Have you ever been at an interview and felt that you had all the certifications, all the language skills, and all the expertise that the job required, but you still didn’t get the position?

interview guy preparing

If your answer is yes, and you are still wondering why that happened, then consider this: do you have good communication skills? Are you a good listener? All in all, do you have the necessary soft skills that the position required?

Soft skills are the personal skills that everybody possesses to a certain extent, their quality and quantity depends on one’s character, circumstances, upbringing, and social circles (meaning the people one’s ever interacted with).

Soft skills are more often than not the main selling point at an interview. Therefore you need to take them into account when preparing for a job interview. Do you have strong soft skills? Do you need to improve in that area?

In the following article we’re going to further clarify what soft skills are, what the differences are between soft skills and hard skills, and provide you with information on how you can improve yourself in this intangible area.


What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are personal and social skills that help you not only fill a position, but perform in it successfully. These are the skills that enable you to communicate clearly and effectively, interpret other people’s verbal and nonverbal messages, act friendly and positive, and so on.

hr recruiter smileHR recruiters and interviewers pay much attention to these skills throughout a job interview, and they often base their decision on these skills rather than on your professional experience.

Obviously, the weighing of soft skills vs hard skills can be influenced by the position itself, but every position requires a certain minimum of these skills.

If you are an aspiring manager or entrepreneur, you especially will need to wield these skills on the highest level in order to be successful. The bad news is, that these skills are not exactly curriculum material, you have to learn them by yourself, and you ought to make some mistakes along the way.

However, the good news is that once you own them, there is nothing that could come between you and your success. Another good news is that we’re telling you what exactly these skills are and how to approach them!


Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

pointing workThe other HR term that we often hear is “hard skills”. Hard skills are more tangible, as they are the skills that we acquire through our education and qualifications, such as being a great programmer or carpenter.

A hard skill is anything that you are able to learn in a course, and a soft skill is anything that you only learn by consciously monitoring yourself and your interactions with others.

Hard skills are the technical, directly measurable elements of your professional lives. It’s much easier to decide whether you know how to code in Java than measuring your skills of empathy or listening.

The measure of soft skills is the quality of your professional and private life. If you feel content about these areas, and the people with whom you interact feel the same way then you’re on the right path.

If you’re not satisfied with at least one of these areas, and your social circles mirror the same discontent, then you should seriously consider working on yourself to achieve a more successful, happier life all over.


Intrapersonal Skills

Intrapersonal skills are basically our characteristics, for example, our attitude, manners, and self-awareness. They are the first on our list because further improvement starts with improving ourselves. Recognizing our intrapersonal skills, and how they need to be improved, help us develop emotional intelligence, that is necessary to develop further soft skills.relax meditation focus

  • Emotional intelligence: the ability to understand our and others’ emotions, and to know how to handle them
  • Self-awareness: consciously control your behaviour, especially in difficult or uncomfortable situations
  • Self-management: being able to set your own goals, manage your time, motivate yourself, be initiative and accountable
  • Self-confidence: the ability to value and trust yourself, and take responsibility for your actions
  • Resilience: being able to bounce back from failures
  • Perseverance: being able to persist in spite of difficulties and adversities

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are our abilities relating to the initiation and maintenance of our relationships. It is one of the main categories of soft skills. Polishing these skills results in better working and social relationships.

Empathy

It is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s place, and understand their emotions and motivation. If you’re a leader, or aspire to work in such position, you can benefit much from having empathy for your team.

Listening

listeningIt might not seem an actual skill, but many people are not capable of really listening to what others try to communicate to them. They hear the words, but without properly paying attention they just gloss over the other elements of communication.

Good listening skills enable you to thoroughly understand what others are trying to tell you.

Not only should you listen with your ears, but with your eyes as well: a good listener is capable of detecting nonverbal signs in order to have a comprehensive understanding.

Being receptive to feedback

It is also a skill to accept and consider the feedbacks that you receive either from your boss or peers. You can get many different, even contradictory feedbacks throughout your personal and work life, and you must be able to assess them, and accept only the ones that are constructive for you, because – and it is something you need to know – not all feedbacks are worthwhile.

Teamwork

teamwork focus

It may sound easy to many, but working together with a team often can be pretty hard. You must take others into account for every decision, there should be a consensus on everything, and you also have to deal with group dynamics in order to effectively complete a project.

Flexibility

It is a key skill because most industries, along with the positions in them, change almost overnight, and flexibility is important to successfully adapt to these changes. It is not only a skill for your work life, but your personal life, too.  The more flexible you are, the more you can overcome adversities.

Constructive criticism

Giving feedback to your team members and/or employees is an important step on the way to achieve success. Feedbacks can be beneficial and effective if they are well-phrased and presented in a certain manner, without equivocating. A straightforward, descriptive critique with a positive tone can actually spark improvement.

Communication

The way you use verbal and non-verbal tools shows a lot about ourselves, including things that you may not want to show. Working on your communication skills also means working on yourself in order to control your presentation to others, and to get to know other people better.

Public speaking

public speaking presentationThis is what many people find daunting, and they often get anxious about their public appearance if they are not experienced enough.

It is a skill that is not only useful if you’re a TED talker: throughout your career there may be unavoidable instances when you have to speak to a smaller group or even a large audience.

You have to convey the message of your presentation by consciously using certain elements in your verbal and non-verbal communication, and it requires a lot of practice and a lot of knowing yourself.

Conflict resolution

It is another significant skill no matter what your position is at a company. Conflicts can naturally occur among people, and it’s not necessary to have a vertical relationship between them. Knowing how to resolve conflicts in the workplace can help you have a better relationship with your colleagues or employees in the long run.

Problem solving

problem solving

The possession of this skill can crucially improve your prospects in your career.

Problem solving is a complex skill (just like communication) and it is all about critical thinking, creativity, and proactivity. You have to be able to evaluate a certain problem, come up with several solutions and implement the one that fits best.


How To Improve Your Soft Skills

You must be open to new ideas, criticism, you must make some time and efforts in order to effectively improve your ways with people. You should consider improving your soft skills as a lifelong learning curve.

Self-assessment

The first step should always be self-assessment. You must think through how your work and other relationships function, whether you are satisfied with these relationships, then think about the problematic areas. Do you listen to others? Do you often fight with people?

Be open to criticism

therapy session coach

You also have to consider the feedbacks you receive, positive and negative as well. People, who are close to you, tend to be biased in their opinions about you, or don’t want to hurt your feelings, so when you ask them they just beat around the bush, instead of being straightforward.

Your colleagues, supervisors, or peers are probably unbiased and rather frank when they give you feedbacks on your overall performance.

Also, as part of your assessment phase, you can ask for professional advice from a therapist or a coach who you can trust to be 100% straightforward, and who can help you see yourself and your relationships from different angles.

Be a teamplayer

It was already mentioned above that working together with a team is very important regardless of the position you hold at a company. You should be more attentive to the members of the team, and try to take part evenly.

There is one thing that could especially ruin the whole teamwork experience for everybody: not trusting one another within the team. You have to be reliable and also trust your team, and preserve an overall positive atmosphere. If you are open, optimistic, and make others feel that they can easily work with you the results will come along.

Increase your creativity

creativity art paint

Everybody is capable of being creative, most people just don’t take the time to explore their own creativity. Trying new things will challenge your creativity by forcing you to come up with new ideas.

Surround yourself with creative minds, find some time everyday to brainstorm, and also take up a creative hobby like painting, writing, drawing, pottery, or anything else that put you in “creative mood”.

Don’t be afraid of public speaking

If you are one of the many people who are anxious when speaking in front of an audience, then the best way to fight your stagefright is to speak in public a lot.

You can enhance your performance by practicing in front of a smaller audience to get used to others’ presence, and rehearse your speech in front of a mirror to see yourself while performing.


Improve Yourself, Improve Your Life

yoga balanced

If you’d like to boost your career (and why wouldn’t you?), then you should pay more attention to your personal skills, and improve them along with your professional knowledge.

Once you start it, you’ll see that not only your career will rise, but your personal life will also significantly improve.

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Peter Smyth
Peter Smyth
Peter Smyth is our go-to Tech Contributor for BusinessStudent.com. Peter is an engineer by trade and tech geek by night, who's passionate about sharing his knowledge to those in the business world.

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