The Rising Importance of Soft Skills
By Dominique Carson
Soft skills are a concept in the workplace where people are evaluated on their “emotional intelligence” and interaction with others in various occupations. Usually, soft skills are not something you master through a course. It has to come through experience and personal self-development after work hours. Soft skills should complement your hard skills, such as a degree, typing, how to operate software, or advanced education in a given subject.
Andrea DeMarco, Brooklyn College’s Magner Center Holistic Career Coach and Adjunct Professor, said hard skills are quantifiable, but soft skills are the opposite; they’re qualitative and interpersonal.
“You can measure soft skills, but they’re essential in the workplace, and it’s tough to train someone in their soft skills versus hard skills because they’re innate and intrinsic. I think soft skills are personality characteristics that develop over time,” said DeMarco.
DeMarco added that soft skills are relational and can get you promoted because you’re developing deeper relationships with co-workers and staff, which can aid you on your road to success.
“To succeed, I think the top soft skills are interpersonal skills, communication skills (verbal and written), organizational skills, problem-solving skills, time management skills, professionalism, listening skills, conflict resolution, openness to feedback, and teamwork skills; teamwork is huge because you have to adapt with other people,” said DeMarco.
While DeMarco understands that students need soft skills, she would advise them to get more hands-on experience if they need to improve in this area. She states that a person doesn’t always need a part-time or full-time job to master soft skills; it can be anywhere they interact with others.
“To work on your soft skills, you can volunteer, participate in a club or an organization, or take on a leadership role. It’s all about interacting with people and developing skills to communicate, lead, solve problems, listen, and be empathetic. The only way you can do that is to practice those skills,” said DeMarco. “If the Magner Center hosts a workshop and we’re asking students to get in pairs for an exercise, that would be the step to developing their soft skills. In the exercise, we would see how they communicate with each other and how they solve problems, but we often recommend students to get experience for themselves.”
On the contrary, individuals may master several soft skills and still not land a position. However, DeMarco wants folks to consider various possibilities of not receiving the job: other candidates were a better fit, the company hired within the company, candidates had more vital hard skills and experience, didn’t answer the questions well, networking with tiers within the company and ask themselves honestly, can they perform the duties and tasks for the job along with the soft skills.