Have you ever heard of soft skills and how important they are in job success? In 2013, Google did a study on what skills corelated with employees’ success in terms of being a good fit and getting promoted. You might think that that at a tech company an employee’s STEM skills would be the most important metric, but it actually turns out that soft skills (like problem solving or communication) were the best markers for success. When they looked at the top 8 skills of their most successful employees, their technical knowledge came in last. Surprise! 

Soft Skills Defined

Soft skills can be hard to define, but generally they are the personality traits and interpersonal skills required to succeed in almost any job. They include a diverse range of skills that complement your hard skills. Some important soft skills include: 

  • Personal accountability 
  • Time management 
  • Communication 
  • Collaboration 
  • Conflict resolution 
  • Adaptability & flexibility 
  • Creative thinking 
  • Problem solving 
  • Inclusion 
  • Coaching & mentoring 
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Negotiation 
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Soft Skills For Success 

A subsequent study by Google showed that their best ideas came from teams of people who were not the best in their technical field, but from employees that had several important soft skills like generosity, empathy and emotional intelligence. The most important skill was actually defined as emotional safety, which means that they did not belittle their colleagues and every team member felt confident enough to share their ideas.  

Similarly, most employers report that they are increasingly looking for soft skills on a potential employee’s resume: a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers including small and large corporations (like IBM) found that communication was in the top 3 qualities employers look for on a resume.  

That’s not to say that you don’t need any hard skills. Qualifications are still an important prerequisite for any skilled work, but not the only factor (or even the most important one) when hiring or promoting an employee. You don’t need to have top marks in your field to be successful, but you do need soft skills.  

Think of examples in your own life where soft skills were important: do you want to hire the most talented hairdresser who doesn’t listen to what you want and is chronically late for your appointments, or do you want to hire the pretty good hairdresser who is a pleasure to talk to and is always punctual? A salesperson who has great hard skills (knowledge of their product and market) will still fail if they don’t have the interpersonal communication and negotiation skills needed to sell their product.  

The Soft Skills Gap

Unfortunately, the focus at school and in vocational training is usually on hard skills alone. A majority of Indian univeristy graduates feel unprepared to work in an actual office. Traditional learning methods don’t provide adequate soft skills training, so learners need to take initiative to define and fill their own soft skill gaps. 

If you’re not sure if you have a soft skills gap, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are you good at getting clients, but not so good at retaining them? 
  • If you’re a manager, do you have a high staff turnover rate? 
  • Do you have trouble meeting deadlines or do you show up late to meetings? 
  • Do you have a conflict with a colleague that you are not sure how to resolve? 
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If you said yes to any of these questions, or think you would have trouble in those scenarios, you likely have a soft skills gap.  

How To Learn Soft Skills 

Fortunately, just like hard skills, you can teach yourself soft skills and close that gap. Online soft skills courses provide a flexible way for you to close the gap whether you are still or student or already in the workforce. Since soft skills have been widely underrated in traditional classroom learning, online education options are your best bet to find all the training you need. With courses in everything from Developing your Emotional Intelligence to Workplace Conflict, you can find everything you need to maximize your career (and life) success.  

Everyone Needs Soft Skills 

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You might think that your industry doesn’t require you to learn any soft skills, that you don’t deal with people enough or that your talents outweigh the benefits of taking time to learn some soft skills. This is simply not true. If Google, one of the most hard skill-oriented companies in the world, sees the value, how can you argue that you don’t need them? Soft skills can make you the person everyone is happy to work with or the employee your boss will always turn to for help. Our workplaces are increasingly more socially connected and interpersonal, so learning to deal with other people is a must for any industry.  

Let’s look at a few industries other than technology and what soft skills you might need to succeed. 

Legal

Law students have to go through rigorous education standards to get a lawyer designation, but the education system focuses solely on the hard skills like legal theory. Given that lawyers regularly deal with clients, they also need to have adequate soft skills. In India, some high-scoring law students fail in actual practice because they lack soft skills.  

Lawyers need soft skills like: 

  • Conflict resolution 
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Presentation  
  • Negotiation  
  • Written & oral communication 

Business

Working in business definitely requires a lot of interpersonal skills because you are dealing with people every day. A business person who doesn’t have good soft skills is unlikely to stay in business for long. Even if you aren’t working with clients directly, you are still probably part of a team, and teams only succeed if everyone is working together smoothly. 

Top soft skills for business people: 

Medical

The medical profession obviously has a very high standard for hard skills. You can’t become a doctor or nurse without several years of school and standardised licensing requirements. However, the jobs that require some of the most demanding hard skills can benefit the most from soft skills. Doctors with a good bedside manner are far more likely to find professional success than those who are lacking in emotional intelligence. 

Soft skills for medical professionals: 

  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Time management 
  • Attention to detail 
  • Communication 
  • Problem solving 

Lifelong Learning 

Soft skills are what make your hard skills shine, and there is always room to improve. Even if you feel you have mastered some important soft skills, you may be lacking in other areas that are holding you back. If you are a great negotiator, but consistently late with deliveries, try working on your time management skills or vice versa. Find your gaps and continuously keep striving for a better you and you will find that jobs and promotions will follow naturally.