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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 February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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