What are Soft Skills and Why We All Need Them

March 4, 2014

THINC Leaders

In a culture where eyes are riveted to smart phones and trillions of electronic messages are transmitted daily, it seems as if face to face, verbal communication is a thing of the past. This presents a serious disconnect as current and future employers are interested in hiring people with excellent verbal and written communications skills. Nearly eight out of ten job descriptions (for “white collar” jobs) requires excellent verbal and written communication skills. That’s right — excellent, not good, not acceptable, not fair, but excellent.

Let’s face it, some people are just natural born communicators, they seem to have the “gift for gab,” but even if you weren’t born with a silver tongue, you can learn excellent verbal communication skills and written ones too. It takes practice, patience and desire, but these skills and other soft skills can be taught, and if it something is teachable, that means it’s also learnable.

What are soft skills? We thought you’d never ask! Soft skills are very desirable, preferred skills that employers want all of their employees to have. There is a long list of soft skills, but the three that will make your prospective employer take notice at the interview are, appearance, attitude and communication. It’s true that first impressions are lasting and well, frankly, the key word here is first . You don’t usually get a second chance at a first impression.  A job interview is a good time to remember the old Boy Scout motto “be prepared.”

Start with your Appearance

Okay, so you’ve got an interview, you’ve won a battle, but you haven’t won the war—yet. Start with your appearance and start with the basics. Do you need a haircut? Are your nails trimmed or do they look like eagle talons? How about your wardrobe? Dress should be appropriate for the job you are seeking. Some interviews may require business attire, which means a suit and tie, or for the ladies, a business suit (sans tie) or an appropriate dress. In some cases, business casual is just fine. A sports jacket and nice slacks, tie optional for the guys, and dress slacks with a nice blouse or sweater would work for the ladies. Word to the wise—leave off the cologne. Some businesses have a rule that scented products can’t be worn in the workplace, and what you think smells like heaven on earth could be offensive to someone else, or cause them to have an allergic reaction. Polish your shoes, wear socks or hose, comb your hair and brush your teeth. I think you get it by now. You need to look your best.

Adjust your Attitude

Now, after you adjust your skirt or your tie, adjust your attitude. Be confident, but not cocky. Smile, firm handshake, make eye contact. Be courteous, and polite, speak clearly, distinctly and loud enough for people to hear you, and look at the person you are addressing when you speak. Know what your strengths are. This is a question they probably will ask, though maybe not in so many words. Don’t concentrate on your weaknesses. It’s not that you don’t have them, we all do, but rather than call them weaknesses, consider them to be areas that need some improvement, and of course, you are willing to continue to learn so you can develop your skills so you can grow with the company. Right?

Do your Homework for Effective Communication

Oh, one other thing. Do your homework. That’s right. Before you step foot in the office door, make sure you know everything there is to know about the background of the company you are applying to. Show interest in the job and the company. Ask questions, not about salary or benefits, or time off—that’s all human resources stuff that will be explained to you when you get the job (notice we wrote when not if) but about the position, job development and promotion possibilities and other pertinent items that will show that you are interested in more than just a paycheck.

These skills are just a few of many soft skills that are important, not just in the workplace, but in all areas of life. Some of these skills are already a part of your personality; some will become a habit over time. All of them can be learned and developed to some degree. No matter what your future holds, good traits will never be wasted.

Soft skills as well as relevant hard skills are the focus of the curriculum at the new THINC. College & Career Academy that will be opening in August of 2014 at the former Milliken Design in LaGrange, GA. If you or someone you know wants more than a mediocre job after graduation, consider THINC to obtain the skills today’s employers are seeking and to optimize your education for a bright, successful future.