Soft skills: What they are and why they are important.

By definition soft skills, also known as transferable skills, are personal attributes that influence how well you can work with others. Soft skills are a combination of people and social skills, communication skills, personality traits, attitudes, social and emotional intelligence. They do not necessarily depend on book smarts. They cover a wide range of competencies such as teamwork, conflict resolution, creative thinking, networking, critical thinking, time management and communication, just to mention a few. In fact, these skills are so crucial they are now termed ‘essential skills’.

The World Economic Forum Future Jobs report suggested that by 2020, complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and emotional intelligence will be among the most important skills required in the workplace. This could be due to the fact that the modern workplace is interpersonal, because in this competitive world, work is not limited to your interaction with your direct boss. It requires you to solve problems creatively, provide ideas to improve business, save time, handle conflicts, and maintain a peaceful and optimistic environment in the workplace. As companies increasingly need to become more dynamic, interconnected and flexible soft skills are critical. The good news is that soft skills are learnable. 

The service industry, also known as the tertiary industry, is on the rise, already dominating in most of the developed world. The service industry is customer-based meaning that employees are in direct contact with customers. In the service industry customer care and service are of importance. Soft skills are therefore at the top of the hierarchy of the qualities required in any employee.

An individual’s soft skills are important because they set you apart and could work as your unique selling point giving you an edge over other counterparts. What separates the successful candidate from other job seekers is, most probably, a set of soft skills. Hard or technical skills are not enough to bring out your best in a job or among peers. Therefore it is important that one continues to improve their soft skills. These are not only important in the work environment but can be used to build friendships and meet potential partners; business or personal.

We are now going to look at some of the soft skills and how they are of importance to an individual:

  • Communication:  It refers to how you communicate with clients, customers, colleagues, employees, employers, vendors, partners and almost everyone. Being able to put across ideas and arguments is a competitive advantage to any individual. One should be able to listen to the views of others and be open to constructive criticism. This promotes both individual growth, and team growth.
  • Networking: the creation and growth of personal and professional contacts. One must be able to establish and maintain relationships because no man is an island. 
  • Digital proficiency: this soft skill is important in the digital age as it helps employees navigate through modern technology. Examples could be the use of the Internet and the use of different digital gadgets.
  • Problem solving: this ability enables one to analyze issues and develop creative solutions to overcome, whether in the work environment or in a personal capacity. The ability to get into “problem-solving mode” and stay in it for long periods of time—in other words, persist until a problem is solved instead of disengaging and giving up—is key to dealing with the inevitable challenges that come with any role more efficiently and effectively.
  • Productivity: as an individual it is important to be organized and to be able to properly plan because failing to prepare is planning to fail.
  • Working under pressure and emotional intelligence: getting control of our emotions is the single most important soft skill we can learn. In fact, there’s a high correlation between emotion regulation and our ability to manage our stress and stay productive under pressure.
  • Leadership skills: is among the most sought-after skill set by employers. Hiring teams look for candidates with great potential for growth. Leadership skills include the abilities to lead a team and make decisions.

A lack of these skills could limit your potential as an individual or your professional life. By developing strong leadership, dedication, teamwork and communication abilities, you can run projects more smoothly, deliver results more effectively, and even positively influence your personal life by improving how you interact with others. People don’t spend much time thinking about their soft skills. Regardless of whether it’s a lack of knowledge or a lack of awareness, it is worth remedying, because you use soft skills everyday even when you are not thinking about them consciously. Well-developed soft skills will help you have better conversations, enjoy your work environment, and create closer and better relationships with people.

What other soft skills do you think are essential for personal as well as business development? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

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