Working towards your degree isn’t just about developing and refining your technical and academic abilities — it is also about building upon your “soft skills”.
Whereas the technical skills needed to perform a given job may vary by industry, soft skills are subtle, personal abilities that lend themselves to all professions. Employers seek applicants who have these skills because they are more likely to have the leadership skills that companies of all sizes need to reach their larger goals.
Here are the most sought-after soft skills in today’s job market.
#1: Teamwork and Collaboration
Companies and organizations can only achieve their goals when workers band together. Whether it’s a small project or a large-scale operation, most professional tasks require the time, attention, and effort of multiple employees.
Employers seek team members who understand and appreciate the value of collaboration. Employees who are ready and willing to work on a team are assets to any organization — they understand and appreciate how their work contributes to the bigger picture. Consider a healthcare setting — to provide patients with excellent care, medical assistants, nurses, physician assistants, and doctors must all work together.
#2: Empathy and Active Listening
Many companies consider empathy and active listening to be highly valuable soft skills. Both skills lend themselves to working with customers and clients — they help employees respond to the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of other people. By putting themselves in the shoes of others, empathetic workers help create positive relationships with their clients. For example, salespeople make deals by considering and reacting to their customers’ needs, feelings, and concerns.
These skills also help create an inclusive work environment. When colleagues show empathy and understanding for one another, they create a safe space where different thoughts and ideas can be shared. This extends to supervisors and managers, too — by showing empathy towards their workers, they can create a positive professional culture.
Communication is key in any workplace — it directly lends itself to other soft skills, such as teamwork or interpersonal skills. There are four main categories of communication: listening, nonverbal, verbal, and written.
Listening and nonverbal communication both relate to how you receive information from others. These skills complement each other. For example, you may be listening to a client or supervisor talk, but if you don’t show that you’re paying attention by making eye contact or nodding your head, you are not communicating reciprocal care and understanding.
In contrast, verbal and written communication both relate to how you offer information to others. These skills are especially important for employees who will be working with the public. For example, to effectively instruct their students, educators must provide concise oral and written directions.
The world around us is shaped by human creativity. Creativity is not just our ability to think originally —it is also our ability to improve upon the ideas of those who came before us. For example, Henry Ford may have invented the automobile, but without the creativity of later inventors, cars would lack safety features as basic as airbags.
No industry or company could advance without creativity — that is why this skill is so highly valued. Employers actively seek innovative individuals who can find creative solutions to complex problems. Moreover, creativity boosts productivity. When processes can be reinvented and simplified, more can be achieved.
#5: Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is a soft skill that each of us uses daily. When you think critically, you make judgments based on common sense and preexisting knowledge. In the workplace, critical thinkers are excellent decision-makers. By analyzing ideas and issues from a critical perspective, employees can brainstorm creative solutions.
Employees who think critically are also more likely to notice errors. This ultimately saves companies time and money that would have otherwise been spent fixing mistakes.
#6: Digital Literacy
Given the ever-expanding nature of the internet, digital literacy is quickly becoming an essential soft skill across all professional fields. To be a skilled employee in our 21st-century society, you must be able to navigate the web and effectively use it to communicate with others.
In some fields, you also may need to distinguish between reliable and unreliable web sources. For example, a digitally literate public health professional is unlikely to share disease-prevention tips from an unfamiliar web source — they know that doing so could potentially mislead the public.
#7: Flexibility and Adaptability
If Covid-19 taught us anything, it’s how quickly change can occur. Because of this, many employers are now prioritizing flexibility and adaptability as essential soft skills.
A flexible employee is willing to work with others and adjust their priorities accordingly. For example, an educator with great flexibility will adjust the lesson they’re teaching if the students do not understand key concepts and ideas. Adaptability is closely related to this, as it refers to one’s ability to adjust to changes in working conditions. For example, an adaptable teacher can instruct their students in any classroom. By demonstrating flexibility and adaptability, workers show their employers that they can be productive under any circumstances.
Whether you’re interviewing for a role as a supervisor or staff member, employers favor applicants with leadership skills. Companies and corporations need dedicated leaders who can delegate tasks, manage operations, and guide and inspire their employees. Effective leadership results in increased productivity and employee retention. Moreover, high-quality leadership promotes a supportive and positive culture within the workplace.
For example, a manufacturing manager who provides workers with clear expectations and positive reinforcement will lead a strong and productive team. In contrast, a manager who provides little direction and publicly reprimands their employees is likely to suffer from low productivity and a high turnover rate.
#9: Perseverance and Growth-Mindset
No job comes without its own unique difficulties and challenges. This is especially true for workers starting on a new career path — while they may have trained and prepared for potential difficulties, facing those challenges head-on proves one’s willingness to grow.
Employers don’t choose applicants based on their inability to fail — rather, they seek employees who can persevere through situations and learn from their mistakes. Consider an individual who is just beginning a career in nursing. Although they may accidentally mix up the order of their patients’ appointments, feeling defeated or ignoring the problem won’t solve anything. Instead, they must acknowledge their mistakes and use them as learning tools to improve upon their practice in the future.
#10: Time Management
Employers need team members who are ready to make the most of their time at work. If an employee is unable to use their time wisely, productivity decreases. This especially leads to trouble in collaborative workplaces, where a single employee’s mismanagement of time has the potential to impact their entire department.
Consider a healthcare setting — although doctors must provide each patient with care and attention, they must also keep a relatively strict timetable. If they are not aware of how much time they’re spending on each appointment, they will not be able to treat all their patients. Aside from affecting people who need medical help, this would impact the nurses, administrative assistants, and other care providers.
Achieve Your Career Goals at Goodwin University
At Goodwin University, our career-focused programs do not just prepare you with technical knowledge and training. As you earn your degree or certificate at Goodwin, you will practice and refine the in-demand soft skills needed for your future success!
Goodwin University also offers comprehensive Career Services for students and alumni alike. These services include individualized career coaching, mock interviews, and more.
Learn more about beginning your Goodwin journey today!