What are soft skills? Why does everyone talk about soft skills? Why can you google the most important soft skills or the most popular ones? And most relevantly, what is the importance of soft skills and how do they affect one‘s employability?
With this article, we want to focus on the topic of soft skills, with reference to the IT sector.
As defined by the Gabler dictionary of economics, soft skills are the complement to the so-called hard skills, such as technical and methodological competence. The objective is to increase motivation and the propensity to cooperate in and around a company or organization. Even more, soft skills are defined as personal values, characteristics and competencies. According to the research article by Matt Stevens and Dr. Richard Norman from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, ‘IT industry representatives are less concerned about technical skills than soft skills needed for team based, customer focused, business environments. Industry tends to seek base-level technical skills and make recruitment decisions on more personal qualities, leaving detailed training to on-the-job.’ IT industry was considered as a not-that-social industry for the longest time. (That could have something to do with the representation of programmers in film industry.)By reflecting on this and also following logic and human reason, we can assume that this is far from the truth, yet it clearly shows the importance of soft skills across industries.
Most people now ask themselves what exactly is required and to what degree is it something personal or something socially expected that we recognize in ourselves in terms of soft skills? According to psychological backgrounds, but also through experience in certain professional fields in which people have to deal with such perceptions in their day-to-day business, so-called skills are often listed, that are assumed to be gladly heard or particularly recognized.
But have you ever taken the time to think about these statements? When preparing for interviews, or when generally analyzing which soft skills you need to train in order to enable yourself to follow the business paths you want to follow in the future, what were the first thoughts?
The first step should be self-reflection. It is important to identify the things we are good at, and the things we need to work on. After realizing what soft skill, or group of them is the most important to us at that moment, we can begin working on improving it. This means, the best way to start working on your soft skills is not to look for general answers on the internet, but to look for your own strengths and weaknesses before. As soon as I reflect on what really matters to me and learn to use my manner in such a way that I appear authentic, I can classify how I can best help myself to develop further.
Secondly, it is important to realize, that improving a soft skill is not as easy as it sounds, soft skills are some of the hardest skills we’ll ever learn!( Peggy Klaus - „The Hard Truth About Soft Skills”) We can’t sit down for a few hours/days/weeks working on one skill, and expect to improve it. Soft skills take time, practice and life-long training. But the results are undeniably rewarding.
What should also not go unmentioned is the fact of being inspired. You can find so many inspiring stories about personal growth (which include soft skills) and tips and strategies on how to start working on improving them. As the saying goes, “One day or Day one. You choose.”
A significant difference between hard and soft skills is, that soft skills are useful not only in professional, but also in personal settings. Humans are social beings that rely heavily on relationships with others, and soft skills directly affect ones ability to start and maintain good relationships.
In summary, this short article has given an insight into the importance of soft skills and aspects to consider when working on them. It should be critically noted that one's personality should be considered as the beginning, the way and the end of this learning experience. The continuity of working and improving could be one of the most important sticking points why people think they can't do it, because many don't take enough time with it. But also the beginning and the question, how do I start, are crucial for success. So, all that is left is to actually start. Step-by-step and we’ll make it.
From an HR perspective, there are a few questions you can ask yourself if you want to work on your soft skills:
- Am I an introvert or an extrovert?
- In which way do I solve things?
- Introverts: Can I find a way to deal with things in my way, that others claim are only attributable to extroverts?
- Extroverts: As a particularly open person, can I nevertheless note as a personal plus that I can relate well to rather shy people?
- How comfortable am I in new environments?
- Do I like to speak in front of strangers?
- What values are important to me? What company values are important to me?
- How do I deal with conflicts?
- How far does my comfort zone go?
Written by Nudzejma Zukorlic & Ida Manko