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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

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Published on October 30, 2020

11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

There are numerous ways to build your mindset, but none are as profound as reading philosophy books. Through these books, some of the greatest minds around ask questions and delve deep into thought.

While there isn’t always a clear and distinct answer to the many questions of philosophy, the entire field is a gateway to a higher sense of self. It gets you to think about all manner of things.

Below, we cover some of the essential philosophy books that are best for those who are just starting or looking to expand their mind.

How To Choose a Good Philosophy Book

Before getting to this list, we’ve researched ideal philosophy books to help you expand your mind.

We’ve found that the best philosophy books excel in the following criteria:

  • Complexity – Philosophy isn’t a subject that you can’t dive into immediately and understand everything. The books that we selected are great for people making the first leap.
  • Viewpoint – With philosophy, in particular, the author’s views are more important than in your standard book. We want to ensure the viewpoints and thoughts being discussed still hold up to this day.
  • Open-mindedness – Philosophy is all about asking perplexing questions and unraveling the answer. You might not reach a conclusion in the end, but these books are designed to get you to think.
  • Culture – The last criterion is culture. A lot of these books come from early philosophers from centuries ago or possibly from recent years. These philosophy books should paint a picture of the culture.

1. Meditations

    One that you’ll find on many of these types of lists is Meditations and for good reason. It’s the only document of its kind to ever be made. The book focuses on the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man who advises himself revolving around making good on his responsibilities and the obligations of his position.

    We know enough about Marcus Aurelius to know that he was trained in stoic philosophy and practiced every night on a series of spirituality exercises. These exercises were designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever problem he had to face off. And he faced plenty of problems since he was basically the emperor of roughly a third of the planet.

    All of that is poured into this book, and you are bound to remember a line or more that will be applicable in your life. It’s a philosophy book staple.

    Buy Meditations here.

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    2. Letters From a Stoic

      Similar to Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was another powerful man in Rome. He was a brilliant writer at the time and was the kind of guy to give great advice to his most trusted friends. Fortunately, much of his advice comes in letters, and those letters happen to be in this book. The letters themselves provided advice on dealing with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education, and more.

      While Seneca was a stoic, he has a more practical approach and has borrowed from other schools of thought for his advice. As he said when he was alive, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” Similar to Meditations, there are several brilliant lines and advice that are still relevant to this day.

      Buy “Letters From a Stoic” here.

      3. Nicomachean Ethics

        Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher at the time with profound knowledge. He’s named after a form of logic as well called Aristotelian logic. Through this book, Aristotle writes about the root of all Aristotelian ethics. In other words, this book contains the moral ideas that form a base for pretty much all of western civilization.

        Buy “Nicomachean Ethics” here.

        4. Beyond Good & Evil

          Friedrich Nietzsche played a big role in the philosophical world. He was one of the leading philosophers of the existential movement, and it all came through this particular book. He is a brilliant mind. However, the issue with a lot of his work is that it’s all written in German.

          Fortunately, this book is one of the slightly more accessible ones since it’s translated. Within the book, he breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality. By doing this, he sets the stage for a lot of the 20th-century thought process that followed.

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          Buy “Beyond Good & Evil” here.

          5. Meditations on First Philosophy

            In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes breaks his book down into six meditations. The book takes a journalistic style that is structured much like a six-day course of meditation. On day one, he gives instructions on discarding all belief in things that are not guaranteed. After that, he tries to establish what can be known for sure. Similar to Meditations, this is a staple and influential philosophical text that you can pick up.

            Buy “Meditations on First Philosophy” here.

            6. Ethics

              Written by Benedict de Spinoza, this came at a time during the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment was a movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and with that, many schools of thought emerged and were presented through books.

              Out of the many influential philosophy books published back then, Ethics dominated during this period as it discussed the basis of rationalism. Even though we’ve developed further beyond that, Ethics can introduce new ways of thinking from this particular school of thought.

              Buy “Ethics” here.

              7. Critique of Pure Reason

                Immanuel Kant is another great philosopher who brought together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought into a single book. Those schools being rational thought and empirical experiential knowledge—knowledge gained through experience.

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                In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explores human reason and then works to establish its illusions and get down to core constituents. Overall, you can learn more about human behavior and thought processes and thus, open your mind more to how you think and process everything around you.

                Buy “Critique of Pure Reason” here.

                8. On the Genealogy of Morals

                  Another piece of work from Nietzsche that is accessible to us is On the Genealogy of Morals. According to Nietzsche, the purpose of this book is to call attention to his previous writings. That said, it does more than that so you don’t need to worry so much about reading his other books.

                  In this book, he expands on the cryptic aphorisms that he brings up in Beyond Good and Evil and offers a discussion or morality in a work that is more accessible than a lot of his previous work.

                  Buy “On the Genealogy of Morals” here.

                  9. Everything Is F*cked

                    The only book on this list that’s been written in the past few years, this book by Mark Manson aims to explain why we all need hope while also accepting that hope can often lead us to ruin too.

                    While many of the books on this list are all practical, this one is the most realistic one since not even the greatest of philosophical minds could predict things like technology, Twitter, and how our political world has shaped.

                    Manson delivers a profound book that taps into the minds of our ancestral philosophers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, and digs deep into various topics and how all of it is connected—religion and politics, our relationship with money, entertainment, and the internet.

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                    Overall, this book serves as a challenge to all of us—a challenge to be more honest with ourselves and connect with the world in a way we’ve never tried before.

                    Buy “Everything Is F*cked” here.

                    10. Reasons and Persons

                      One of the most challenging philosophy books to read on this list, Reasons and Persons will send you on quite the trip. Through a lot of painstaking logic, Derek Parfit shows us some unique perspectives on self-interest, personhood, and whether our actions are good or evil.

                      Considered by many to be an important psychological text around the 20th century, the arguments made about those topics will open your mind to a brand new way of thinking.

                      Buy “Reasons and Persons” here.

                      11. The Republic of Plato

                        Written by Plato himself, this book is the origin of political science and offers a brilliant critique of government. As you would expect, the critique is still important today. If you’re looking to understand the inner thoughts of Plato, this is one of the best books around.

                        Buy “The Republic of Plato” here.

                        Final Thoughts

                        Philosophy books take a while to digest as they provide profound knowledge and leave you with many questions. With many of these philosophy books, you need to take your time with them, and you might have to read through them a few times as well. And with every read, your mind will only expand.

                        More Books to Open Your Mind

                        Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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