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Soft skills are the personal qualities that help you thrive in life and in the workplace. They are the behavioural and interpersonal skills that relate to how effectively you interact with others and handle everyday life and specific situations.
Soft skills consist of a combination of people, social, and communication skills, character traits, attitudes and mindsets, as well as social and emotional characteristics.
These are quite different to hard skills, which refer to the specific knowledge and abilities that you need to perform your job effectively or to complete a task. Hard skills are the measurable skills acquired through training, education and practice.
In a competitive labour market, prospective employees who demonstrate they have a good combination of hard and soft skills often see a greater demand for their services.
Here are 10 essential soft skills for success in life and work:
1. Communication and relationships. You need the fundamental skills of communication and relationship building every day in your professional and personal life. You may think communication is straightforward but communicating with other people is a complex process. There is a great difference between the ability to communicate and the ability to communicate effectively. There are many aspects to communication including building rapport, empathy, listening, asking questions, body language, emotional intelligence and developing relationships. How are your communication and relationships?
2. Goal setting, planning and taking action. Goals help to ensure that your life is moving in the direction you intend and help you to keep focused, sustain momentum, improve performance, increase motivation and develop confidence. However goals on their own will not take you forward, to achieve your goals you also need to plan what you are going to do and then take the action identified in the plan. How are you at goal setting, planning and taking action?
3. Productivity and effectiveness. Effective time management is key to life and work. However, managing time and maximising productivity are some of the biggest challenges at work and in life. How often do you get to the end of your day at work or at home and feel like you haven't got anything done? You may have been very busy all day, but you don't feel like you have achieved what you wanted to. Are you being efficient, effective and productive?
4. Decision making and problem solving. Being decisive is about being prepared to make quick decisions about significant issues, so that you can move forward. It is about being comfortable with risk, accepting that you may not always make the right decision and that you can always change course later if things do not work out as expected. Problem solving is the act of defining a problem, determining the cause of the problem, identifying, prioritising and selecting alternatives for a solution and implementing a solution. How is your decision making and problem solving?
5. Learning and development. Learning and development is the continuous process of improving your knowledge, competencies and skills to live a better life and to improve your performance in the workplace. There are many ways of learning and developing including workshops, seminars, lectures, training sessions, online courses, webinars, feedback, experience, peer learning, coaching, mentoring and shadowing. What learning and development do you need to invest in?
6. Asking for help and support. One of the best soft skills you could possibly have is knowing when and how to ask for help and support at work and in life. Getting things off your chest and sharing it with someone can be a huge relief and speaking about things out loud to someone else can often enable you to gain clarity. What do you need to ask for help and support on?
7. Health and wellbeing. Health and wellbeing can be described as the maintenance of physical, mental and emotional stability and balance, as well as the absence of illness. This includes physical health, psychological and emotional stability and social engagement. Feelings of wellbeing are fundamental to your individual health, enabling you to be resilient and achieve what you want in life. How is your health and wellbeing?
8. Thinking. You probably don't spend much time considering how you think about different situations at work or in your personal life. How you think impacts how you feel and in turn this impacts your performance and behaviour. You often blame how you feel on outside circumstances or other people, but actually how you feel is a result of what you think about what is happening and your reaction to other people. What are you thinking and how is it impacting you?
9. Confidence and assertiveness. Your level of confidence can show to others in your behaviour, your body language, how you speak and what you say. It can also affect your thoughts, feelings and actions. When you are confident and secure about who you are, you are more likely to have a growth mindset and achieve your goals and objectives. Your level of confidence may change depending on how things are going for you and what is happening in your life. You may feel confident in some areas of your life but not in others, for example you are confident at home but not at work. How confident are you?
10. Resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and positively from setbacks, to adapt well to change and to keep going in the face of adversity and challenging and difficult times. It can be described as the ability to ‘keep going’, ‘pick yourself up’ and ‘bounce back’ when something challenging happens in your life. Resilience helps you to handle anything from a minor change to a major setback. How resilient are you?
Hopefully from this whistle stop tour of soft skills you can identify which soft skills you need to work on and develop.
Soft skills online course
If you want to explore soft skills further, why not try our new online course - Soft skills for life & work: develop yourself for success. The course includes over 100 practical tips and strategies to develop your soft skills in life and work.
Author: Liz Makin
Published: November 2022
Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including anxiety management, communication, resilience, soft skills, stress management, time management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.
Please email Liz@makinithappen.co.uk to arrange a FREE consultation session to discuss our business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services for business owners, directors, managers and professionals.