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With technical knowledge and hard skills often being the focus of high school and university education, it's important to remember soft skills are just as critical to your personal and professional success.
Also referred to as C-skills, soft skills include communication, creativity, curiosity, collaboration, cooperation and caring. While they can be more difficult to measure than hard skills, as technology continues to change the way we work and learn, the importance of soft skills increases, too.
According to the 2017 Deloitte Access Economics' "Soft skills for business success" report, soft skill-intensive occupations will make up two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 20001.
LinkedIn Learning also conducted its own research, tapping into its network of more than 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs to uncover the skills companies need most in 2020 and how to learn them.2 We deep dive into the most sought after soft skills according to the data, why they're important and how you can develop them.
Employers often say they want "good team players" but what does this mean in practice?
It boils down to sharing the load and being able to work collaboratively, which requires good communication.
Deloitte's Soft skills for business success report revealed communication skills were the most demanded soft skills across all industries,3 and found that the most productive communication is collaborative and cooperative. People who were perceived to be the best listeners asked questions that promoted discovery and insight. They made the other person feel supported, conveying confidence in them while offering constructive feedback.
Whether you're continuing your studies this decade or starting out on your career path, ensure your collaboration skills are up to the task of working in group assignments and work projects.
2. Flexibility, adaptability and resilience
Flexibility, adaptability and resilience are all key soft skills that employers and colleagues value highly. However, if you're someone who struggles with change, it's important to know these are skills that can be practiced and improved upon
According to Psychology Today4, ways to improve them include embracing change, staying away from negative thinking, creating actionable and achievable goals in your daily life, and taking care of your mind and body.
Having a strong social network shouldn't be underestimated, and nor can maintaining your sense of humour. Being able to adapt to changing situations will not only prove useful in the new decade as technology continues to change the future of work, but can also show prospective employers you can handle almost any situation.
Body language can play a big part in how others perceive you and how persuasive you are.
Harvard professor Amy Cuddy's research on body language5 reveals how the different ways we position our bodies can cause chemical reactions that build our confidence and make us more effective communicators.
One of the most watched TED Talks of all time, Cuddy's TED Talk on body language provides further insight into the research and tips on what you should do to send the right message. She suggests that to leave a good impression all one needs is two minutes of preparation and a strong 'power pose'. In these two minutes before a presentation, find a quiet space and pose in your position of choice that gets the hormones in your brain moving and steadies your nerves.
Organisations value people who can bring new ideas to the table and solve problems, creatively.
There are many ways you can work on unleashing your creativity, but one key method may be as simple as putting down your smartphone from time to time.6
In 'Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention' author and journalist Maggie Jackson proposes that allowing more time for "active thinking" - which typically means unplugging from your emails, social media and other technology - helps us increase our focus and creativity as our minds can roam free and create new connections.7
5. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
The World Economic Forum has ranked emotional intelligence among the top workplace skills you should learn.8
There are many facets to EQ, but at its core it's about learning how to better recognise and understand your own and others' emotions. Becoming more self-aware lets you improve your relationships and better manage your behaviour.
When it comes to developing greater EQ, taking stock of how your emotions physically affect you is an important step. When you're nervous or scared it will likely show physically, and when it does, don't be afraid to acknowledge it outwardly as it's important to do so if you want to move forward.
There's likely to be several changes coming to the way we study and work in the new decade, so remaining resilient and honest is important for success.
It is important to remember that all of these skills are transferable no matter the industry, and can be useful for a range of positions and job scopes. Every opportunity you are given in your career is a chance to learn, develop and show employers that you have what it takes to get the job done.
Soft skills don’t need to be hard
Soft skills can make or break your career. Find out how to improve your workplace communication and teamwork skills