If you’re gearing up for a job hunt, you’re likely giving some thought to your skills as you update your resume or refresh your LinkedIn profile.
Did you learn how to use new computer software in your latest role? Were you trained on a unique piece of equipment? Or maybe you picked up a new certification? No matter your experience or industry, it’s often these “hard” skills that dominate the job search process.
While this specialized expertise can certainly give you a leg up in your next role, don’t forget about your soft skills too!
What are soft skills?
Unlike industry-specific skills, often related to technical or mechanical expertise, soft skills can’t necessarily be learned from a book or an online course—think communication, time management, organization, teamwork, and flexibility. These are traits that are innate and often sharpened through practice.
The name “soft skills” suggests that these qualities are just feel-good or fluffy—but that couldn’t be further from the truth! As technology advances, hard skills are changing so quickly—and can always be taught and refreshed in the classroom—but soft skills persist and can make a true difference for employers looking to advance in our quickly changing world of work. The pandemic and events of the last few years certainly drove this point home for many employers: Frontline workers brought tenacity and resilience to the job as they showed up through the uncertainty, for example, and working parents and caregivers learned to navigate competing priorities with an invaluable level of adaptability.
How can I make the most of my soft skills?
First, don’t underestimate your soft skills! Be proud of the character traits you bring to a role and an organization, and work to showcase them as you go after your next career stepping stone.
For instance, if you have a job experience gap during which you were focused on caregiving, own that! Highlight on your resume the unique challenges you faced and the qualities you tapped into to get you through. Similarly, in the interview process, don’t be shy about getting personal: While future employers will certainly want to know about the know-how you’ll bring to the organization, they are increasingly also going to know who you really are—if you’re a good team player, if you’re creative, if you’re a good communicator. As work becomes less role-focused and more about the skills it takes to help a company be prepared for the future, these traits will become increasingly more valuable.
And keep that in mind while you’re on the job. Showing up to work on time, following through with your deadlines, and treating colleagues with respect—these all seem simple, but they actively reinforce to your team and your supervisors the soft skills that help you (and the organization!) succeed. And as you set your sights on your next career opportunity, that can make all the difference!