Do you have your soft skills thoughtfully added to your resume, cover letter, or your LinkedIn profile?
No? Well, you should. Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in job search and career progression.
Let’s travel back a little to explain this one. Back in the day, long ago, jobs were very specialized. If you wanted to a job as a stone cutter, you needed to have hard stone cutting skills. If you wanted a job as an administrative assistant, you needed to type a certain amount of words per minute. Jobs were so specialized that hard skills outweighed any amount of soft skills. In fact, hiring managers may have balked in your face if you even tried to present soft skills.
“Agnes Bedelia, we have no use for empathy, not in this transpondster factory. Good day!”
Still think soft skills are fluffy and fuzzy? Think again. Recent research conducted with Fortune 500 CEOs by Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation found that 75 percent of long-term job success depends on people skills (aka soft skills) while only 25 percent depended on technical knowledge (aka hard skills.) If you like statistics, you’ll also love to hear that 67 percent of HR managers said they would hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if hard skills were lacking.
Soft skills have long been the underdog, often dismissed as a little too “fluffy” for most. However, we bet that any single person reading this can pinpoint a specific failure or problem at work that could have been avoided or ameliorated by a good set of soft skills.
The best part of soft skills? We all have some.
The ones we have—the ones that are almost inborn—we can work to improve and strengthen. The ones we don’t have, we can also work to improve. Here’s how to thoughtfully add your soft skills to your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and your cover letter. Showcase what makes you—well, actually you. (Hint: it’s not always the fact that you’re an expert in trandspondster production.)
OUR TOP TEN SOFT SKILL SETS
There are many soft skills to consider here. One thing that soft skills have in common is that they all relate back to your emotional intelligence. Unlike technical hard skills, soft skills can translate across multiple industries. This is great news for someone looking to make a career transition.
Here are our top ten soft skills + what they mean in the workplace.
- Communication: Whether written, verbal, or non-verbal, good communication is key at any job—especially careers in sales, marketing, human resources, and management.
- Interpersonal Skills: Interpersonal skills allow an employee to relate to, communicate with, and work alongside others. Also commonly known as teamwork, interpersonal skills will ensure that you work at your best with others.
- Adaptability: Adaptability is a tough skill set for many. This allows you to go with the flow, roll with the punches, and embrace change as it comes. Adaptability is an especially important soft skill in a startup environment.
- Problem-Solving: Problem-solving skills are a set of particular skills to use in difficult, unexpected, or complicated matters that arise in the workplace.
- Leadership: Leadership soft skills allow you to guide others while reaching for the goals and mission of your organization on the whole.
- Organization: Organization is pretty much key in every organization (see what we did there?) Your organizational skills will be important to offset any potential problems, to make sure everything adheres to deadlines, and to keep clear communication open.
- Time Management: Time management is your ability to work smart. Contrary to belief, it’s not to work faster or harder, but it’s using your time to work productively and efficiently.
- Creativity: Creativity is more than being able to whip up a gorgeous painting or some punny prose. Real creativity comes in handy at any workplace—whether in problem-solving, forging new directions, or developing new solutions to old problems.
- Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is pretty much at the core of every soft skill. Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is as simple as how you treat a server at a restaurant and as complex as how you navigate working with a particularly difficult coworker.
- Work Ethic: Another skill that is at the core of everything is an actual work ethic—because, without a good worth ethic, your soft skills don’t serve anyone looking to increase a bottom line at work.
HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR OWN SOFT SKILL SETS
It’s time to honestly identify your soft skill sets. There are some skills you can qualify almost immediately. For example. under the communication umbrella of soft skills, you might immediately identify yourself as excellent at written communication—but maybe your verbal communication is a little lacking.
Step 1. Make a List (or Three)
To get started, create a three-column list. In the first column, list the skills you’re pretty dang sure you have mastered. In the second column, list the skills you have but you’d like to develop more. In the third column, list the skills you need to start from scratch to work on improving.
Step 2. Phone a Friend (or Colleague)
Remember the last time you sat down to update your resume, write a cover letter, or navigate your LinkedIn profile? Even worse, have you ever been asked to write a biography of yourself from the third-person point of view?
Thinking about yourself, writing about yourself, or qualifying your skills can be extremely difficult. That’s why our second tip in identifying your soft skill sets is to phone a friend. As human women, we can tend to be a little too modest of our own good.
It’s always great to get an opinion from someone close to you—whether it’s your mom, your partner, or your coworker. Because, here’s the deal—some soft skill sets are so incredibly inborn, we might not even notice them ourselves. You might be excellent at really constructive feedback without knowing it. Why? Because you’re someone who naturally has a knack for being helpful, empathetic, and communicative. There, right there, are three amazing sets of soft skills.
Once you have created your three-column list, take it to a trusted friend, family member, or colleague. See how their insights fall in line, differ from, or complement yours.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE BEST SOFT SKILLS FOR THE JOB
Is it time to level up at your company, look for a new job, or change careers altogether? For any of these bold career moves, you’ll want to boast about your soft skills—exactly where they’re applicable for the job.
Scour the Job Post or Job Description
Yes, we’re talking about keywords! Every job post has a little hidden language and it’s our job to decode it. The thing is, it’s not that hard to do it—and it only takes a few minutes.
Some job postings are going to list soft skills that are easy to identify. The job post might ask for someone who is detail-oriented, someone who has a proven record of excellent written communication, or someone who is extremely organized. Look for these call-outs and highlight them.
Other job posts will be a little more cagey or use more flowery language—when what they’re really asking for is skill sets. For example, we found a job posting for a content writer that requested, “Help to educate, inform and energize investors.” This request doesn’t detail a step-by-step “need list.” Instead, it’s asking for a writer who might have creativity soft skills, problem-solving soft skills, and interpersonal soft skills.
- Creativity: Writing to “energize” investors will likely require a good deal of creativity.
- Problem-solving: The mere fact that investors are brought into this job post story hints that they are a constant challenge, so problem-solving skills will likely come in pretty handy.
- Interpersonal: You can balk at this, but hear me out. Yes, a writing job typically requires that an employee spend long hours in research and solitude, However, at this particular position, this writer is being asked to “educate and inform.” This requires a writer to put herself in the reader’s shoes. She needs empathy for their problems, humor (sometimes) to address them, and sensitivity towards them.
Consider taking a few sentences from your next job post or job description. Deconstruct the problems you will be asked to address. Then, reconstruct them with your natural skillsets.
We know that taking this route might seem labor-intensive, but hear us out. Every time you thoughtfully apply for a job—when you actually take the time to imagine yourself in the role, working hard and expanding your experiences—you are learning more about yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Now, let’s get to writing.
HOW TO INSERT SOFT SKILLS INTO YOUR RESUME, COVER LETTER, OR LINKEDIN PROFILE
So, we made some lists, checked them twice, and deconstructed an entire job post. We have picked it apart, line by line, and now we actually need to write this ding-dang resume and cover letter.
Add Soft Skills to Your Resume
A big mistake we see in resumes and cover letters is the “errant list.” This is when an applicant simply uses a little real estate—perhaps on the right or left border—to list out soft skills they believe to have. Here’s the problem with the errant list. It provides to context for the skills—and how you actually apply them in your work.
By now, you have made a list of soft skills—hopefully with the help of a trusted mentor or friend. Once you have done this, scour through your past experiences and add the soft skills in there.
Perhaps you were an administrative assistant who has great communication skills and a suuuuper legit attention to detail. Rather than “showing” this by simply listing “attention to detail,” tell it. Under your administrative assistant experience at X company, tell the hiring manager all about your communication prowess. Did you implement a project management system that communicated a hierarchy at the office? Did you single-handedly close deals while taking over written communication for your manager?
Learn to tell a story wherever—and whenever—you can. Not only does it inform and color your soft skillsets, but it also makes for an interesting read (because let’s face it, resumes can be boring.)
Add Soft Skills to Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter is a great place to take every tip from above and expand on it.
Remember that list of soft skills we made? Let’s find 2-3 soft skills that are best suited for this particular job and expand on those. If the job description mentioned soft skills by name—ie. “Great Written Communication A Must.”—then attack it by name. Tell this hiring manager a few stories about how your written communication saved a project or amplified business in a big way. Of course, you will want to do all of this while communicating (through writing) like a true professional.
If the job requires creativity—and lists it as a required soft skill—consider being more creative with your actual cover letter. If their job description had a jovial and fun tone, respond in kind. Tell a story, share a particularly creative project you spearheaded, and maybe even share a creative idea you could contribute to the company if you were to land the job.
Add Soft Skills to Your LinkedIn Profile
The amazing thing about LinkedIn, especially when compared to resumes or cover letters, is that you have virtually unlimited real estate.
For your LinkedIn profile, consider adding your strongest soft skills in a few sections. Inserting soft skills into your LinkedIn is a great way to color your experience—and set you apart from everyone else.
- Your headline: This is your tagline—the sentence (or two) about you that dazzles and lures in prospective employers.
- Your job experience: Tell about how you led with empathy, how you used problem-solving to navigate tough waters in your last position, or how your communication skills transformed all of your social media accounts.
- Your recommendations: Ask former employees or employers to write a thoughtful endorsement for you. It serves as an evergreen reference. Better yet, write one for them first—then maybe ask them to return the favor, highlighting your amazing soft skills)