6 job ready soft skills - main region
Soft skills are in demand. In fact, according to Deloitte Access Economics, soft-skill intensive occupations are expected to account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. Developing these crucial personal attributes is therefore vital if you are to stand out and secure your next job or advance your career.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills can be difficult to define and measure. They differ from hard skills, or technical abilities, such as website design, coding, drafting, engineering or data analysis. In contrast, soft skills are related to how you work. They are the reason you behave and react to certain situations the way you do. For example, if you are quick to adapt and able to solve problems, you have strong adaptability and problem solving soft skills. However, if you shy away in the face of change or challenges, your skills in these areas are less developed.
Despite being called ‘soft’, these skills are important because today’s world of work changes rapidly, with digital innovation altering the way we operate and the jobs and skills in demand constantly evolving. Employers, therefore, look for jobseekers who have the soft skills required to succeed in the face of constant disruption and new challenges.
Here at Hays we fill over 1,000 jobs every working day. Of these, the following six soft-skills are the most commonly requested by employers today:
1. A willingness to learn
A willingness to learn tops the list of soft skills sought. Regardless of the industry you work in, professionals and organisations alike have woken up to the fact that everything can change almost overnight – and with this change comes demand for different technical skills.
As a result, upskilling should have moved up your priority list, so that you are constantly developing your skills to meet the current and future demands of potential employers. This willingness to learn will ensure you stay on top of current trends and changes relevant to your profession. After all, showing that you are willing to learn is key to understanding any new developments from a technical point of view, which ultimately will help your organisation remain competitive.
This soft skill goes hand in hand with being self-aware. As changes occur in your industry, gaps in your skills and knowledge emerge. Thus, you must have the self-awareness needed to spot any new gaps and seek to bridge them.
An ability to accept and adapt to change is important too because, like it or not, change is part of the modern working world. Whether organisational, technological or skills-based, the jobs we do and the way we do them is and will change again and again.
Since we don’t know what those changes will be, employers want people who can move out of their comfort zone and see change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.
Throughout your career to date, you’ve likely faced and overcome new adversities and challenges that you didn’t foresee. So, despite the fact this may have felt difficult and uncomfortable at times, you will have been building up your adaptability and ability to deal with change in the process.
Our how to adapt to change article may help you to improve your adaptability skills and embrace change at work. Among many other tips, we suggest you need to recognise and rationalise your voice of caution: “During times of change, this area of the brain [the voice of caution] likes to take charge and urges us to resist and be cautious. By recognising that this is what is happening and reminding ourselves that all will be okay, we can stay open-minded and prepare to take on the change in careful, measured steps.”
3. Interpersonal and communication skills
It is all well and good learning something new every day and thinking of smart solutions to challenges, but these soft skills get lost if you don’t communicate your knowledge to others, such as a potential employer in a job interview. For example, stating that you are adaptable to change isn’t enough; you need to use your strong communication skills to illustrate just how adaptable you are – perhaps by providing examples.
After all, employers favour jobseekers who possess exceptional communication skills and are comfortable speaking with people at all levels of an organisation in a professional manner.
It’s worth acknowledging, too, that communication preferences change over time. For example, with more people working remotely, there is less face-to-face contact and a huge increase in remote means of communication. And in a hybrid working world – with team members split between home-working and office-working – strong interpersonal and communication skills are considered more important to help build and maintain relationships, collaborate and sustain productivity virtually rather than in person.
4. Organisational skills
Also important are organisational skills. During turbulent and unpredictable times, budgets will tighten and cost consciousness will remain a focus. Employers therefore look for new recruits who can effectively organise their time to ensure productivity is maximised, deadlines are met, resources are coordinated and no details are missed.
But even in normal circumstances this soft skill is valued. After all, employers need skilled professionals in their team who can plan and effectively manage their day and tasks for the best possible output and level of productivity.
5. Problem-solving skills
We’ve all experienced first-hand how things don’t always go to plan. In a rapidly changing world of work, people who are quick to adapt and who can handle unexpected or challenging situations efficiently and effectively are therefore highly valued.
But problem-solving can be a difficult soft skill to master since successful problem solving consists of several components. These include the ability to identify and understand the source of the problem faced, analyse the issue, liaise with relevant stakeholders and then determine the most effective solution that suits all parties while also meeting the organisation’s or your team’s overall objectives.
To do this effectively, you need to draw on a broader set of soft skills, including an inquisitive mindset, creativity, communication and decision-making. But once you’ve developed these skills, you can combine them together to offer employers a highly valued attribute – and one that you will draw on repeatedly throughout your career.
6. Emotional intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ, is “the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them”, according to Howard Gardner, Harvard theorist.
When navigating through difficult times and new challenges, a high level of emotional intelligence is imperative. In fact, Dr Travis Bradberry – co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – explored the topic in this World Economic Forum article, and explains how “your emotional intelligence skills help make stress more manageable by enabling you to spot and tackle tough situations before things escalate.”
This is clearly a skill we all must possess as we’re bound to face trying situations in the future and it’s vital that you’re able to deal with these scenarios successfully.
Bradberry also states that recent research conducted within his organisation has found that 90 per cent of top performers have high levels of emotional intelligence. So, developing and increasing your EQ will not only protect you as you approach difficult or potentially stressful times, but it will also set you in good stead to become a top performer in your current and future workplaces.
Once you feel more confident in each of these six areas, make sure you update your CV with these new and improved soft skills. Also, be ready to prove your soft skills in your CV and an interview, and the quantifiable results they led to.
Being ahead of the curve by developing these in-demand soft skills will help you stand out to employers, both now and in the future. After all, organisations are made up of people, and business is facilitated by interactions between people – meaning soft skills are only going to become even more important in the future of work.
We’ve only mentioned a handful of valuable soft skills, so it’s also important to review your strengths and weaknesses to identify other areas for development, such as teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, leadership, a strong work ethic and time management. Remember that when combined with digital literacy and relevant technical skills, a solid soft-skills base will future-proof your career in the years ahead.