What do you think it takes to land yourself a killer job after uni? A degree from a good university? Relevant work experience? Evidence that you’ve participated in plenty of extra curricular activities? All these factors might be necessary and helpful for getting you noticed by organisations, but to mark yourself as an ideal job candidate (as opposed to an acceptable one), you’ve also got to demonstrate soft skills. Let’s take a look at what these are and how to approach soft skills development.
If hard skills are the cake, soft skills are the glaze and chocolate buttons
So what are soft skills? Let’s first examine what hard skills are. Hard skills cover the technical know-how required to carry out a job. For a doctor, this will be medical knowledge and the ability to diagnose and recall thousands of pharmaceutical compounds. For a graphic designer, it could be proficiency in Photoshop and a thorough understanding of colour charts. You’re learning hard skills in your degree right now. If hard skills are the cake, soft skills are the icing—turning you from an adequate job candidate into a really attractive one. And even though our soft skills are influenced by our personality, they can be learned and developed too with a professional skill development training program. Hence the need for soft skills development.
Soft skills help you add greater value to a role and organisation
You might be wondering why soft skills are so important. Surely you can eat a cake that hasn’t been glazed? Of course, you can, but you’ll enjoy the cake far more if it has. Your prospective employers have the same attitude when they look for employees. They want to hire people who can not only carry out the job but work alongside other staff while they do. After all, organisations are made up of teams; soft skills, and soft skills development, are instrumental in your ability to work as part of one.
Communication skills underpin an organisation’s ability to achieve business goals
Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most highly-valued soft skills. This skillset isn’t just vital for your career, but for virtually every other facet of life too. Organisations achieve their business goals when employees work as a team to translate the company vision into a tangible product or service. This is only possible when a team comprises people who are able to communicate proficiently.
Employers want proof that you can work under pressure and meet deadlines.
Other soft skills pivotal for the healthy functioning of teams include time management and the ability to work under pressure. You might have gotten away with less-than-perfect time management skills at uni, but you won’t be afforded much leniency when it comes to missing deadlines at work. Work environments can become highly pressurised (there’s a lot more at stake than good exam results), and employers want to know that anyone they employ will be able to handle the pressure, be able to perform and be flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen challenges.
Can you think of a real-life example of when you demonstrated soft skills?
Soft skills also include leadership capability, decisiveness (do you have the courage to act on your convictions?), self-awareness, teamwork skills, problem-solving nous and the ability to negotiate and resolve conflict (extremely important in a high-pressure work environment). In your interview, employers will likely ask for examples of when you demonstrated these skills—so make sure you’re prepared.
Your future employer will expect you to have well-developed soft skills from day one
Your soft skills might be a deciding factor in whether an employer decides to employ you. However, there’s very little emphasis on cultivating these skills in students throughout formal education—even though employers expect their chosen candidates to already have them when they begin work. Securing a graduate job, therefore, requires that you take charge of your own soft skills development in order to boost your chances of outshining other applicants.
Our Industry Engagement Programme (IEP) is a career development programme and teamwork training programme that emphasises soft skills development, preparing you for your foray into work. Download our training skills development program guide for more information about what employers look for in their ideal job candidate.