You've heard the term “soft skills,” but do you really know what they are, or which ones employers find most valuable?

Chances are you've heard of “soft skills,” especially when it comes to resume writing and applying for jobs. You definitely want to showcase your soft skills on your resume, and you'll likely be asked about your soft skills in a job interview as well.

But do you really know what soft skills are and why they are important? Do you know how to best showcase skills on your resume and which ones employers find most valuable?

Don't worry. Before you become too overwhelmed, here's everything you need to know about your soft skills and how they can help you land your next job.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are your character and personality traits; they're the interpersonal skills you use each day. You might often hear the term emotional intelligence thrown around when discussing soft skills.

When it comes to understanding soft skills, it's easier to think about them in terms of their counterpart: hard skills. Hard skills are the applied skills you've learned. They're more technical and can be measured. Examples of hard skills include machine operation, computer programming, typing, and accounting.

Soft skills are the opposite — your more innate, natural abilities that can span across all professions and industries and are harder to quantify.

What are examples of soft skills?

Soft skills can be personality traits, but you'll want to think about them in terms of what you bring to the workplace. Here are a few common examples of soft skills: 

  • Problem-solving

  • Adaptability

  • Communication

  • Time management

  • Decision-making

  • Collaboration

  • Leadership

  • Conflict resolution

Now that you have a strong grasp of what soft skills are, let's talk about why they're important.

Why are soft skills important?

A lot of professionals in your industry likely share the same — or similar — hard skills. If you're an accountant, chances are other accountants are proficient with the accounting software programs you are. If you're a medical coder, then you probably have similar, if not the same, technical skills as other medical coders. You get the point.

That's why focusing all your energy (and resume real estate) on your hard skills will make it more difficult to stand out from other job applicants. Your soft skills, however, will give you more of an edge.

Outside of job applications, soft skills can also help you do your job better (think: time management, stress management, conflict resolution, teamwork). Proving you have a strong set of soft skills that help you excel at your job will not only help you land your dream job, but it can also get you a promotion or a raise.

What soft skills are valuable?

As you sit down and start thinking about your soft skills, you might wonder which skills employers find the most valuable. Now, some of these will vary from job to job, but generally, employers find these soft skills most valuable:

  • A strong worth ethic

  • Communication skills

  • Creative problem solving

  • Time management

  • Teamwork

  • Leadership

Now it's time to identify your soft skills.

What soft skills do you have? How do you identify them?

Identifying your own soft skills will require some introspection. To start this process, think about the times you've excelled at your job, noting the situation and the outcome. What skills did you use to help you accomplish the goal? What praise and feedback did you receive?

You'll also want to think about any conversations you've had with managers about your overall performance. Chances are, they praised your soft skills — or maybe identified some soft skills you can improve upon.

If you're still having trouble identifying your soft skills, consider reaching out to co-workers, managers, or mentors. Ask them about your soft skills and specific instances in which these skills shined.

How do you develop soft skills?

Although soft skills are typically more natural abilities, there are still ways to develop them. Here are a few strategies you can employ:

  • Seek advice: Ask your manager, co-worker, or even a friend to help you improve a particular soft skill. For example, if your co-workers seem to have no issue hitting deadlines and you find yourself struggling, ask about their time-management strategies. See if you can implement any of their advice into your daily routine.

  • Find ways to practice: With many soft skills, the best way to develop them is to simply practice. If you want to become a better leader, seek out additional leadership opportunities. If you want to become a more creative problem-solver, take on projects that require creative problem-solving.

  • Take an online course: If you're struggling to improve your soft skills on your own, you can find an online course that can help. Udemy, for example, offers online courses on just about every topic, including productivity, leadership, stress management, creativity, and even self-esteem.

  • Work with a mentor or career coach: If you don't feel comfortable eliciting the help of your managers or co-workers, consider finding an outside mentor or career coach to help you assess and improve your soft skills.

Overall, a good rule of thumb is to be more mindful. For example, if you'd like to get better at managing your stress, take a moment in high-stress situations to sit back, breathe, and assess the situation. If you want to be better at organization, set aside 30 minutes each day to organize your physical and digital space.

How do you show off your soft skills on your resume?

Now that you've identified your soft skills, it's time to make them shine on your resume. Remember, correctly highlighting these skills can help you stand out from other job applicants.

One of the best ways to showcase your soft skills is to add a skills section to your resume. In this section, you don't necessarily want to list every single soft skill you've identified. Instead, take a look at the job you're applying for and see what skills are highlighted in the description. If applicable, lean into those.

Then, as you assess your skills section on your resume, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Are these skills up to date? Make sure you keep this section updated as you participate in trainings, attend seminars, and complete new projects.

  2. Are these skills unique to me? You don't want to list the same generic soft skills as everyone else; the point is to stand apart from the crowd.

  3. Is my skills section easy to read? Your skills section should be clear, scannable, and easy to digest. 

  4. Can I support these skills with examples? Make sure you'll feel confident talking about your soft skills during a job interview.

In addition to your resume's skills section, you can also weave evidence of your soft skills into the job descriptions within your work history section. If you want to prove your leadership skills, list that you have experience managing a department of 15 employees. If you want to showcase your negotiation skills, highlight your biggest sales with clients. If you can quantify any of these soft skills, then do so. 

Final thoughts 

Although soft skills may initially seem like vague, obscure skills that no one particularly values, they play an important role in the workforce — not only in your day-to-day job performance but also for your future career opportunities.

The best approach to soft skills is to keep them top of mind and continue to develop them throughout your career. That way, when you apply for a new job, you'll have a whole arsenal of soft skills you can show off on your resume.

Want more ways to set your resume apart from the crowd? Get a free resume review today and see.

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