When most of us enter the world of job hunting, we probably expect our hard skills to be our primary asset. Hard skills are tangible, teachable skills that are typically acquired through formal education, and which serve as a baseline for employees in any given field. For instance, knowledge of Microsoft Excel is a hard skill likely required for most office positions.
However, soft skills are equally as important and are lately becoming more so. Soft skills encompass what some may call intrapersonal skills. They include qualities such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and work ethic. The modern workplace is one where such skills are slowly growing in value, and in many cases, surpassing that of hard skills. In this article, we’ll break down why.
Over the past decade, enrollment in post-secondary institutions has risen significantly. This means that a higher number of graduates are acquiring the same hard skillset, and are entering the workforce at a similar level. Furthermore, the average age of retirement is growing. Thus, a wider age-range exists in office spaces, and employees are not rotating in and out of positions at the same speed they used to.
Therefore, employers need to consider other attributes in order to differentiate potential employees. There may be ten applicants with similar GPAs, educational background, and hard skills, so employers must narrow down their options based on personality attributes and general fit within the company.
Valuing the Unconventional
This leads to employers valuing the unconventional. If workplaces are oversaturated, then you need to bring something particularly unique to the table. This is the purpose of soft skills, to heighten the baseline talents already necessary for the position. The odds are that an employer can find plenty of applicants skilled in, say, the Adobe Creative Suite. However, if you also possess creative ideas, are an independent worker, and a strong leader, that puts you a cut above the rest.
As management styles change and become more group-oriented, the ability to work amongst others as part of a team grows in importance. It’s no longer enough to blindly follow orders, you need to offer something fresh that existing employees and previous generations haven’t already covered.
You’ve probably been hearing about AI and the rapid change of the pace and even the future of work. We know that technology is changing the way in which we work in society. This means that positions that exist will likely change, so having a flexible and adaptable workforce is key. We’re seeing more organizations hiring for culture fit instead of technical fit because they want to build a team that can face any changes that may come their way. Aka, those with soft skills will be highly sought after as key players in the workforce.
It all comes down to personal branding. Personal branding involves the attributes you assign and present yourself with, as well as how you self-manage and market yourself to employers. Your brand needs to be entirely your own, and because soft skills are generally harder to acquire (due to their abstract nature), they are more likely to make you stand out as an individual. Additionally, soft skills help an employee become more well-rounded, and showcase emotional intelligence that will benefit you in the long run.
All in all, hard skills are meaningless without soft skills. Soft skills represent who you are as an individual and showcase how you interact with others in the workplace. Tangible abilities aside, employers will sooner hire someone they know they can trust and rely on to get the job done. Knowledge means nothing if you don’t possess the ability to apply it in a competent and effective way.