Soft skills are different from hard skills in a way that soft skills are universal and more difficult to measure. Hard skills, on the other hand, are more specific and easier to assess. For example, nurses should be able to draw blood, that’s a hard skill. It’s a trained skill, and it’s easy to know if they are doing it right.
But apart from the ability to draw blood, nurses should also effectively communicate with co-nurses, doctors and patients. That one is a soft skill. Again, it’s universal in a way that nurses are not the only ones who can learn it. But it’s more difficult to measure how effective is someone’s communication skills.
Now, soft skills are seen as less important than hard skills. That’s because most employers think anyone with the right hard skills should be able to perform their duties whether or not they can relay information well or are trustworthy enough. In fact, it doesn’t help that soft skills are named “soft”. It implies that these skills do not make as much impact as their hard counterparts.
But do they make less impact? Studies have shown that the level and number of someone’s skills ultimately determine their economic success. Not only that, soft skills are purveyors of better relationships across organisations, something which no hard skill can achieve.
Now we’ve seen that soft skills are as important as hard skills. In fact, they could even become more important this pandemic. Job loss has multiplied in the past year due to so many businesses closing down. And it’s become more difficult to find a job now more than ever. So, if you’re trying your luck out there, brush up your soft skills and highlight them in your next interviews.
Even if you’re not looking for a job, perhaps pay attention to how you develop these soft skills and make time to acquire more. So that in the next unlucky phase of job loss, you’re prepared.
Here are some of the most important soft skills you should be improving this pandemic and beyond.
Time management is always important. As more people jump to freelancing, and almost everyone works from home, proper time allotment has become all the more necessary.
For freelancers, allotting time to work is essential as some of them get paid on an hourly basis. So, not only will they know how much time it takes to finish the task, but it’ll also prevent them from overworking or get paid less.
And for the rest of the employees working from home, time management sits at the forefront. So many distractions, like phones, TV and domestic affairs can prevent a work-from-home employee from getting the job done. And it’s only through proper time allotment and scheduling what’s work and what’s play that an employee can efficiently work while at home.
Writing in your native language is an essential skill, of course. Being able to connect with colleagues in your native language through Slack and emails promotes cultural connection and collaboration, and avoids miscommunication when using a different language. But in a globalised, and especially post-pandemic world, writing in English has become a prized skill.
English is the predominant language of the Internet and the international scene. Because companies want to target a huge population pool, writing in English is a good way to connect. And companies are searching for employees who can frame emails in English, write blog posts in English, and create social media captions in English. And not just write, but it has to sound professional and be free of grammatical errors.
Freelancers can harbour more clients when they can write for foreign clients, and not just local clients. This means they need to have better correspondence in English. Even many non-native English-speaking clients choose English as the bridging language.
This pandemic has blurred physical boundaries. Because face-to-face office setups are less preferred, more employers are considering hiring foreign workers. And to make the cut, one should able to write effectively in English.
Collaboration is an important skill in the workplace. But the way we collaborate has gone from physical to online over the past few years. Separated with great distances, technologies such as Zoom and Google Meet have helped us collaborate on work projects.
A post-pandemic world will test this skill even more. More people will need to jump online and manoeuvre the technology available, such as screen recording and using Zoom and other video conferencing tools to communicate and exchange ideas.
Apart from maximising digital tools, this practice of collaborating will require intense patience — and of course, the ability to forge professional connections with colleagues while working.
This pandemic forced everyone to brush up their creativity skills. Huge job losses made some people start their own business, and in doing so, they are forced to become more creative, especially those without design experience. Being able to craft a logo, a website, a Facebook page, slogans, take pictures of products or market the service through flyers and posters — these skills are crucial in getting a small business up and running.
For employees, creativity is a soft skill that can make or break a company’s bottom line. Creativity leads to better solutions. Creative workplaces can cut off workload while maintaining efficiency. To be able to create something out of nothing takes effort. Employers want their people to be creative, so it produces better ideas and positive results.
So in becoming more creative, you don’t need to become a master painter or designer. But you need to break the monotony of daily tasks for a while and create something new. Whether that’s an essay or slogan, it sure does help you practice creativity.
Speaking with friends and family is one thing, but talking with colleagues is another. Being able to relay information effectively, accurately and professionally takes real practice. In fact, sometimes, it takes years of awkward miscommunication before someone gets better at speaking at work.
These are the skills employers nowadays look for. Interviewers look for this ability from the start. Only those who speak better get hired. Those who communicate well get their boss’ approval. And those who talk well gain their colleagues’ trust. So, speaking well can get you so many wins in the work field.
In an English-dominated work space, verbal communication gets all the more difficult for non-native speakers. While you can get by speaking to colleagues of the same language, you might struggle to communicate with a foreign client or a partner.
This pandemic has upped the chances of mixing people with different tongues. And because English is now a global language, non-native speakers have no other way but to become better communicators of the language. The good news is that English-speaking abilities can be learned. So as early as now, you should brush up your speaking skills so you get better chances of getting hired should the next unemployment status come.
The bad news is that it takes time and effort. You need to set up a schedule when you actively use the language — say apps or friends who speak good English.
Now that you realise that soft skills are as important as hard skills, now is the time to update your resume. Make sure soft skills are just as standouts. And be ready to memorise instances where you get to use those skills effectively. For example, there was a time when you collaborated with a person in the marketing team to design a poster. The boss approved the poster and it garnered several engagements on-site and on social media.
Another example is when you demonstrated the ability to write well in English while creating an explainer post on the website. After doing so, there were lesser bounce rates but more conversions.
This post-pandemic, a lot of employers would look for applicants who can not only do the job well, but also foster good working relationships with their colleagues.