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When Everyone Is Focusing on Hard Skills, It’s Time for You to Focus on Soft Skills

When Everyone Is Focusing on Hard Skills, It’s Time for You to Focus on Soft Skills

You have all the experience, great references, everything you think you need for your dream job, but could something else be holding you back? A sometimes-overlooked set of skills known as soft skills is also essential for success in business and life.

Soft skills cover important but hard-to-measure keys to success. The most common soft skills often show up in job descriptions, and being able to show you possess them could make the difference in landing a job you’ll love, or being more successful in the job you already have.

What’s the Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills?

Hard skills are things that are quantifiable and measurable; you either have them or you don’t. A master’s degree in business is a hard skill. The ability to speak Spanish is a hard skill; you either can or you can’t.

Many specific qualifications for a job are hard skills, such as years of work experience or proficiency with particular computer programs.

Soft skills are harder to define and quantify. They can’t be measured. You don’t get a certificate for mastering flexibility in the workplace (but maybe you should!).

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They are the sorts of skills that are important, but hard to define when you have them or not. They’re traits that you can work on for a lifetime, and that you use in different degrees and in different ways from day to day.

Soft skills are also somewhat like personality traits in that they are something you bring with you to any job or life experience you have.

What Are the Most Common Soft Skills?

Soft skills covers a wide range of characteristics, but some of the most common — and most necessary for success — include being a:

  • good listener
  • problem solver
  • adaptable to new situations
  • strong communicator
  • team player

It’s also helpful if you can:

  • accept feedback
  • resolve conflicts with others
  • deal with difficult people
  • delegate authority when needed
  • be flexible

Personality Traits that Are Soft Skills

A common personality trait that might be considered a soft skill that is vital for a good working life (and life in general) is having a growth mindset.

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What this means is that you see setbacks as a opportunity to learn something new or try something different rather than as roadblocks that will keep you from trying to do what you said you wanted to do.

People with a growth mindset love learning, are enthusiastic about change and are interested in self-improvement. They tend not to blame others for their problems and can be great team players and managers.

Other personality traits that might be considered soft skills include being friendly, curious, self-aware, confident, resilient and patient. Having a go-with-the-flow attitude that helps you manage stress might also be considered important, depending on the work environment.

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

Soft skills are the something extra that propels a particular person to success. They make the difference between someone who is just OK at their job and someone who is great, the person you always want on your team. They’re the difference between a fun acquaintance and your best friend.

In general, soft skills are what make you more likable and they make you seem more competent, all other skills being equal, compared to someone else.

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Being a good listener, for example, is essential if you’re a therapist. Being flexible, a team player and a problem solver are all essential when dealing with deadlines.

Realtors — and many of the rest of us — have to deal with difficult, stressed-out people, and the person who can do that with a smile will get rave reviews and repeat customers.

If you can get clients but don’t retain them over the long haul, it’s probably because you’re lacking in an essential soft skill. Soft skills might also be the problem if you’re getting passed over for promotions or projects that you’re qualified to do.

How Do You Develop Soft Skills?

Soft skills are one thing that can set people apart from each other on resumes or in interviews, but if some of these traits don’t come naturally to you there are some things you can do. It is possible, for instance, to practice being more patient or being a better listener, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

You can deliberately focus on improving your soft skills by, say, reading about ways to have more confidence and trying out those methods yourself. You can take classes on things like conflict resolution or becoming a better manager. And you can use these skills at work and at home until you feel more comfortable.

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Putting Soft Skills on Your Resume

Having these soft skills is not enough; you have to show hiring managers that you have them before you get to the interview stage.

But coming right out and saying, “I’m confident, great at dealing with difficult people and have a growth mindset,” on your resume or in your cover letter might not be the best way to show off those skills.

Like anything else when writing your resume, you should aim to show, not tell. Talk about ways you have used your soft skills in the workplace in a similar way to how you might need them in the future.

For instance, saying you consistently meet deadlines shows flexibility and reliability, while specifics about your managerial experience might point to your ability to delegate, communicate and be part of a team.

Understanding and developing your soft skills is an ongoing process, but just like learning a programming language or taking a continuing education course, it can be the thing that puts you over the top in your job search or in general.

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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