According to the Oxford Dictionary, soft skills are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”. In other words, these are so-called people skills – the opposite of technical skills and other specific abilities that are necessary for a job. But how important are the soft skills in a job search
You can’t really prioritize one over the other. It’s no longer enough to just be an expert in your field: you might be functional and professional in your workplace, but it doesn’t mean you’ll always be what the company needs. Soft skills are essential in many different careers – even programmers or accountants with a very specific set of hard skills have to acknowledge the fact that these skills is a key to a long-term success.
Soft skills make you a valuable member of the team
It is said that hard skills will get you an interview, while the soft ones will determine whether you’ll keep the job – and with good reason. There are hard skills that don’t take long to develop through training, and there are hard skills which can take years of study to acquire. One way or the other, these are the skills most of the people can learn since no one is born with it.
When it comes to the personal qualities, they’re the one that develops throughout your whole life. That’s why, sometimes, even the most talented engineers or mathematicians might be unable to write a business letter or work in a team, where you need to lead others and set goals. Unless it’s a solely mechanical job that involves no contact with people whatsoever, you will need to take on additional responsibilities that will require you to have some soft skills and completing a specific familiar task will not be enough to impress your employer.
Soft skills not only define your abilities, such as problem-solving, communications skills or leadership but also involve your entire personal qualities, attitude, work ethic, even habits – everything that makes you a potential and promising candidate. These skills are the key attributes in a workplace that guarantee a dynamic environment, allow to work efficiently with colleagues and help achieve great results. After all, a candidate with a sharp tongue and a quick wit is always the most desirable team member.
How can you develop these skills?
- Try volunteering. This is not only a great opportunity to learn soft skills, volunteer work also contributes to your resume and is the most obvious proof of your maturity and experience dealing with a community of people, which means you’re capable of working in a team and making certain decisions.
- Documenting your thoughts and things that are happening around you might improve not only your writing skills but also your critical thinking, creativity and make you an excellent communicator.
- Don’t avoid casual conversations and interactions with other people in general. In order to gain interpersonal skills, it is necessary to build relationships and understand people: what they body language or eye contact means. That’s why you should practice public speaking and building relationships, which will allow you to analyze people, improve your leadership skills and manage different conflict situations.
- Learn from others. Look for direct ways of acquiring the knowledge – observe your supervisors or simply seek for mentors in your close environment. Perhaps a friend or a relative who seem to have mastered the art of leadership will reveal a secret on how they managed to achieve these skills.
It might be difficult to perceive the importance of such qualities as leadership or problem solving, yet even if it’s not set as a requirement for a position, the lack of soft skills might really determine whether you’ll receive a job offer . Yet, if you’re confident enough about your set of skills, don’t hesitate to look for a job in South Africa!