An introduction to soft skills

Not all learning is formal, and not every aspect of personal development is of an academic nature. While tertiary qualifications and apprenticeships are still valuable additions to a person’s CV, they aren’t always enough to satisfy employers when people look for a new job, or impress managers when they’re gunning for a promotion.

How can you stand out when applying for a job?

Think about how many people sat next to you at school or during university lectures. Now imagine that each one of these people is a competitor for a job you’ve applied for. They’ve all got the same qualification, and maybe even similar work experience, so how can you stand out?

Employers, colleagues and customers will respect your qualifications and knowledge but will respond to other aspects of the interaction they have with you as well. How well you apply the soft skills will determine how well you stand out.

Here’s what you need to know, and how online learning can make the difference.

What are soft skills?

In learning and development, we talk about soft skills and hard skills. This is such a misnomer, as these so-called soft skills are often the hardest to learn.

Hard skills are the technical skills or qualifications you need to get the job done – they are usually recognised by formal study and completing a qualification. It can be hard work, but there is a tangible result at the end of it.

Soft skills are the things we see in our everyday interactions with people, such as their communication skills, their organisational skills, or their ability to manage conflict and deal with the things that happen to them.

While hard skills such as technical proficiencies and qualifications are essential for some roles, they aren’t always the defining factor in whether or not someone gets a job or a promotion. For example, if having an accounting degree is a hard skill, being able to communicate accounting concepts to clients and exhibit effective time management process are the soft skills that act as a necessary complement.

Put simply, soft skills are individual and personal qualities and attributes that allow someone to fit in with an organisation or specific role. According to recruitment company Robert Half, these skills are becoming increasingly important to employers, so it’s important that people are able to find avenues to develop them.

Some soft skills will develop naturally over time, however, people looking to boost their proficiencies in areas such as time management can take online courses if they feel they need a refresher.

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Online learning is a great way to improve soft skills.

Employers finding value in employees with soft skills

The great thing about soft skills is that there’s no limit on where they can be used. The ability to communicate effectively, manage time responsibly and be a positive influence on the workplace is valuable across a range of different roles in a variety of industries.

The value of soft skills was the focus of a report conducted by McDonald’s in the UK last year. A staggering 97 per cent of employers revealed that these attributes are important to the success of their business. These respondents also indicated that, in some cases, communication skills and the ability to work well in a team is more important than academic ability.

Actively seeking learning opportunities will help to develop and fine tune those skills and could be the difference for you and your career. Learning on-line is an ideal way of developing these skills.

Effective personal development doesn’t have to take place in a formal or academic process. To take control of your learning, head to Implement Online today.