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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 May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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