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Soft Skills: How to Develop & Highlight Them

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

For many job seekers, describing your soft skills can be the hardest part of applying for a new position. You are prepared to send your resume and discuss your sales record, but how do you prove that you’re a team player or adaptable in fast-paced environments?

In case you don’t already know, hard skills are the job-specific education and experience you can quantify while soft skills are more intangible qualities that also affect your success in a role like how you relate to others.

Examples of Soft Skills Employers Want

Different organizational cultures and job positions may require different soft skills. Still, there are some qualities that almost every employer will be seeking:

  1. Communicate skillfully. Strong communications can require many different abilities. You might excel at making presentations but need to work on active listening.

  2. Solve problems. Rising to challenges and addressing business needs is central to any job description. Think about how you react when you encounter a setback.

  3. Express creativity. A physical therapist can be just as creative as a sculptor. Think about what makes you an artist.

  4. Radiate confidence. Feeling sure of yourself and your abilities encourage others to see you more favorably. Believing in yourself also makes it easier to be assertive and take risks.

  5. Think positive. Whatever position you’re applying for, your future boss and co-workers will be asking themselves if you’re someone they want to work with. An upbeat attitude suggests that you’ll be pleasant and helpful.

How to Develop Your Soft Skills

Few colleges offer majors in time management or resilience. However, you can strengthen any soft skill through practice. Consider these tips for how to develop and demonstrate soft skills that will be important to your career:

  1. Ask for feedback. Your family, friends, and coworkers are a good place to start. See what they have to say about your strengths and areas where you might want to grow.

  2. Study a role model. Find someone you admire for their work ethic or strategic thinking. Look for ways to adapt their methods to suit your own personality.

  3. Use your job. If you’re currently employed, seek out opportunities to practice your soft skills. Starting a green office program could showcase your leadership potential.

  4. Take a course. Adult education programs at your local university and online courses cover any topic you can imagine. Learn more about conflict resolution or basic grammar.

  5. Volunteer your services. Support a worthy cause while you pick up new skills. Contact a group that interests you and propose a project that suits your mutual goals.

How to Demonstrate Your Soft Skills

While you may not need to explain how you passed the bar or won a Pulitzer Prize, listing your soft skills usually requires supporting evidence. Try these ideas to help you convince employers that you’re a strong candidate:

  1. Read carefully. Position descriptions may state the soft skills desired or offer plenty of clues. See if the company focuses on attention to detail or grasping the big picture or both.

  2. Provide examples. When you claim to have a soft skill, back it up with a compelling story. Use examples in your cover letter, resume and interview.

  3. Show up on time. If you want your hard and soft skills to have a chance to be evaluated, you need to be punctual. Arriving a little early to your interview shows that you’re responsible and considerate.

  4. Follow through. Delivering on your promises is another sign of a strong work ethic. Be sure to return phone calls and send thank-you letters.

Job offers and career success often depend on soft skills even if you have an advanced degree or know how to code in 5 languages. Make yourself a more valuable asset by enhancing your communications and thinking abilities.

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