What are soft skills?

Everyone has heard the new buzz words getting around, right? Soft skills. They’re becoming increasingly important to employers – and it’s your job to make sure you’ve got them in spades. But what are soft skills exactly?

Don’t stress. We’re going to break it right down for you. From what they are, to why they’re important – and, consequently, how you can make sure yours are up to scratch.

So, what are soft skills?

The technical definition of ‘soft skills’ is ‘the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people’.

Above all, they’re the skills that help you get along well with others in your workplace.

They are a combination of people skills, social skills and communication skills, as well as personality traits and attitudes. So they’re the things that enable you to navigate your environment, perform well, and achieve your goals with complementing hard skills.

But what are hard skills? Don’t worry, we’ll get to them in a bit.

Soft skills are things like:

  • communication
  • work ethic
  • networking
  • decision making
  • positivity
  • time management
  • listening
  • courtesy
  • collaboration
  • emotional intelligence
  • empathy
  • negotiation
  • motivation
  • flexibility
  • problem solving
  • leadership
  • resilience
  • conflict resolution
  • critical thinking

Soft skills v hard skills

Hard skills are technical skills that you learn. Typically, you’ll learn hard skills in the classroom, through books or other training materials, or on the job.

For example – knowing a second language, understanding Photoshop or PowerPoint, or expertise in carpentry are all hard skills. Skills that can be learned and improved upon with practice.

By contrast, soft skills are less tangible. It’s hard to point to specific evidence that you possess a soft skill.

But soft skills and hard skills have something in common. They’re both super important to employers.

And why are they important?

In the working world, soft skills are becoming more and more important. Employers are looking for people with these skills to complement hard, technical skills.

While certain hard skills are necessary for any position, employers are increasingly looking for job applicants with certain soft skills. That’s because it can be easier for an employer to train a new staff member in a hard skill (how to use a specific computer program), rather than to train an employee in a soft skill (patience).

In order to thrive at work, you need to get along with everyone you come into contact with – like managers, co-workers, clients, vendors, customers, and anyone else you interact with while on the job. Being able to do that successfully means you’re more likely to thrive in the workplace.

Soft skills are the difference between mediocre candidates and ideal candidates.

For example – let’s just say you’re a gifted dentist. You’re highly skilled, have a deep understanding of dental anatomy, and can also perform a range of technical procedures.

On paper – that’s all well and good. But you’re going to find it a bit difficult to work with patients if you don’t have a good bedside manner, can’t empathise with others and find it difficult to show positivity.

Ask anyone – an employer will choose the candidate with the perfect blend of hard and soft in their skill set every time.

How can I develop my soft skills?

With Charles Sturt University, there are plenty of ways you can work on your soft skills. For instance, things like single subject study and leadership programs are a good way to boost your skill set.

So, think you’ve already got your soft-skill game going on? Then you could have the advantage.

We recognise people have so much more to offer than just their academic results. So our Charles Sturt Advantage early offer program gives you the chance to get into uni based on your unique skills.

So if you’ve got things like emotional intelligence, collaboration, communication skills and resilience – you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting in.

Want to brush up on yours?

We’ve got a heap of information on this crucial topic. So check it out! We think you’ll find it pretty useful.