If you’ve ever been told you need to work on your soft skills at work, you know it’s the equivalent of getting friend-zoned in dating. Soft skills are that crucial but weirdly intangible thing that we all know we need to work on but we’re not quite sure how.
So today we’ll get into the soft skills definition, some examples of soft skills for a resume and interviews, and why they’re so crucial for your financial success. Let’s dive in.
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So why am I writing about soft skills?
If you’ve been my reader for a while, you’re probably thinking, Mr. FIREescape, you’re a finance blogger AND you preach early retirement. What do soft skills have to do with FIRE? Good question.
Believe it or not, you need money if you want to retire early. And the higher your income, the sooner you can retire. (Assuming you’ve kept up with my lessons on saving and investing.)
So for now, if you want to advance in your career and maximize your paycheck, you need to really hone into improving both your soft skills and your hard skills. I can’t help you with your hard skills, but this post will definitely up your soft skills game.
I’ve also moved up in the corporate ranks (thanks to my soft skills,) and have been in charge of hiring and promotion decisions in my day. I can tell you – to me, soft skills are more important than hard skills. Hard skills can be learned on the job, but if you don’t have the work ethic, motivation, and can-do attitude – you’re not bringing much else to the table.
Soft skills vs hard skills
Hard skills are the direct technical skills you’ll be using at work, whereas soft skills showcase how you’ll be conducting yourself in your day-to-day.
Hard skills usually refer to your prescribed job qualifications and are attained through formal training and education. Soft skills are built through experience.
For example, if you’re a programmer your hard skills would include the computer languages you can code in, and your soft skills could be your ability to lead a team or write persuasive proposals.
If you work in construction, your hard skills would encompass the tools you’re qualified to use, while your soft skills could be your ability to complete the project on time.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are sometimes known as people skills. They’re kind of “what you’re known for” around the workplace and include your work ethic, personality, and motivation.
Soft skills usually guide employers’ decisions about whether to hire, fire, or promote an employee, so needless to say – they’re extremely important.
Unfortunately, describing your soft skills may feel a little intangible, which is why the list of examples below will be your best friend on a resume or in an interview.
Why are soft skills so important?
You know that nebulous word “fit” when it comes to your company? Your soft skills are what signal to your manager if you’re the “right fit” or the “wrong fit.”
Looking at soft skills is what
- Helps employers sift through qualified candidates
- Decide if you’re deemed to have the potential to move up in the ranks
- Evaluate your “culture fit”
In other words, there may be ten other people with the exact same qualifications as you, but it’s your soft skills that will help you stand out above them all.
Top Soft Skills Examples
Here are a few examples of soft skills you can add to your resume and speak to in your interview that will help to get you noticed.
Remember that you actually have to showcase these soft skills (not just list them on your resume) so take the time to truly develop them and think of the examples that might highlight them.
We’ve added a few extra detailed soft skills examples under each category.
Adaptability and Flexibility
If there’s one thing you can be certain of… is that there is no certainty. That’s why adaptability, flexibility, and a positive attitude toward change are among the most important soft skills.
If you can show your employer that you can eagerly adapt to new situations and not crumble under pressure, you’re a cut above the rest.
Here are a few more examples of adaptability and flexibility to highlight these soft skills.
- Following direction
- Quick learner
- Coachable and trainable
- Work well under pressure
- Tolerance to change and uncertainty
- Willingness to learn
Most soft skills can be developed over time, but if you’re not dependable with a strong work ethic – your employer won’t give you the chance. Dependability involves doing what’s expected of you without excuses.
This means being focused, organized, and self-directed. If you can demonstrate a strong work ethic and dependability – you’re ahead of the pack.
Here are a few more dependability examples that will help you show off this soft skill.
- Customer service
- Meeting deadlines
- Following instructions
- Work well under pressure
Good communication is an essential skill in every job you could do. From talking to your coworkers, clients, and vendors to writing reports – your strength in this soft skill could make or break your career path.
When it comes to showcasing your communication skills, it’s not enough to just be able to talk the talk. Being a good listener will tie in other soft skills like teamwork and leadership.
If you want to lean into this soft skill, make sure you’re using strong communication skills in every part of the job-hunting process – from a visually appealing resume to friendly phone conversations to great presentation skills in the interview. When it comes to communication, you can’t just talk the talk – you have to walk the walk!
Here are a few more communication examples to highlight this soft skill.
- Presentations and public speaking
- Writing skills
- Writing industry-specific reports and proposals
- Creating visually-appealing materials
- Being clear and concise
Guess what! No matter what job you seek, you’ll have to work with others. If you want to make a good impression on your boss – teamwork is one of the most important soft skills that you’ll need to showcase.
Here are a few more examples to show off that you’re a team player.
- Accepting feedback
- Collaboration and cooperation
- Managing difficult conversations
- Using empathy and emotional intelligence
- Interpersonal skills
- Effective networking
- Team building
- Leading meetings
Critical thinking and problem-solving
If you want to take on greater responsibilities as you move through your career, you need to show that you can think critically and solve problems.
It’s not enough to just do what you’re told and wait for directions from your boss. Devise your own solutions and test them out. Show curiosity and creativity in the process if you want to move up in the ranks.
Here are some more critical thinking and problem-solving examples to demonstrate these soft skills.
- Decision making
- Creative problem solving
- Research skills
- Thinking outside the box
- Troubleshooting skills
If you’re trying to advance your career (and your pay grade,) you’ll likely need to seek out more leadership positions making this one of the most essential soft skills to develop.
Leadership is a lot more than telling people what to do. In fact, these days it’s quite the opposite. This soft skill will require you to understand your team and inspire them to achieve more.
Here are a few teamwork examples that will help you show off this soft skill.
- Conflict resolution
- Providing clear feedback
- Motivating staff
- Managing difficult conversations
- Project management