strengths and your ability to be adaptable and flexible in situations. Soft leadership skills for example are about your ability to competently lead a team and motivate/get the best out of other people.
Other soft skills include things like:
- The ability to work in a team
- Good communication
- Adapting to new situations and challenges
Soft skills are different from hard skills, which are tested and appraised against objective measures (like qualifications). Soft skills are skills that you use to generate good working relationships with other people.
After all, no matter how good you are at specific technical and professional skills, if you can’t get on well with your colleagues, are poor at communication and are unwilling to pitch in when needed, you won’t be considered a reliable and adaptable worker who can solve problems.
Soft skills are highly prized in any workplace, so it’s important to try and develop them as much as possible. This will help you to stand out to employers and carve out a successful career in your chosen field.
How soft skills are different from hard skills
Let’s say for example that you are hiring a web and graphic designer for a role. Hard skills that may be necessary for the role include the use of graphic design software and coding languages for building websites or creating digital assets. Soft skills you may also look for in a candidate would include problem-solving, time management, and people skills like collaboration and teamwork.
Hard skills focus on technical ability, and they are very job-specific. They are developed through education and training and job practice, like internships or work experience. Soft skills focus on characteristics and personal experiences, like being a team player, collaboration, and communication.
The soft skills you need will vary depending on the type of job a person works in. Networking skills may be more important for sales-related roles, while soft leadership skills may be relevant for a manager to get the best out of their team.
The 7 soft skills you should learn
In the workplace, certain personality traits, qualities, and attributes are highly sought after by employers. This can range from conflict resolution to team management, communication, work ethic, problem-solving and more. Here’s a list of soft skills that you should work on to upskill and stand out to a potential employer.
1. Being a team player
Teams are more productive when they work well together. This way, strong working relationships are formed, deadlines are met on time, and a team becomes stronger through shared knowledge. If you work well as a team player, you can demonstrate that you can be a part of shared goals and support others’ strengths.
Employees with good teamwork skills are highly desirable to employers because they show they can keep their team’s wider goals in mind while working on their own targets. This shows positivity, the ability to communicate well, and the spirit to actively support other people.
Regardless of the industry you work in, you’ll always have problems that crop up in your working life. People who relish a challenge and enjoy the process of problem-solving will always be frontrunners in the eyes of employers because they can turn an issue into a successful outcome.
If you are an effective problem solver, you can quickly identify any issues that need resolution, be detailed and thorough in finding out how they can be resolved, and draw on critical thinking and decision-making to resolve them. If a problem can’t be resolved immediately, problem solvers often spend time coming up with possible solutions backed by research that could remedy the presented issues.
3. Communication skills
This is probably the most important soft skill of them all – and it applies to any workplace. If you have good communication soft skills, you are able to understand other people’s perspectives, actively listen, and share your own thoughts and opinions with others effectively.
With good communication skills, you are effective at both verbal and written communication and can understand body language and communication cues. Good communicators get to the point, demonstrate empathy, and know their audience. They use clear language and are self-aware of their body language, tone of voice, and how they put things across to others.
4. Being adaptable and flexible
When you face a challenge, you need to not only be a problem solver, but you need to be adaptable and reactive, especially if you are in a fast-paced role within an organisation. Not everyone is naturally good at coping with change and being flexible, so being able to cope and adapt quickly is a great skill that many employers admire.
If you are flexible when needed, you can plan ahead and adapt your ways of working to suit the new situation, without being afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try a new routine. Adaptability is important in most workplace scenarios.
5. Time management
Being able to effectively plan and manage your day and workload is important to help stress levels, and to ensure that you stay productive. With many hours during the working day and plenty of distractions along the way, time management is essential to ensure that you are making the most of your day and using your time wisely.
Those who are good at time management are able to quickly prioritise what is important, scheduling time to take care of the most important tasks in their role. They can also change priorities when they shift, without getting flustered.
6. Critical thinking
Critical thinking skills are highly valued in the workplace. If you are a critical thinker, you can take the information given to you and analyse it carefully to make informed decisions based on what you have learned. This means you can act rationally and calmly in situations, and carry out tasks efficiently.
Having critical thinking skills also helps you look at things objectively and without bias, so you can make decisions more effectively.
7. Relationship and interpersonal skills
Those with good relationship-building and interpersonal skills are able to communicate effectively with others and maintain positive working relationships with their colleagues. Good communicators can resolve conflicts and problems, collaborate well and actively listen to others.
They have strong emotional intelligence and can read cues and body language, tone of voice and pitch, and establish rewarding relationships with those around them, so they can get the best out of their colleagues.
Why are soft skills important?
Soft skills are linked to your emotional intelligence and your ability to interact with other people. They are skills that relate to your attributes, character and the way you handle situations and people.
They are very important when it comes to overall business success, and they can often be more tricky to develop and build on than hard skills. If you want to develop a hard skill, you can simply take a new course, but developing soft skills takes time and experience.
Understanding which soft skills you need to develop can really help you in your future career. These skills can help you resolve problems, connect with colleagues, gain confidence and get better at your profession. A lack of soft skills can limit your development. By investing in your leadership, teamwork, communication and time-juggling skills, you can interact with those you work with better, and enjoy a smoother workflow.
Soft skills don’t come easily to everyone. If you have social anxiety for instance, developing communication skills can be more challenging. But if you notice some of the following warning signs, your soft skills may need some work.
- You struggle to cope with a varying workload and meeting deadlines
- You fail to develop your professional network
- You have meetings with prospective clients, but these rarely go on to the next stage
- You avoid networking opportunities and the chance to talk to people
How to develop soft skills for the workplace
Before you go through any kind of soft skills training, you need to recognise the areas in which you need improvement. This comes through reflection and self-assessment. Don’t forget to also ask friends and colleagues for their opinions on your soft skills.
After you’re more aware of your weaknesses and areas for improvement, you can create an action plan to help you develop. This may involve working with a mentor who can provide feedback, taking up a hobby or a course that gives you more confidence or taking life coaching or counselling sessions to help you change a negative mindset. This is important because many soft skills are rooted in self-belief and confidence.
Courses that can help develop soft skillls
You can also take a relevant course that may involve developing specific soft skills. For example, if you’re looking to develop soft leadership skills, one of the following courses from Oxford Learning College may be of help. These include:
- Management Development Short Course
- Accredited Level 3 Management Diploma
- Level 4+5 Accredited Management Studies Diploma
- Level 4 Accredited Management Diploma
- Accredited Level 3 Business Consultancy Diploma
All courses are accredited and CPD certified and can help you work on the soft skills you need to excel in your career.