If hard skills are the practical knowledge needed to do a job, soft skills are all the interpersonal traits and abilities that make a business succeed. Traits like communication and teamwork are considered just as important as hard skills like computer programming or running a register. Many soft skills top the lists of most-desired skills on resumes because they help a team work together and encourage productivity.
Wherever you are in your career, there are important job skills to learn on both the hard and soft ends of the scale. Here are seven soft skills that every motivated professional should develop.
Being able to potentially work extra hours to fill in for someone else, or being able to get tasks done while away from the office, expand the ways a company could use your talents. For instance, many companies use remote work since it's fast and can save them money, so being able to handle a task remotely on request would be beneficial. It's also useful to be flexible on the types of work you can handle, pitching in on projects that might not normally fit under your purview.
Not every team member needs to be a leader, but being able to step up in a leadership vacuum will keep a workplace effective. Leadership takes different forms, from encouraging greater performance to helping underperforming members adapt. A great leader acts with the team and that team's mission in mind, staying vocal enough to guide the group. Leadership could break down into more specific skills with a work-experience story behind them, like encouraging communication, negotiating disputes, or keeping meetings productive.
Since group coordination is critical for a business to function, team skills are a big plus. However, the concept of team skills is a bit broad and easy to claim. A story or two from your work experience will help demonstrate teamwork or team-related skills. As hypothetical examples, if you formed a group to handle a rush project, or developed a style of resolving disputes, describing it will demonstrate that you put your team first.
Creative thinking and learning
With most jobs, a thirst for knowledge is considered useful if not downright essential. Workplaces can only go through necessary changes if their people are willing to adjust their comfort zones and try new ways of doing things. If you love to learn new things and dive into unfamiliar topics with dedication, show it off when you upload a resume or find ways to use those skills in your current position.
Apart from learning, creative thinking means taking what you know and finding other angles that might work better for the current task. If a love of learning is one side of the coin, applying your knowledge effectively with creative thinking is the other.
Part of getting a project done is having every member of the team on the same page about when certain tasks need to be done. On a personal level, making good use of your time is always valued in the workplace. Being able to efficiently get a project done through planning, motivation, time-saving tactics, and more proves that you're worth hiring. Good project management is a similar skill, ensuring that others on your team have the time they need.
Having a sense of how to deescalate a misunderstanding or point of offense and keep everyone working happily can be a vital professional skill. Conflict resolution requires someone to put aside their personal feelings and to effectively listen to every side. The ability to resolve conflicts between yourself and someone else shows maturity and professional focus. Being able to resolve conflicts between other coworkers is another great skill.
If there's one soft skill that helps you demonstrate all your skills and talents, networking might be it. This includes putting yourself out there in a professional way, in person or on social media. Every professional will probably need to rely on their network at some point. They can encourage you to reach goals, give you great feedback, and help you get introductions to other professionals in your field.
As you expand your repertoire of important job skills, don't forget that both new technical know-how and personal skills are equally important. The seven soft skills above are nearly always helpful to a professional looking to improve their career, and to the company that hires them. If you think you could grow one of these skills, dive into it with books, advice from those you know, and most of all by trying new things.
More skills and interview advice:
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See our guide: What are management skills and why are they important?
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