Soft Shock: The Hidden Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace
By Collin Funcannon, Director of Legacy, Spring 2020
As communicators, we’re often told to bulk up our skillsets – to learn how to use a new program or shoot video on an unfamiliar camera. These are examples of hard skills: measurable abilities that can be taught in a class or lecture. Many times, when we think what can give us a competitive edge in the workforce, it’s these hard skills we gravitate towards.
Our soft skills, however, are some of the most useful and crucial abilities we can possess as communicators and young professionals; things like being an empathetic leader and a good collaborator are extremely useful (and sought-out!) at work. These are the tools that can’t be easily taught and qualitatively measured but they’re critical nonetheless. Have you ever been at work or in a class and encountered someone who seemed impossible to work with? Chances are, they don’t possess a fortified set of soft skills.
Why are they important anyway?
Soft skills are often inherent to our personalities. Of course, they can be developed over time, but rather than studying a computer software or memorizing information, they require self-reflection and dedication. This is part of what makes them so valuable – soft skills serve as differentiators between someone who will simply get the work done and someone who will serve as an incredible fit for the company.
For example, if an advertising agency values adaptability and teamwork, workers with these soft skills are sure to get the job before their counterparts. Having these skills ensures that workers will not only be competent workers, but also valuable assets to the company’s culture.
How can I gain soft skills?
Each and every one of us wants to grow our soft skills, in some way or another. Many of us would like to feel more creative or more motivated, to name a few. Developing these skills takes time and dedication to the self. There’s no manual for becoming more creative, but creative exercises and a commitment to the process can help you view the world in a different way. There’s no manual to instantly become a better leader, but incorporating new leadership tactics can bring a new perspective to your personal style. Developing these skills takes time, energy and hard work.
Soft skills aren’t concrete; there’s no way to master leadership like you can master an editing program. However, with self-reflection and gradual incorporation of new habits, soft skills can grow immensely.
As a culture, we tend to value the quantitative output of our work – the number of reports we can file or emails we can write in an hour, if we meet our deadlines and so on. It’s our soft skills, however, that give us a competitive edge and show our compatibility within a company’s culture. While hard skills are important, soft skills set us apart.