The Importance of Soft Skills in Your Job Search


Soft Skills assist with bridging the skills gap

I want to explain something about the importance of soft skills to job seekers out there to those of you who are searching in the job search landscape of today.

There is an ever growing requirement for jobs. You’ll find countless job advertisements online, and hear about the ever increasing demand for personnel in specific industries – some greater than others.

The bottom line is that if you don’t understand what the skills gap is, what it means to you and how to gear yourself up to protect yourself against it, then you too could very well end up as one of those people struggling to find employment within a sea of job ads.

The skills gap is simple to understand in a nutshell, although there are various factors within each industry that apply. The skills gap can be understood as ‘the disconnect between the requirements and expectations of today’s employers and the current skills of workers globally’. This means that job seekers like yourself will be entering a job market unlike anything previously experienced before – one where proven skills, together with soft skills, trump all.

Technology and globalisation have accelerated the shift towards a knowledge based-economy. Companies are looking to retain their competitive edge by continuously reinventing themselves, constantly innovating and hiring a workforce that will enable these things to happen. They need to hire employees who are able to quickly acquire a range of new skills and evolve within their roles to meet these market demands. This is why soft/workplace skills are so important to you on your job search, and your prospective employers.

Soft skills affect your day-to-day work relationships (clients, co-workers and superiors) and are a vital part of a company’s overall success. These types of skills are generally lacking in a workforce because they are difficult to master, are not always taught well, and rely on emotional intelligence and the person’s willingness to learn them. They go hand-in-hand with basic workplace skills which enable the worker to get basic tasks done effectively by using technology and the 3 ‘R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), and the ever-increasing tech skills, although these can be taught often enough at work.

Almost anyone can learn basic professionalism and the necessary work attitude that’s fundamental to their workplace. However, soft skills take time as well as a certain cognisance to recognise social situations and then take a certain ability to learn how to handle them. These skills allow us to control how we respond to adverse situations and allow us to take proactive action which is in our best interest. They are mastered through conscious effort and experience, through workplace coaching and through a mentor, and are the skills that will undoubtedly get you promoted and keep you employed.

Workplace skills are taught in institutions such as schools, universities, colleges, independent courses or through work or personal experience. The ability to understand the impact of social media in the workplace and how to utilise it is of growing importance in the workplace as well as how to search for information on the internet are also part of today’s portfolio of together with the all important soft skills.

Let’s take a look at some examples of these two sets of skills: Soft Skills and Workplace Skills

• Stress management and people management skills; Resilience/office politics and people skills – the ability to work well with other people; to work within a team, to understand group culture and to be empathetic and sensitive to the feelings and opinions of others.

• Personal qualities: Confidence and communication skills; a strong work ethic, professionalism, self-management, integrity, individual responsibility, networking skills, adaptability and sociability. These skills are the values and behaviours that are aligned with the culture of the workplace.

• Thinking skills – critical thinking, creative thinking, reasoning, problem solving – all expressions of the ability to analyse information and arrive at logical conclusions that add value to a worker’s efforts.

• Resource management – the ability to allocate time, money, materials, space and staff etc,

  • Information management – the ability to acquire and evaluate data, to organise and maintain files, to interpret and communicate ideas and messages effectively, and to use technology to process information

  • Understanding systems – the ability to understand social, organisational, and technological systems; to be able to monitor and correct performance, and to design or improve systems

  • Technology – the ability to select equipment and tools, to apply technology to specific tasks, and maintain and troubleshoot

  • Workplace skills – (analytical and organisational skills that employees need to successfully perform work tasks) These are basic skills like reading, writing, arithmetic and globally accepted computer skills as well as the ability to make phone calls using different technology and speak on the phone, use a printer and basic internet search browsers, that are essential to the workings of a modern workplace.

I believe it’s important to consider one’s personal brand, online presence and ability to engage on social media platforms as a part of these skill sets.

Now, don’t let the myths stop you from acquiring these soft and workplace skills: People are not born with better soft skills than others, and don’t believe that you have to be a certain type of personality, an extravert for example, to be able to develop soft skills – all personality types and people from all walks of life are able to learn these skills as they are behavioural; There is no age limit to learning and developing these skills – you are not too old and set in your ways for example. If you want to survive the skills gap, you need to chuck these thoughts out of your head and get going on making a constructive and beneficial change to your attitude.

The other important skill set is your proven skills known as hard skills – the specific skills acquired for the expertise specifically enabling the employee to do the job and excel in their chosen profession. In my experience I’ve found that job seekers place a lot of importance on their hard skills, expecting their credentials to get them the job. And that may have been the case over a couple of decades ago. However, in today’s job market this is proven not to be the case: A Talent Shortage Survey from ManpowerGroup discovered that nearly one in five employers worldwide is unable to fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills.

Every day I get feedback from Hiring Managers and countless job seekers expressing the lack of soft skills on their portfolio. People hire people they like and want to work with, and then the hard skills kick into play.

I urge you to think about your career within the lines of today’s thought processes. Have a plan and pathway to get yourself there. Invest in getting a workplace mentor, read literature that will educate you about how to improve your soft skills, and take every opportunity to find out how to do things more effectively using today’s technologies like social media, Google Docs, apps and automative technology procedures that can increase the effectiveness of your day-to-day workflow. Watch people to see how they handle situations and see how you can apply that information to your own experiences. Think about your personal brand online and in-person and work on developing it.

Your personal brand and IP are going to be the markers that set you apart from other job seekers in this competitive market so start developing them now.

Lauren Yeoman