Often individuals have placed an emphasis on technical education and skills, as can be seen through a trend towards earlier specialization in our education system. However, are these skills what individuals need to succeed in today’s competitive workplace? What about “soft skills”? What role do they play in finding your next job?
It used to be that employers wanted to see certifications, years of industry expertise, and an education related to the job they are hiring for; to some extent this is still the case. However, there is a new skill set that is becoming vital to a successful career, soft or transferable skills. Employers are developing workplace cultures, and are discovering that an employee’s fit with the organization is more important than an employee’s expertise. Many employers are discovering it is easier to teach employees the needed technical skills than the desired soft skills.
So, what are these all important soft skills? Often they are more about how you do a job, rather than what you are doing. Employers want employees that: can problem solve and think critically; have a solution focused attitude; show a passion for results; can work with an interdisciplinary team; and can communicate effectively. Self-confidence is also a soft skill that is highly regarded by employers. Employers want employees that know they can get the job done. For example: an employer in Cambridge was looking for production workers, and acknowledged that a person who was able to think logically, to use good reasoning when solving a problem on the job, who could get along with other people, and who was adaptable and flexible with change, would be the ideal person for their company. It wasn’t about the academic or past technical skills, as these skills can always be trained by the company; rather, it was about what kind of person would be that asset and fit to the company.
Often soft skills are also known as transferable skills. These are the skills that are useful at a job in any field. What does this shift in employer thinking mean for your job search? Your resume should focus on your transferable skills, and how they will help your potential employer be successful. Your interviews should focus on how your soft skills make you different from others. Only a few years ago people looking for a job would say “If I get a chance for an interview, I will wow them”. This in part is still true, but soft skills are now looked at by employers as something that is screened prior to the interview. How are you going to let employers know that you are a dynamite problem solver? A good listener? A good team leader? It comes down to what is called the “tone” of the resume where emphasis is placed not entirely on hard, technical skills (including academics), but rather on your soft, transferable skills. In conclusion, instead of focusing only on your technical skill education you should spend some time identifying and developing your soft skills.