When applying for a job, most people prioritize their job-specific, hard skills. However, soft skills are just as important. Yes, it’s true – Francesca explains why.
Wait, what are Soft Skills?
These are the interpersonal skills that allow you to interact well with people in the workplace. Soft skills contribute to the success of any employee. Although they are a little more challenging to measure, they are vital to success. This doesn’t only apply to a professional environment but life, in general.
Soft Skills for the Win
Okay, let’s just take a beat!
How exactly can soft skills be a powerful tool on the road to success?
I chatted with Sihle Maseko, a qualified social worker and councillor, on the importance and value of soft skills.
1. What is your profession and where did you receive your qualifications?
My profession is social work. I received an honours degree from the University of Johannesburg in 2011. I also have a qualification as a Senior Phase Life Orientation teacher (PGCE), which I completed in 2015 at the very same university.
2. What other valuable skills have you learnt in the real world, outside of the lecture hall?
My course didn’t provide IT skills that would make work easier. Deep project management/planning and working with multidisciplinary skills aren’t so good. The use of social media to network. Marketing skills, Public Speaking and Advanced Presentation Skills.
3. How have these skills contributed to who and where you are in your career right now?
I tend to be able to do different work and be in different sectors at once – I have been able to work in education, business, non-governmental organisations, religious organisations and do private work. I’m able to create and design my own content through using software and have also been able to create big projects and garner support through social media. I often stand out in the profession because of the skills I have and my comfort in being in different sectors.
4. In regard to working with people regularly, what type of skills, whether ‘soft’ skills or other, have had a significant impact on this?
Communication skills are key. Social work gives us the ability to listen attentively, to respond empathetically, to probe correctly and not to be judgemental in how we treat people. These skills work well, even when I am not in a social work context. The skills of critical thinking and problem solving have helped me with interacting with people outside of a counselling or intervention context, as they appreciate how I am able to assist or highlight to them problematic thinking or the source of their problems.
5. What do you think is the importance of having a well-rounded collection of skills in order to succeed in your career and life, in general?
I think it is very important. Limited skills limit your ability to advance in your career – unless you know important people in high places. This is why it’s important to often be self-reflective and be able to see what skills you lack and need to attain to progress. And in terms of one’s life outside of your career, you tend to live within your means and your abilities. Not being balanced or well-rounded can lead to not having a fulfilled life as you will avoid situations that bring out the truth that you “can’t do something”. Or the opposite will happen, where you are in conflict with people because you lack the skills needed to excel at what you are doing.
6. Which 5 ‘soft’ skills do you perceive to be important in a professional environment?
Attentive listening, verbal communication, presentation, persuasion and critical thinking.
Developing a Successful Self
As Maseko mentions, the above ‘soft’ skills are transferable to any career field. Although these skills can be developed in one situation, they can certainly be relevant in any other. These ‘soft’ skills are valuable when working in a team, or even just individual encounters.
Other important soft skills include:
- Being able to work in a team
- Accepting feedback
- Being able to think creatively.
These skills don’t only make you an asset to an employer, but certainly make the workplace a more pleasant environment, for everyone.
Be aware of the less obvious skills when preparing to apply for a potential job opportunity. Trust us -being a good listener may just get you further than you think.