Throughout your life thus far, you have been working to build the foundation needed to be successful in the workforce. You have most likely received the training you need from your schooling, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, work experiences, and guidance from parents, teachers, and mentors.
Hard skills versus soft skillsSkills that employers want vary from job to job, but they all include some form of soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills relate to how you work, and hard skills relate to what you know. Through a combination of soft skills and hard skills, you will find the right mix to be successful on the job!
Hard skillsHard skills are technical skills that you learn in the classroom, in professional trainings, in online courses, in certification programs, or on the job. These skills are related to a particular field, and they require specific knowledge in that subject area.
Hard skills are easier to define than soft skills because they can be tested; you can either speak a second language fluently or you can’t.
Another example of a hard skill is if you want to be an architect, you must be able to understand and apply the technical skills of building and construction. You hope the bridge you drive across every day has been designed and built by an architect with the hard skills required to make the bridge safe and durable.
The following are some examples of hard skills:
- Computer skills
- Data analysis
- Scientific expertise
- Photo editing
- Graphic design
- Social media management
- Software use, such as Microsoft Office, Google Office Suite, Salesforce
- Foreign languages
- Patient care
Usually, you can find the degree requirements, licenses, and hard skills needed for a position listed in the job description. Check out the table below to see what level of higher education or training you need to meet your career goals.
College degree levels
|Two to three years
|Associate of Science (AS)
|Four or more years
|Bachelor of Arts (BA)
|Bachelor’s degree plus two to three years
|Master of Education (MEd)
|Master’s degree plus four years or more
|Doctor of Philosophy in Systems and Engineering Management (PhD)
If college is not required, be ready for on-the-job training, apprenticeships, or program certifications for many job positions. For example, you do not need a college degree to become a certified electrician, but you must complete an apprenticeship that includes 8,000 to 10,000 hours (approximately four to five years) of on-the-job training, plus testing to receive your license or certification.
If you do not have a certain hard skill, no worries; sign up for some college classes or community programs to perfect your skills. Also, many places provide on-the-job training to make sure you know the hard skills needed to be a part of their teams.
Soft skillsJob performance is a big deal. It’s what employers use to gauge raises, bonuses, advancement, and job security. Soft skills are a large part of your performance. Soft skills are personality traits that affect how you interact with others and have their roots in your behavior, attitudes, and values.
Soft skills are just as important, if not more so, as the hard skills or qualifications that you need for a job. Many people end up underperforming in a job not because they couldn’t do the work, but because they couldn’t get along with others.
Here are some valuable soft skills that can be helpful in any job:
- Time management: Can you consistently come to work, get there on time, and finish projects by the deadline?
- Multitasking: Can you handle multiple expectations and tasks at a time?
- Attention to detail: Can you pinpoint technical errors? Can you focus on the task at hand for hours at a time?
- Innovation: Can you come up with new ideas? Can you think outside the box? Are you proud of yourself and your ideas?
- Problem-solving: If you get in a bind, can you figure out a solution on your own?
- Emotional maturity: Can you control your emotions in stressful situations? Can you act appropriately and professionally in the workplace?
- Dedication: If you say you will do something, will you actually do it? Do you follow through on job assignments?
- Duty: Do you understand that you are required to meet the obligations of the job if you want to keep the job?
- Enthusiasm: Are you excited and positive in your approach to your work?
- Honesty: Can you be trusted with sensitive information and be honest about your mistakes?
- Leadership: Can you help set a direction and guide other people to the right place?
- Collaboration: Can you be respectful of others’ opinions and ideas on your team? Do you work well with others?
While it’s important to be qualified with the hard skills needed for a job, some employers might choose someone with more advanced soft skills because they can be trained in the hard skills.Soft skills can be sharpened by asking for feedback from others. From the list above, are there some soft skills you need to develop further? If you neglect your soft skills, you could be the cause of conflict in the workplace. Don’t put your career at risk.