Throughout our lives, we are constantly learning. As we grow, we pick up on the required skills and expertise to make our lives not only easier but also help us progress towards the next stage of life. This is how we evolve and help others evolve – by being the best versions of ourselves and lighting the path for others.

Our academic and professional experiences equip us with the skill set that lead us to a better career. These skills comprise both the technical as well as the soft skills. Whereby technical skills provide a better understanding of a certain industry or work processes, soft skills help you navigate through interpersonal communication and collaboration, both personally and professionally.

In fact, according to CareerBuilder: “Overwhelming majority of companies say soft skills are just as important as hard skills.” 2

What are soft skills anyway?

Simply put, soft skills are a set of your personality characteristics that characterise define and drive your relationships. Some of these skills are commonly termed as communication and language skills, personal grooming and conduct, problem solving and emotional intelligence, effective time management, collaboration, inspiring and motivating others, selling and negotiating as well as leadership and management.

Your soft skills contribute significantly to how others perceive you and how well you manage socialising and connecting with people on a daily basis.

So, you mean ‘charisma’? Well, that’s gifted!

If you think soft skills are inborn and are unaltered by human intervention, let me answer: Umm.. no.

Contrary to the common belief that some people are just born with great communication skills and an outgoing, extrovert personality whereas others are born to hide themselves behind the scenes; soft skills can be learnt and mastered. With the right tools and techniques, anyone can learn the art. All it takes is a little direction and practice.

The world is growing more competitive and fast paced each day. With the constantly evolving era of technology and globalisation, your skills help you stand out of the crowd.  By investing in your skills, you can increase your chances of your social acceptance and climbing the ladder of success in your career and personal relationships.

Did you know that a 2016 study by Wonderlic showed that 93 percent of employers termed soft skills as “essential” or “very important” in hiring decisions? 1

People can be really good at technical knowledge and expertise. However, what sets them apart is how they utilise that knowledge while collaborating with others to achieve their own goals and their organisation’s objectives. For example, you would always prefer hiring a legal adviser not only with legal knowledge but also with work ethics and positive attitude. Or, you would be more comfortable taking up a course from instructors that, along with their in depth knowledge of the subject matter, portray a certain level of patience and empathy for their students.

OK, how do I improve my soft skills?

There are a number of resources both online and in the form of training institutions. You can find multiple websites, blogs, video channels and podcasts that help you find the gaps, identify the requirements for your career and how your personality can be improved. For example, does your job need you to have better presentation and communication skills? If you are managing a team, do you have the required leadership and team building skills? If you have multiple businesses and projects, are you effectively managing your time?

Whether you are a fresh graduate, a new employee or an expert manager, there is always room for improvement. Although, you can always seek help online, a better way is to actively participate in workshops and trainings in your area. By attending workshops, you get to interact with other professionals and get a real life feel. Moreover, the best thing about hands on training courses is that you learn to practice what you learn through role plays and activities.

Well, what are you waiting for? Make the most of your time and invest in yourself. Now is the time to prep yourself for the opportunities you await. Be sure to be ready when the opportunity knocks on your door.