How to tell a child what soft skills are

We explain in human language, without unnecessary terms, but with examples!

I often hear about soft skills. What is this?

Soft skills are not related to a specific profession but help you do your job well and are essential for a career.

Very few people work alone. He must be able to negotiate with colleagues, argue his position, and convey it to others. Soft skills help me to work with information, keep up with life, and feel confident in the profession.

Soft skills are essential for a designer and a sales manager, a programmer and a manager, a marketer, and a teacher.

Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and researchers are no exception. Everyone needs soft skills.

Previously, there were no soft skills — and nothing they managed.

Soft skills themselves have always existed in any era. It’s just that the very concept of soft skills has not been used before. Research in this area began in the United States around the 1960s, and this term entered the business environment even later, in the late nineties.

The interest in soft skills and the need for them has become even stronger. Technology advances so rapidly that the knowledge we gain becomes obsolete. Therefore, it is not the employee who learned a lot of things that becomes valuable, but the one who knows how to learn quickly, effectively adapt to new conditions, and find non-standard solutions. The success of the project depends on mutual understanding.

What are these skills?

There are many soft skills, and among them are almost (or unrelated) related to each other. Conventionally, all soft skills can be divided into several groups:

  • Communication skills. We have already written about some of the above. It is the ability to negotiate with others, work in a team, and argue one’s position. It also includes leadership qualities and emotional intelligence.
  • Self-organization skills. For example, the ability to effectively organize your work and manage your time wisely.
  • Creative skills. The ability to think outside the box is now needed by designers and representatives of other creative professions and by many other professionals, people in business, and leaders. The modern world is highly changeable, so we are increasingly faced with non-standard tasks that require an unconventional approach.
  • Ability to work with information. Look for it, analyze it, and draw conclusions. Computer literacy is increasingly being perceived in the same way as our grandparents.
  • Stress tolerance. Significant changes are stressful, and coping with them, and staying productive is vital when there are a lot of them. Without high-stress resistance, it will not work for a long time and do your job well.

Since these are “soft” skills, there are probably “hard” ones

Yes, the concept of soft skills is often opposed to the concept of hard skills — “hard skills.” These are knowledge and skills specific to a particular profession. For example, for a programmer, this is knowledge of programming languages. For an Internet marketer, knowledge of analytics tools is essential for a graphic designer and confident knowledge of professional programs.

It’s clear. So, if I’m a professional, then I don’t need soft skills?

No, it’s still needed. Any employee should have flexible skills, no matter how high his level of professionalism. They are needed at least to remain a professional: to quickly master the new and valuable that appears in your profession.

In addition, being a professional (that is, knowing your professional area well) and being an effective worker is different. For the second, the ability to communicate, self-organization, and much of what we discussed in the third card is essential.

What skills are more important to my boss — “hard” or “flexible”?

There is no single answer. Soft skills are essential, but the skill set and the ratio of soft skills to hard skills depend on the company and the specialty.

Or it’s all made up. Are there any severe studies on soft skills?

Yes, there are, and there are a lot of them. Works have been published for a long time, and even dissertations on this topic are being defended. Here are some examples. The journal “Higher Education in Europe” published an article in 2008 proving that soft skills are as integral a part of professional competencies as hard. The author believes that modern education should also include soft skills training so that graduates meet the labor market requirements. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business published a study, showing that the human factor creates the main difficulties in working on the project. Researchers summarize the importance of soft management skills.

Gina Watson Mitchell, in her dissertation, analyzes survey data and recommends that universities include the development of soft skills in their curricula.

Okay, convinced. How to understand what soft skills I need?

You need to decide on more than just soft skills. Understanding what ratio of hard and soft skills is optimal in your case is also essential. To find answers to both of these questions, consider this:

  • What are the features of your profession, and what is valued in your professional community?
  • How fast is your industry changing?
  • What are the features of your work — for example, do you work in a company or freelance, with customers or with documents?
  • What are your goals: is your career important to you? If yes, please specify what you want to achieve.
  • Listen to personal feelings. What types of work activities do you find challenging? It could be communicating with colleagues. Or are you wasting extra time due to ignorance of the programs you need?
  • Take the test Menteora to determine the strengths and weaknesses in your personality. Artificial intelligence will advise the most suitable professions after the test.

It’s clear. Is it challenging to develop these skills?

It depends on your characteristics and the skill you need. But in general, you need to consider this: developing soft skills takes time. Some professional skills can be acquired in just a few days (although specialists have honed many for years). And in the case of soft skills, the process is almost always long: more than a few days is needed to learn how to communicate differently than you are used to or to start analyzing information with confidence if you were not very good at it before. And so it is with almost all soft skills. Because many of these qualities are associated with our deep habits and attitudes, and their change takes time.

So tune in not for a sprint but for a marathon. It will take activity, patience, and thoughtfulness, but the result is worth it. The increased level of soft skills will not only help you in your work. Still, it will most likely change your life, including relationships with loved ones (primarily if you work on your emotional intelligence and communication skills).

How can soft skills be developed?

There are several ways. The first is on particular courses and training. Search, look at reviews, choose — and learn under the guidance of a mentor.

The second way is with the help of books on soft skills. There are at least a few for almost every skill so that you will have a choice.

The third way is to develop soft skills based on feedback from others, for example, your work colleagues or family members.

You can also combine these methods (or some). And this is the best option because the information will come to you through different channels, and something will reach you.

It is important to remember this: whichever method you choose, you will need self-reflection, reflection, and evaluation of the experience gained. By the way, they are also soft skills, so it is helpful to develop them.

I want to do it myself, without training and courses. What do you recommend?

Soft skills are very different, and we need to know what you need. Therefore, it isn't easy to give specific advice. But here are five universal recommendations.

  • First, choose the group of skills (or even the specific skill) you want to develop. And purposefully look for information about this (be sure to look at our latest card, you may find something listed there helpful).
  • Soft skills, like any skill in general, can only be developed with constant practice. Just reading books won’t help.
  • Set specific goals, and evaluate whether the result improves as you develop.

Example of an incorrect goal: “I want to develop emotional intelligence” (the goal is too general).

An example of the right goal is “I want to more accurately understand my emotions so as not to break down on relatives and colleagues” (a specific goal is good).

  • Start small, then the chances of success are higher. For example, if you want to learn how to make presentations in public, start by speaking in front of your peers, not at a significant academic or business conference.
  • Divide complex tasks into several stages and go according to the plan.

More specific advice can be found in books, articles, and webinars.