Top 10 Soft Skills for the Workplace

Top 10 Soft Skills for the Workplace

By Staff Writers

Published on May 7, 2021

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You don't only learn important skills in the classroom. Critical life skills that you may develop outside of school, such as problem-solving and flexibility, are often called "soft skills."

Read on to learn more about soft skills and how they differ from hard skills. You'll also learn which soft skills hiring managers look for in applicants and why soft skills matter in the workplace.

What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They Important?

Being a good employee often requires more than technical knowledge. Qualities like time management can be just as important as crunching numbers.

The training-based knowledge you need to complete a job is a hard skill. For instance, teachers should possess hard skills like curriculum development and classroom management.

Soft skills, or positive behavioral attributes, are often self-developed and highly desirable for employers. Soft skills include abilities like working collaboratively and communicating effectively. These skills are typically applicable across all work environments.

Solid soft skills make for a strong employee who stands out in a workplace. Technical knowledge is important, but being able to get along with coworkers and function as part of a team may be even more desirable. The job market is tough on recent graduates, and soft skills can set you apart.

The 10 Best Soft Skills for the Workplace

Applying for jobs can be daunting. Common career advice usually focuses on tips for your job search, but creating an inventory of your soft skills may prove just as valuable since companies seek employees with strong soft skills. In fact, 91% of employers surveyed in 2019 claimed soft skills were the most sought-after traits.

Flexibility

Workplaces demand flexible professionals who can function despite unexpected challenges. The ability to change course quickly and seamlessly is important in a variety of careers. Being adaptable also shows a willingness to learn new skills and try different methods when tackling obstacles.

Time Management

Many careers require you to balance multiple responsibilities or projects at the same time. Effective time managers break large assignments into smaller chunks and finish them on time.

Creative Thinking

Hiring managers look for employees who can think outside the box when analyzing problems. Creative thinkers are often more open-minded and receptive to different ideas, and can provide fresh perspectives and new solutions.

Communication

Whether you work on a team or with clients, good communication is key. Being an effective and concise communicator can keep conflicts from arising.

Collaboration

Employers look for candidates that can work well with their colleagues. Collaboration is an important skill in all careers, whether you work as part of a small team or across departments. You must give and receive constructive feedback, stay receptive to diverse ideas, and resolve conflicts.

Organization

Employees need a system to keep track of meetings, due dates, and files. Being organized helps you stay prepared for presentations and other obligations. Organization can make it easier to multitask while prioritizing responsibilities.

Responsive to Feedback

Managers continually provide feedback informally and formally to their employees. Workers who receive feedback with an open mind and without getting defensive can better apply suggested changes. Accepting feedback shows a desire to learn and a willingness to improve.

Leadership

Even if your role is not a straightforward leadership position, employers want to hire candidates with leadership qualities, such as the ability to make decisions, take initiative, and facilitate conversations.

Problem-Solving

Many job interviews ask you to discuss a problem you've encountered and how you overcame it. Employers want to hire independent, driven professionals. Problem-solvers are able to analyze situations, incorporate input from others, and create an action plan to address the issue.

Conflict Management

When working as part of a diverse team, you may not always see eye-to-eye with others. Managers seek employees who listen to others' ideas and understand other points of view. Employees who can effectively communicate and proactively resolve conflicts without intervention make valuable team members.

Should I Put Soft Skills on My Resume?

Tailoring your resume to each prospective job can seem daunting. Resume guides can help you figure out how to organize your resume. Although soft skills should not always be a stand-alone section, you should highlight them in your work experience section.

When using action verbs to summarize your responsibilities in each position, you can report duties and tasks that emphasize your soft skills. You can also embed soft skills in your resume in a general skills section.

When deciding what soft skills to include in your resume, check the job description for key words and phrases like "creative," "collaborative," or "organized." Customize your resume to list skills that align with the company's mission.

Can I Learn Soft Skills?

Before deciding which soft skills to work on, make an inventory of the soft skills you view as your strengths. Consulting friends, family, and co-workers can help shed light on which areas you excel in. You may also find quizzes online to help you determine your best soft skills.

Once you have identified your best traits, make a list of soft skills you'd like to improve. Treat soft skills like hard skills and use this list to draft an action plan. Research and study each skill and practice using these soft skills in your day-to-day life.

To learn more about soft skills training, check out self-help books, subscribe to podcasts, watch videos, and read blogs. You may be able to find free online courses to improve these valuable traits.

Whichever study path you choose, you should have a specific plan with a clear timeline for achieving your goals. Consider creating a calendar to keep yourself accountable.

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Feature Image: Thomas Barwick / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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