There is a long-standing debate going on whether the higher education system in India promotes soft skills on par with technical skills in its curriculum or not. In spite of being highly qualified and receiving adequate training in the universities/colleges, the majority of the outgoing students remain redundant. One of the principal reasons for this sad state of affairs is the current academic system. It gives more priority to teaching technical skills than imparting soft skills and behavioural attributes to the students. Hence, the disbalance. Moreover, the existing job market looks for candidates with sound technical knowledge, good language, and attitudinal skills. Consequently, majority of the Indian students, despite being qualified, are unable to make it to the job market; some aspirants who have already started working in the industry are losing their jobs due to poor soft and interpersonal skills.
Many professionals miss the difference between skills, and that can be a critical mistake on the job market, greatly affecting your overall assessment as a candidate. The problem is that the terms hard skills and soft skills are often inadequate and misleading.
Still, going by the tradition, career skills generally, fall into two categories — hard and soft. The former involves specific knowledge and abilities, such as technical proficiencies and data analysis. The latter focuses on communication, confidence, human behaviour, and all-round intelligence.
Your technical skills may be a basic requirement for the job (and what employers look for when shortlisting candidates for interviews), but it will (most likely) be your soft skills that will help you land that dream job!
Well, unlike hard skills (technical abilities), soft skills cannot be studied overnight– but instead, needs to be cultivated over a period of time. Therefore, some may argue they’re even more important than the hard skills you bring to the table. Talented people with poor soft skills get fired every day!
The personal nature of soft skills means that they are harder to quantify and demonstrate to employers. How do you show that you are great at listening, are self-aware, demonstrate empathy, and make a trustworthy leader? It’s not quite as easy.
Examples of soft skills include:
- Time management
The Vicious Circle:
Often, either communication skills or problem-solving skills are listed as the top skill sets needed for technology professionals who want to advance in their careers. In other words, soft skills matter when it comes to career advancement.
Every step of successful research today is interactive. This not only includes understanding the real problems to be solved, such as what are the pain points, and understanding what others have already tried and possibly failed at. You must also be able to convince team members to accept your approach, or “sell” your idea to get someone to adopt it, in whole or in part.
As technology has made its way from the back office and functional departments to becoming a critical part of business and strategy, it has shifted the way employees need to interact and communicate throughout the organization.
While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come. Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.
With these soft skills, you can excel as a leader. Problem-solving, delegating, motivating, and team building is all much easier if you have good soft skills. Knowing how to get along with people – and displaying a positive attitude – are crucial for success.
While soft skills are important for career advancement, IT recruiters note that it’s hard technical skills that usually win out in landing the job.
So, what do we do now?
Which skills should you focus on developing (in general)?
(in no order whatsoever)
1. Writing Proficiency: Lacking good writing skills can go severely against you. Regardless of your education background, today, hiring managers want people who write well, as more and more communication takes place online via emails, Slack and Google Docs.
2. Public Speaking: Public speaking is not restricted to the realm of huge auditoriums, instead we use it every day when giving presentations, interacting with clients and participating in meetings. An estimated three out of four people suffer from speech anxiety, and many people fear public speaking more than death itself. With those stats, it’s hardly surprising that hiring managers find public speaking skills seriously lacking in candidates.
3. Data Analysis: From the ubiquitous Excel to Python and Tableau, data analysis is paramount in virtually every industry. Companies need skilled employees, who can organize and analyse data to give them meaningful insight into their sales, clients, finances, and virtually anything else that can be measured. Yet the skills to analyse, coordinate and (how to) present seems to be lacking in candidates.
4. Critical Thinking: Problem-solving skills show employers that you are able to work independently and think critically to find solutions to everyday obstacles.
5. Attention to Detail: Attention to detail is one of the most ignored soft skill. If you pay attention to detail, your work is always thorough and accurate in concern to all the areas involved. While this skill isn’t black and white, there are behavioural indicators hiring managers can pay attention to in order to see if you have them. For example, do your spreadsheets consistently provide accurate information? Does your work require little or no checking? Or do you ask the same questions repeatedly, not noting down the important details in messages or communications?
6. Communication: Most lacking skill? This is a problem because every relationship in your life is impacted by your ability — or inability — to communicate well. Good communication is so vital because it encourages better understanding, helps us resolve conflicts, inspires trust and respect and allows creative ideas to flourish.
7. Leadership: Good leaders are in high demand, and HRs do seek candidates with leadership capabilities. Employers want to know if you have the potential to contribute to the company and the team by taking on the responsibilities of a leader.
8. Teamwork: Regardless of the position, being able to work well with others is crucial from entry-level to the C-Suite. Your experience as a team member is a good indicator of how you communicate, collaborate, and generally, how well you get along with others.
While the tussle between the aforementioned skills will continue, they can be learned and developed to shrink the gap between which skills employers expect you to have and which skills you actually have. Knowing what hiring managers are looking for gives you an edge over the competition and increases your chances of getting hired or promoted