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Published on February 5, 2020

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Why Are They Important to Your Career?

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Why Are They Important to Your Career?

Throughout your career, you will be judged on your hard skills. But you will advance faster and further based on your soft skills. Having technical skills that qualify you to do the work will only take you so far. Soft skills bolster your career by allowing you to effectively interact with others in your work setting.

In this article, you will understand more about what hard skills and soft skills are, and how to equip yourself with these skills to advance your career.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: What Are They?

First, let’s start with some definitions.

Hard skills are the technical skills and knowledge that you need to do a particular job. Depending on your field, these hard skills will vary quite a bit.

If you are a coder, for example, you will need to become proficient in one language (such as JavaScript), develop your logic skills, and learn to think like a computer.

If, on the other hand, you are a hedge fund manager, the hard skills you’ll need to master will include having a deep knowledge of hedge funds and superb analytical skills, among others.

Soft skills, by contrast, are the skills it’s useful to have in any job. Since most jobs involve interactions with people, skills such as patience, listening ability, and enthusiasm will get you far. Other soft skills, such as dedication, organization, and having a good work ethic will make your hard skills shine brighter.

Your hard skills define your level of expertise; your soft skills define your personal character and often, promotability.

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How to Improve Your Hard Skills

All skills — be they hard or soft — improve with practice. You may well have to take classes to master the technical skills you need to succeed in today’s rapidly changing economy, and because the technical requirements of many jobs keep changing, you may have to continuously learn new skills.

If you’re rusty, the good news is that hard skills are teachable.

Brush up on your hard skills by taking refresher courses. Continuous learning is already built into some professions. In some states, real estate brokers need to complete 22 to 90 hours of coursework every two years to be eligible for renewal. Lawyers who move from one part of the country to another may have to sit for a bar exam in every new state.

Take a look at these 11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities.

How to Improve Your Soft Skills

Unlike hard skills, where you can always show your grade in a class, it’s sometimes hard to prove that you possess a particular soft skill. After all, saying that you’re a team player or super organized does not always sound believable. However, if you can get someone else to say that you are — a former boss or colleague, for example — that makes a more credible case.

Check out these 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

According to LinkedIn, the five soft skills most sought after by employers today are:[1]

Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management.

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Think you can’t learn creativity? Think again. There are numerous online classes that show you how to stretch your creative muscle. You’ll earn a badge, which attests that you’re creative.

The trick, of course, is taking what you learn online and remembering to apply it to the real-life situations you find at the office.

Soft Skill Improvement — without Taking Any Classes

And what if you need a break from continuous learning? Is there a way to build your soft skills without taking another class?

Improving Creativity Skills

Actually, yes when it comes to boosting your creativity. And it’s easy and fun. Try taking your cues from other industries. Learn which ones are dominating and why. Is there any way to transfer what worked in a different industry to the one you’re in?

Let’s say you are in publishing. You might look to the fashion industry for inspiration. See what colors are hot for the year. Maybe it will inspire a book jacket, or even an idea for a book. Let’s say you are running a chain of restaurants. You might look to the travel industry to see what destinations are popular this year. Maybe it will give you an idea for a new special to put on the menu. These days curiosity equals creativity. Start learning about other business as well as your own and your creativity will soar.

Another creativity enhancer: walking. According to a study conducted at Stanford,[2] creative thinking sharpens while a person is walking. You don’t have to walk outdoors to be creative either. Walking indoors is just as impactful. The next time someone at your company suggests a brainstorming session, why not ask if you can all walk while you toss out ideas instead of just sitting stationary.

Enhancing Persuasion Skills

Developing your art of persuasion can also happen outside a classroom. Keep in mind that persuasion doesn’t just fall under a prosecutor’s or salesperson’s purview. Working on your own power of persuasion starts with becoming more aware of your colleague’s preference or viewpoint — and addressing his particular concerns. Listen hard to understand his perspective, and then try to find common ground upon which you both can agree.

Start by observing coworkers who excel at persuasion. They often begin by building rapport, and then adapting their pitches to address the individual or team’s needs. Some will be moved by numbers and data. Other colleagues may prefer a more emotional approach. Your task is to persuade hearts and minds, so you may want to prepare in advance to make both types of arguments. In either case, make every effort to show your authentic passion for what you’re pitching.

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Honing Collaborative Skills

To hone your collaborative skills, take note of the personalities on your team. Think of the team in terms of a wolf pack.[3] Only one alpha is allowed to preside. The beta types will follow and the omegas will do their own thing regardless of the group’s decision. If your team needs an alpha, be prepared to step up. This means understanding how to build alliances and trust, and to communicate so that others know precisely where they fit in any plan to move forward.

Some self-awareness on your part regarding whether you prefer to give direction, take direction, or go off on your own direction will give you a sense of your collaborative style. Asking family members or close friends if they perceive you as a leader or follower can provide insight. Tread carefully if you set out to unseat an alpha. Understanding that a cohesive pack is the basis of collaboration will work in your favor.

Developing Adaptability

Adaptability as a soft skill has become a more desirable trait than ever as companies face disruption and must continually remake themselves with new technology, new products, and new services.

Hard skills alone won’t help you to navigate industry shifts. Adaptability comes from staying future-focused. You know change is coming soon; therefore you are prepared to embrace it.

Improving Time Management Skills

Finally, when you can show your manager that you have excellent time management abilities, you automatically become a person he or she will look to. This means that you’re able to prioritize your tasks, know when to delegate, and always meet (or surpass) your deadlines.

Start each day by putting together a list of all that needs to be done. Then, separate the priority tasks from those that can wait. Look for any work that you can delegate to an assistant. Then, put the tasks queue aside while you dive in and give the priority assignment your full attention. For complex, long-term projects, try to make incremental progress each week so that the giant project doesn’t loom over you.

If you tend to lose track of time, consider assigning a timeframe for addressing each item on your list, and cross off each item once it’s accomplished. This gives you a sense of forward progress. Give yourself a mini-celebration of a coffee break, a walk around the block, or a quick chat with a coworker before tackling the next item. This will clear your head and reset your focus.

Another key to time management: limit the number of phone calls, meetings, texts, and interruptions. There is some evidence to show that few workers can multi-task effectively. It’s best to complete a task before you check your texts and emails.

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Strive for a Hard Skills-Soft Skills Balance

It’s necessary for those with technical jobs to adopt some soft skills and those with soft-skill jobs to adopt more hard skills. Both hard skills and soft skills are important to employers.

So, work to cultivate each set of skills. Strive to excel in any course work related to your essential hard skills to ensure technical expertise.

To improve your soft skills, intentionally put yourself in team-related projects or in leadership roles that provide opportunities for personal development. (If you can’t seem to do that at the office, consider joining a volunteer organization. Volunteering is a proven way to burnish your soft skills.)

As there’s really no metric for knowing precisely how adept you are at soft skills, ask for feedback. It will help you see how others perceive you — an important diagnostic for your own improvement. And remember, the more you practice, the better you will become.

In sum: Master your hard skills because they are the foundation of your career. And then resolve to treat bosses, coworkers, and underlings with civility. Listen well, and regularly deliver more than is expected. By doing so, you’ll stand out to your superiors and your career will soar.

More Career Tips

Featured photo credit: Mia Baker via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work How to Decline a Job Offer Gracefully (With Email Examples) Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work) How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples) 13 Ways to Demonstrate Integrity in the Workplace

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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day, or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire‘ is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.[1]

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across all your life domains.

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  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement lifts.

6 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but can you achieve that?

Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[2]

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Ask: ‘What Else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it. But if we dig and resurface the truth, then weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who Will Notice the Difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put another perspective on the differences they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a Miracle Happened Tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe Your Day as If the Miracle Had Happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you would wake up and then describe the differences you would notice in every tiny action you do.

Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

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How to Track Your Short Term Goals Success

When you set a short-term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[3]

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short-term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation, and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

Here’re more reasons why you should get yourself a life coach: 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Short-Term Goal Example: A Career Short-Term Goal

How to advance your career with short-term goals? Specifically, you will need short-term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short-term goals.

Start by Planning Your Career Visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it on television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short-term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal-setting process with visual planning. He says,

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I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?”

Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make You Think Like a Start-Up Entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short-term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive, and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday but also improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged, and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the workhorses of your short-term goals.

Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘Triggers’ for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.[4]

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

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Get You to Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continue fueling not only your desire but also the expectation of achieving it.

Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination, the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so she relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos.

For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially, or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

Summing It Up

Change is possible. Short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

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