How Workers Can Use Soft Skills to Their Advantage

Headshot of Hallie Crawford.

This blog originally appeared at U.S. News on March 25, 2024.

About the Author: Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach, speaker, and author with over 22 years of experience and has been a contributor to U.S. New and World Report since 2015 covering all things career-related.

As the job market continues to change, employers are looking for employees who can change and adapt to new technologies and processes. This makes it important to know what your soft skills are and how to display them effectively.

But what are soft skills exactly?

Soft skills are your personal characteristics that are displayed when you interact with others. They could be personality, intellectual or emotional traits, as well as other unique gifts you may have.

If you are unsure of what your soft skills are, it can be helpful to ask a few close friends, family members or colleagues to describe you using three adjectives. Additionally, taking a strengths or personality assessment can help you to clarify your soft skills. Identifying your set of soft skills is critical to effective professional development and for your job search.

What Are Examples of Soft Skills?

Communication, teamwork, leadership, creativity and customer service skills are some of employers’ most sought-after soft skills in almost every industry. Here are some examples of the soft skills in each of these categories.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential across all industries. Professionals who can convey ideas, feedback and information in a way that their colleagues can quickly understand promotes productivity and better relations at work. Here are some soft skills for better communication:

  • Active listening.
  • Clarity.
  • Empathy.
  • Respect.
  • Confidence.

Teamwork Skills

Being able to collaborate with others contributes to a healthy work environment. Job positions can be remote or hybrid, and knowing how to work effectively with others in different office models is something that hiring managers look for. Here are some of the top soft skills for teamwork:

  • Collaboration.
  • Flexibility.
  • Conflict resolution.
  • Accountability.
  • Problem-solving.

Leadership Skills

This soft skill is the ability to inspire, influence and guide others toward achieving common goals or objectives. However, being an effective leader in any organization will require a combination of many soft skills, such as:

  • Decision-making.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Collaboration.
  • Resilience.
  • Mentoring.

Creativity Skills

Creativity is a soft skill that can be used in any job position. Creativity enables professionals to come up with original ideas, solve problems innovatively and think outside the box. Additional soft skills needed for creativity are:

  • Open-mindedness.
  • Curiosity.
  • Imagination.
  • Resourcefulness.
  • Experimentation.

Customer Service Skills

This skill set allows you to interact with customers professionally and helpfully. While industries such as hospitality, education, finance and health care are most likely to look for employees with proficient customer service skills, this is important for any industry that provides a service to a client or customer. Additional soft skills for customer service are:

  • Patience.
  • Positive attitude.
  • Time management.
  • Attentiveness.
  • Resilience.

While this isn’t a complete list of soft skills, it can help you get started with your own list of soft skills. Creating your list will help you understand your unique selling proposition and what you have to offer to your employer and your industry.

How to Highlight Soft Skills

Once you have identified your soft skills, there are various places you can highlight your soft skills, whether you are job searching or simply looking for more effective professional branding. Here are a few places to start:

Your LinkedIn Profile

The easiest way to highlight your soft skills on your LinkedIn profile is by adding them to your “Skills” section. LinkedIn currently allows you to list 50 skills on your profile, so make sure to add as many soft skills as possible. Additionally, you can add credibility to your skills on LinkedIn by asking for endorsements.

You can also highlight your soft skills in your “About” section. You can do this by adding in the relevant soft skills from the list you created to explain why you chose your industry and what makes you unique in your profession.

Your Resume

Your resume should be tailored to each job you apply for. To highlight soft skills on your resume, you will want to identify what soft skills are needed for the job opening. These are often listed in the job description.

Include the top three relevant soft skills that make you a strong fit for the role in your summary. In your work experience, you will also want to choose experiences that highlight the soft skills you have that are needed for the role.

Your STAR Stories

During a job interview, you will want to showcase both your hard skills and soft skills. You can do this by formatting your answers using the STAR method, a technique where you talk about a specific situation, task, action and result when answering behavioral interview questions or other open-ended questions.

Think about situations for your STAR stories that showcase the soft skills that make you a good fit for the job position. Try to prepare at least five situations so that you will be ready for any unexpected questions during your interview.

Performance Reviews

Keep a document where you list any successful projects, tasks and kudos from clients. Then you can use this list to create a presentation to show your manager during your next performance review, making sure to highlight what soft skills contributed to your success. And if you have been working with your boss on improving a certain soft skill, make sure to share what you have implemented and share your progress.

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: How They Differ

Soft skills are traits that come naturally and are learned throughout your whole life. These are generally not job-specific and can be used in many different circumstances and industries.

Hard skills are technical skills related to your job and industry and are usually learned through education and training. Hard skills are generally used for specific tasks and can be demonstrated by a certification or degree.

Many employers may feel that soft skills are harder to teach, so they may give priority to job candidates with strong soft skills. While soft skills may be harder to teach, it is possible to acquire or improve your soft skills.

First, determine what soft skills you want to improve. Then, set reasonable goals for yourself for improvement. For example, you could volunteer to take on new projects at work or take some online courses related to the soft skill you want to acquire. These goals can be added to your professional development plan. Check in with yourself quarterly to track and gauge your progress.

You can also speak with your manager and ask for feedback. Let them know which soft skills you are working on and ask them for suggestions on how to improve that soft skill in the workplace. It is also helpful to work with a mentor or a career coach to help you improve your soft skills. They can provide you with constructive feedback, ideas and support.

Learn about workers’ rights related to hiring and classification at Workplace Fairness.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa es estudiante de tercer año en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Siracusa. Se licenció en Periodismo en Penn State. Con su investigación jurídica y la redacción de Workplace Fairness, se esfuerza por dotar a las personas de la información que necesitan para ser su mejor defensor.