Have you ever felt like you're not qualified for a position because you don't have enough skills—or the "right" skills? Chances are you're far more qualified than you're giving yourself credit for because there are numerous transferrable skills that don't get talked about enough in my opinion. We might eliminate our chances for great opportunities before even starting because we doubt that we'd be hired or picked for a team because we don't check every box on the list of qualifications. What many of us fail to realize (because of fear or insecurities) is that almost no one is 100% qualified for a job, position in a sport, etc. We all have room for growth, and one thing I think that we could all get better at is developing soft skills.
Hard skills are quantifiable skills that can be easily identified and measured, such as math, writing, science, or athletic skills. Also known as "technical skills," these are usually job specific skills that can be measured by your performance. For example, as an accountant, you can expect to perform bookkeeping duties, math formulas, and such most days. Soft skills aren't as easily measured; soft skills are "the combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that make it easy to get along or work harmoniously with other people" (HubSpot).
To put it plainly, soft skills are commonly understood to be the personality traits or behaviors that determine how you work with others, influence your coworkers, etc. Popular soft skills are teamwork and communication, which are lot more complex than what meets the surface. Soft skills can be difficult to teach, and they play an important role in many aspects of our professional lives. Sometimes we overlook how important soft skills—like communication—because we're so focused on the hard, quantitative skills. Effective communication is crucial in any job and influences your work place culture.
Effective communication isn't just about being nice and compassionate. It's also about being honest and flexible during difficult situations. For instance, disagreeing with a coworker or a manager can be very uncomfortable because we fear angering or hurting the other person. Being able to communicate effectively in those uncomfortable situations, especially when emotions are high, is a very valuable skill. Communicating effectively can encompass many things, such as:
Using the appropriate tone and word choice
Having a conversation in the correct setting
Offering assistance and/or resolutions rather than just focusing on the issues
Another great soft skill—one you might see on job applications—is problem solving. Resolving an issue quickly and efficiently with a positive outcome is important at work whether it's with a client, customer, or colleague. Problem solving can require taking time to research and consult with mentors or team members to find the best, long-term solution. It can also involve relying on industry knowledge, company history, or even your past experiences dealing with a similar issue, industry knowledge.
Creativity, communication, team work, flexibility, trouble shooting, critical thinking, and adaptability are just a few of the countless soft skills that build you as an employee or team member. Although soft skills aren't easily taught or measured, soft skills are still incredibly valuable at work, in sports, at school, and other settings. I know first-hand how easy it is to disregard the amazing soft skills I have because hard skills have been so heavily enforced throughout our lives, making it difficult to realize soft skills are equally valuable. How can we change the conversation surrounding soft skills to help people recognize their own strengths?