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Personal walking career ladder contemplating Soft Skills or Hard Skills

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: What’s the Difference?

In today’s job market, employers are not just looking for candidates who have technical expertise but also for people who have the right mix of personality traits and abilities that can help them succeed in the workplace. These personality traits and abilities are referred to as soft skills, while the technical expertise is called hard skills. Understanding the difference between the two and why both are important, can not only help you stand out but create the career you’ve always wanted.

What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are specific and measurable technical abilities that are often job-specific and acquired through formal education, training, or experience. Typically they are quantifiable and teachable and can include knowing how to use specific tools, platforms, or computer programs as well as how to perform tasks and processes that are required to do a job. Hard skills are essential for carrying out the tasks and responsibilities of a job and are often listed as requirements in job descriptions.

Examples of Hard Skills

  1. Technical skills: These are skills related to using specific software, tools, or equipment. Examples include proficiency in programming languages, graphic design software, or operating heavy machinery.
  2. Analytical skills: These skills involve the ability to analyse data, solve complex problems, and make data-driven decisions. Examples include statistical analysis, financial analysis, and strategic planning.
  3. Project management skills: These skills include the ability to plan, organise, and execute projects effectively. Examples include setting timelines, delegating tasks, and managing budgets.
  4. Language proficiency: The ability to communicate in multiple languages is a valuable hard skill in today’s globalised world.
  5. Writing and editing skills: These skills involve the ability to write and edit various types of content such as reports, proposals, copywriting, and marketing materials.
  6. Marketing skills: These skills include the ability to create and execute marketing campaigns, conduct market research, and analyse consumer behaviour.
  7. Sales skills: The ability to persuade and influence others to make a purchase is a valuable hard skill in sales-oriented roles.
  8. Data entry and analysis: These skills involve the ability to accurately enter and analyse large amounts of data, such as financial records or customer information.

What are in-demand hard skills in 2023

LinkedIn has reported the most in-demand hard skills across the world in 2023 are:

  1. Software development
  2. SQL
  3. Finance
  4. Python
  5. Java
  6. Data analysis
  7. JavaScript
  8. Cloud computing
  9. Operations
  10. Customer relationship management

Employers often list hard skills in job descriptions because, typically, they are required to be successful in performing the duties or responsibilities of the job. For this reason, most job candidates expect that if they have the right technical skills for the role, they’ll be considered for the job however as the world of work changes, having hard skills alone is not enough.  This is where soft skills come in.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are non-technical abilities that are often more difficult to measure than hard skills but are just as important in the workplace. These skills include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, creativity, emotional intelligence, and time management.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are not learned through formal education or training programs. They are often developed over time through life experiences, personal growth, and interactions with others. They are unique to the individual rather than the environment so are transferable between industries and occupations, which makes them valuable assets in any career.

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

Soft skills are the glue between all the things we do. They build relationships, facilitate teamwork, and influence how we approach problems. They help us effectively collaborate with colleagues, communicate with clients and customers, and adapt to changing circumstances in the workplace. Understanding your soft skills can give you much deeper insight into the types of roles you will feel naturally confident in. If you’re an efficient, multitasker who enjoys difficult problems, you will thrive in a role where you can use those skills. If you’re creative and like to think outside the box you’re probably not suited to a role that is rigid with no autonomy. Knowing your unique mix of skills can often be the first step to carving out a career you will love.

From the other perspective, employers look for candidates who possess soft skills that are aligned with the needs of the role because this is what will distinguish a successful employee from someone who will struggle to perform.

Their reputation as the magic ingredient has meant that the demand for soft skills is on the rise across industries. According to LinkedIn data, 45% of jobs posted on the platform identify communication skills as a priority. LinkedIn also reported that since the pandemic, these ‘people skills’, have become more powerful than ever with some even calling soft skills, “the currency of the future workplace”.

The Importance of a Balance between Soft Skills and Hard Skills

While it’s the hard skills that often get a candidate hired, it’s the soft skills that make them really good at their job. There isn’t much value in knowing how to code an app if you don’t have the communication and teamwork skills to really understand how the app will be used. A balance between the two means you’re working solidly in your strengths zone and this is a surefire way to not only feel good about the work you are doing but be great at it too.

To sum up, while hard skills are essential in many job roles, soft skills are equally important to perform well and thrive in the workplace. It’s no surprise then that employers look for candidates who possess a balance of both. Understanding what your skills are and what skills you would like to have can be done through self-reflection, seeking feedback, and actively working on your personal growth. By doing so, you’re not only working towards a career that is successful but one that is deeply fulfilling as well.

If you would like help to understand your skills, reach out to the team at Successful Resumes for a quick career development session. A small investment of time is sure to have a big impact on your career.

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