Showcase your soft skills
What are soft skills?
Hard skills are job-specific skills and knowledge that you need to perform a job.
But what are soft skills? Soft skills are interpersonal (people) skills.
These are much harder to define and evaluate. While hard skills are job-specific, most employers are looking for similar soft skills in their job candidates.
In fact soft skills have recently been voted the most important priority in the recent LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report, by 4,000 Professional Decision Makers: "in the age of automation, maintaining technical fluency across roles will be critical, but the pace of change is fueling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders. As technology accelerates, soft skills are in high demand to fuel people and business growth".
Soft skills include attitude, communication, creative thinking, work ethic, teamwork, networking, decision making, positivity, time management, motivation, flexibility, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution.
Soft skills are transferable skills
Managers and employers look for applicants with soft skills because soft skills are transferable skills that can be used regardless of the job at which the person is working. This makes job candidates with soft skills very adaptable employees. So if you are moving from one job to another, or if you have not been in a job for a while, you will have soft skills that you can use in a new job. For example dealing with customers and enjoying spending time with people is a skill that can be used in even if starting in a new workplace in a new industry. Also soft skills often come from experience so you will still have your soft skills even if you have been out of work for a while.
Highlighting your soft skills on your CV
Make a list of the soft skills the job is asking for.
Match the soft skills you have to the job description.
Add a Skills Section or a Transferable Skills Section to your CV. Detail the soft skills you have in that section. You can also detail the soft skills that were needed and you demonstrated in your previous jobs next to each job that you have done in the past.
Highlighting your soft skills in your cover letter
Match the soft skills you have to the soft skills that the job description requires, showing how you are a great fit for the role.
Highlighting your soft skills in your interview
Demonstrate them through your behaviour by listening, being friendly and maintaining good eye contact.
Provide examples of when you have used soft skills in the past for example to resolve a conflict or help a customer in the past.
How to improve your soft skills
For many people soft skills will be innate, for other people they might have to focus on them to improve the skills or to be more confident in some areas.
Identify what skills you have and what you could improve. Some people might already know the areas which they are confident on, for example listening to others, and might also know an area that they should focus on, such as networking. For other people it might be useful to ask a friend or a former colleague for some feedback on areas that you come across strongly on and an area or two where you could improve.
Practise the skill. This might be as simple as choosing to focus on and practise the skill in your everyday life – for example making an effort to listen more to other people in your everyday conversations.
Another option is to ask a friend or a relative for help. For example, if confident speaking in public is a key goal then practice in front of an impartial but gently supportive relative, friend or ex-colleague can be very useful.
Additionally there are lots of local courses for improving your soft skills that can be found online or there may be information at your local library. Many people find a course or workshop setting with others who also need to improve the same skill provides an ideal environment to progress a key skill.
Volunteering in a part time or temporary role can also give you the opportunity to practise your soft skills and will let you demonstrate to future employers a key soft skill of motivation.
Marek Tribedi contributed to this No Desire to Retire Resource guide. Marek holds a B.Sc. Psychology, is an NLP Practitioner and an accredited Performance Coach (Sheffield Hallam University).
...positivity, time management, motivation, flexibility, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution