Prospective and current college students face a very different post-graduate world than their parents. An incredibly competitive job market lies before them, with entry-level positions demanding more than ever before. Since most college students do not have further certifications, extensive work experience, or strong networks, it becomes increasingly important for college students to stand out in other ways. For this reason, college students should develop soft skills. In this short guide, you will learn:
- What are soft skills?
- Why are soft skills important today?
- What are the most beneficial soft skills?
- How do you develop soft skills in college?
- How do you present soft skills on a resume?
What Are Soft Skills?
It is important to know how to define soft skills, as it helps college students understand why they are advantageous in education and careers alike. Soft skills are a mix of personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, and practices. They allow an individual to navigate and handle various scenarios in a work environment. Employees can use soft skills across many different jobs because they are universally helpful. Excellent examples of soft skills may include:
- Communication skills
- Time management
- Work ethic
- Critical thinking
- Problem Solving
- Teamwork skills
- Attention to detail
- Positivity or optimism
Soft Skills vs Hard Skills
It may be helpful to know the difference between soft skills vs. hard skills to truly get a feel for the definition of soft skills. Hard skills are technical skills are learned which are essential for a certain job or field. Typically, schools and employers consider hard skills first; they look at degrees, certifications, training or courses, and experience. In general, these factors determine if an individual qualifies for a specific job.
On other hand, soft skills improve an individual’s ability to perform their job better and truly thrive in their environment. For this reason, employers look at soft skills as a way to determine if an employee will benefit their business or bring value to the table. While there are differences between hard skills vs soft skills are distinct, it is important to develop both to improve employability and to boost job performance.
Why Are Soft Skills Important Today?
Soft skills are very important to employers and job seekers alike. College graduates may wish to develop soft skills to obtain a job and advance their careers. Likewise, employers may look for soft skills as indications the candidate will excel in their job, reach the goals of the business, reflect the values of the company, or benefit their peers and the workplace in different ways.
Why Are Soft Skills Important for College Graduates?
College students may find training in soft skills a worthwhile investment, as they can use their list of soft skills to improve their chances of getting interviewed and hired.
Employability may be increasingly on the minds of college students, as it may be more difficult for college graduates to find a job than ever before. In the past five years alone, studies show ⅔ of college grads struggle to begin their careers after school. This phenomenon only worsens as the USA faces a pandemic, with unemployment rates for graduates increasing significantly in 2021 and a recession looming in the future. Since this is the case, acquiring or enhancing soft skills may be a wise idea for soon-to-be college graduates. It may increase their chances of excellent employment soon after graduation.
On a similar note, automation is quickly overtaking jobs and tasks performed by humans. Any job that involves routine tasks is currently at risk of becoming obsolete in the near future; approximately 47% of all employment in the United States may lose to automation in the next 10 years. Since machines can perform the same tasks as people with hard skills, it is increasingly important to stand out from automation. Currently, there is one thing that robots cannot do: soft skills. In the future, if you wish to be employable, soft skills are what will determine if you can outperform a robot.
Why Are Soft Skills Important for Employers?
You may know that employers are looking for soft skills, which indicates the importance of soft skills for a resume, cover letter, or interview. Yet, you may not know specifically why soft skills are so appealing. Employers prioritize soft skills for a few main reasons:
They Improve Confidence in Hire
Employers who only look at a candidate’s hard skills lack critical knowledge about the type of employee an individual is. By understanding which soft skills they possess, they gain insights into how they will function within their workspace. A wrong choice can be costly to a company, due to onboarding and training costs, effects on peer behavior, and workplace safety. Employers can increase the confidence of hires by looking at soft skills.
They Can Close the Gaps of Knowledge
Another point of the hard skills vs soft skills comparison: hard skills may be negotiable in certain jobs. Some employees may not have all the hard skills necessary for a position. However, their soft skills may be enough to close the gap. Certain soft skills, such as adaptability, critical thinking, and communication skills, allow candidates to learn quickly and easily. Employers may be comfortable hiring a candidate who can close their gaps of knowledge, rather than a candidate who has the hard skills without being teachable.
They Can Improve Performance
Hard skills show that an individual can do their job. However, it does not indicate how well an individual can do their job. Every job is multifaceted, requiring more than hands-on knowledge. For instance, a doctor needs to clearly display excellent medical knowledge and skill. However, they also need to move from one task to another quickly, show empathy, and communicate clearly.
Likewise, soft skills can increase productivity. Depending on the list of soft skills and the job requirements themselves, this can play out differently. If employees focus on quantity, soft skills such as dependability and consistency may be desirable. On the other hand, if employees work on creative projects with a team, employers may like to see excellent communication skills, creativity, and problem-solving skills come to life.
They Improve Team Dynamics
Employees can have a big impact on their peers and teams. If an employee has soft skills that can assist their group in some way, they are more appealing to an employer. It may be as simple as remaining positive in the face of challenge, or it may be being able to solve problems in creative ways. An employee with the right soft skills can make all the difference in how a team comes together to tackle projects, how they view the workplace, and how they engage with their work.
They Enhance the Customer Service Experience
The service industry makes up a large portion, on average 75%, of developed countries’ economies. It is also a rapidly expanding industry around the world. Since there is a big chance employees will work directly or indirectly with customers, soft skills pertaining to the industry can be advantageous. Employers may look for excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, positivity, and empathy, amongst many others. In this way, employers can ensure their employees are creating or improving customer experiences and brand relationships. Enhancing the customer service experience may be particularly important in the near future, as automation removes human elements. For this reason, clients may be seeking more high-value connections when they do interact with other people.
What Are the Most Beneficial Soft Skills?
There is a long list of soft skills, and applicable soft skills may depend on a college student’s intended career path and job tasks. However, there are a few examples of soft skills that stand out as important across multiple domains and are excellent soft skills for a resume:
Adaptability is one of the most sought-after soft skills. Employees can adjust to rapidly changing conditions or environments, new rules or standards, or up-to-date information. In the workplace, it may look like adhering to new customer expectations or adapting to new technology. It may also refer to taking on a job that was not in the graduate’s field of study or advancing their careers by taking on novel responsibilities.
Exceptional communication skills may be the rarest soft skill, making it one of the most desirable. It is crucial for understanding directions and goals, collaborating with teams effectively, and having conversations with clients. It may also require the most training in soft skills, as it involves careful attention to body language, tone of voice, coherence, and questions. It also demands excellent listening and interpretation skills.
An ability to adapt to cooperate, communicate, and collaborate with different types of people serves employees well in most work environments. It is one of the prime examples of soft skills, as people typically come together to work on projects even if their job is dominantly independent work. Furthermore, people who display a strong ability to work with teams showcase other soft skills that come in handy when working with others: interpersonal skills, communication skills, adaptability, flexibility, and positivity.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills go hand-in-hand. They are useful in a variety of settings, especially in situations where employees face challenges or need to think quickly. Employers frequently say employees lack these important skills, indicating they are some of the best to pursue in soft skills training.
Employees who maintain a healthy level of optimism, encourage positivity or display a can-do attitude will do well in their careers. Employers may look for candidates who have strong optimism because it impacts peers, clients, and the work at hand. It may even help businesses overcome challenges or help companies scale.
Dependability, and related soft skills such as integrity, set employees apart from their peers quickly. If employers can recognize an employee as dependable, they are more likely to trust these individuals and view them as essential to their business. Although it may be difficult to display dependability or integrity as soft skills on a resume, candidates can show this through excellent time management, keeping promises, and performing tasks properly.
How Do You Develop Soft Skills in College?
Now that you have a great understanding of how to define soft skills, the difference between soft skills vs hard skills, and which soft skills are important, you may wish to know how to develop soft skills in college. Most college students already have a few, dominant soft skills they may wish to enhance and others may choose to develop soft skills they find they lack completely. In either case, it may continuous soft skills training and practice to showcase a certain skill proudly and strongly.
The easiest way to learn soft skills is in school or through job experience. Students can develop soft skills in college by following these simple steps:
Determine How to Practice the Soft Skill
Each soft skill relates to certain tasks, and these tasks in practice help train the mind to carry out the soft skill naturally and habitually. In order to find the related tasks, students can think about how the particular soft skill would help them in their day-to-day life. Then, they can start deliberately applying those soft skills in those situations until it becomes second nature. For instance, time management would help college students in arriving on time for class or meetings, scheduling their homework, and so on.
Look for a Role Model
College students may admire a professor or a specific figurehead in their intended career. They can analyze their soft skills, embody their behaviors, and advance in soft skills training in this way. For instance, a professor who has clear and eloquent speech may have certain daily practices enhancing their ability to do so.
Take a Class
There are plenty of online classes, training videos, and interactive workshops designed to help students develop soft skills. If students are great at self-learning, they may benefit from simply watching videos online. Yet, if students require more hands-on learning assistance, they may enjoy a live, online class or an in-person workshop.
How Do You Present Soft Skills On A Resume?
Standard resumes commonly only present hard skills, such as education, certifications, and employment history. As such, you may wonder how you can show soft skills on a resume and in a cover letter.
College students or graduates may be able to list any soft skills for a resume if they took any official courses ending in a certificate or a graded exam. Certainly, they can also provide a list of soft skills in a designated section listing their proficiencies or aptitudes. For instance, in this section, they may also list spoken languages or technical skills.
If students need to write a cover letter for the position, this is where they can truly explain and highlight their soft skills. When they are writing about how they would be an ideal candidate, they can explain how their soft skills will allow them to excel in the position, accomplish certain tasks, or reflect the values of the company. Students may wish to analyze the original job listing before detailing how their soft skills can benefit the company, as job descriptions typically list the soft skills the employer is looking for.
Practice Your Soft Skills
College is the best time for individuals to learn the definition of soft skills and which soft skills can help them land their dream job and advance their careers. Now that you have a great understanding of soft skills and how they can assist you, it is time to find out which soft skills you need for your profession. Check out current job descriptions for your intended career, analyze them for soft skills, and put them into everyday practice!