Demystifying Soft skills

4/01/2014 03:38:00 am 0 Comments

Dear All
Success happens at the intersection of ideas and actions culled from many disciplines and myriad experiences-Academic or otherwise. Like never before in the past, prospective knowledge workers are expected to bring so much skills and expertise to the workplace as is being expected now. And topping the list of desirable ones, are people skills or soft skills. Metaphorically speaking, soft skills can be equated with a bowl of fruits (of various kinds) as against a bowl of cherries alone (notwithstanding however much one may like a cherry). Hence, one must ungrudgingly, accept the inherent complexity or rather plurality involved in the game changing area, known in popular parlance, as soft skills .Remember, a flower of any hue or color sparkles brighter in a bouquet than seen alone, as the bouquet essentially, captures the collective beauty and appeal .Hence, it is in our best interest to celebrate diversity, at least in our academic journey. Needless to say, "soft" skills” go on to make a catalytic impact on the shape of things in every activity or work related to building or enhancing employability skills, a pursuit perennial and productive. It is a time tested phenomenon that soft skills, more so, one’s interpersonal skills almost dictate the outcome in any work related endeavor, delineating the trajectory of change and growth. The one thing that calls for urgent attention is to decriminalize learning of soft skills in educational Institutions. And it can materialize only when the stakeholders do not attach a tag of a ‘subject’ to it and leave it to the discretion of the learner to understand its intrinsic value while making a timely and productive application. Soft skills, at its heart, require freedom of mind and space, but more importantly, advocates use of freedom with responsibility.
Before we venture into unraveling the secrets of an effective Interpersonal skills, its better we try and get ourselves a working definition of soft skills and what and how does it matter to us and our lives.
Soft skills, in essence, are a set of skills that are diverse but ones that complement each other; and when aligned with core skills produce best possible results for the user. Other wisely known as ‘People skills’, these are a set of some generic, intangible, personality-specific skills that allows someone to make effective utilization of the available resources. Once used well, they determine one’s strengths as a team player, leader, listener, negotiator, and conflict manager. ‘Hard skills’, on the other hand, are more along the lines of what might appear on our resumes - education, experience and level of expertise in a given area.
Prospective job seekers must try and read the intentions of the employers before they prepare a strategy. Most employers value and recognize soft skills as highly desirable skills in the employees they want to hire. Even, research shows that they are proving to be better indicators of job performance compared to traditional job qualifications or hard skills. In fact, it’s common knowledge that in the fast changing business scenario, technical skills have a shorter shelf life vis-à-vis soft skills. In a recent study, it has been found that personality measures like trust, empathy, emotional intelligence, conscientiousness and agreeability ranked as highly-favored predictors of work success.

To be short and simple, soft skills are directly related to who we are and how we deal with any situation than what we know. As such, soft skills encompass a gamut of behavioral traits that determine how well we interact with others, thereby letting others to measure our abilities and skills. For anyone who wants to make soft skills learning as a tool for ensuring professional growth, it is pertinent to remember that whereas hard skills can be learned and perfected in time-bound and formal manner, soft skills are more difficult to acquire in such a manner. It requires the learner to create a good understanding of the role of soft skills and its various sub components in his professional development. Soft skills are not transferable skill sets. It requires the learners’ active participation in the entire process that requires constant self motivation and initiative .Soft skills manifests itself in improved understanding of the self, ability to judge people and situations better and reacting to them appropriately.

A doctor, for example, would require  empathy, understanding, active listening and a good manner as soft skills, whereas, the hard skills for a doctor could include a sweeping understanding of illnesses, the ability to interpret test results and symptoms, and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. For an engineer, soft skills could be good communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, self motivation or risk taking that may well complement hard skills such as analytical ability, critical thinking, comprehensive knowledge of concepts and tools etc.
 Now, let us focus on some important soft skills in detail and it is important to keep in mind that the given list is just a random enumeration and not absolute.
1- Have the attitude of a "Winner"
we've all heard that it's better to see the glass half full instead of half empty. Positive thinking always works and works most effectively. And in a professional environment positive thinking can go a long way in opening up layers of hidden skills and matching opportunities. An overall positive outlook leads to an overall positive attitude, and that can be a valuable asset in work environments that are quite dynamic and require one to adopt new technologies and work culture.
The key to having a winning attitude is having loads of self belief and that knack of constantly looking at any obstacle or challenge as an opportunity to learn. It is essential to be a learner all the while. For example, instead of complaining about a stressful workload, it is essential to see that as an opportunity to showcase skills and abilities.

2- Be a team player

In a global work culture, no other skills is more desirable in any professional than ability to be a good team player. Prospective employees would be required to a part of a team, big of small from the day one, literally. Employers want those who display an unmistakable propensity and ability to work well in groups and teams. Being a team player means not only being cooperative, but also displaying strong empathy for fellow team members, thereby demonstrating leadership ability whenever required.
Conflict resolution forms a big part of why it is essential to be good team player. One needs to take the lead to move things forward. One must learn to be more collaborative in work and build professional relationships with coworkers. Here it is Important to learn to use body language effectively to bring about harmony.

3- Communicate effectively

Good communication skills are essential for ensuring better job performance. Communication allows one an opportunity to build bridges with coworkers, persuade others to adopt ideas and accept ones leadership. If we are employed by any company, it obvious that we will have to communicate with clients in-person, on phone, via mail or other forms of communication or with our co-workers or even with customers. Communication skills require lot of practice to blossom and then take over as a reliable predictor of our professional growth. It depends how we look at it- just as felicity with a particular language orally, or much wider. We need to be clear that learning communication skills from formal ways or from classrooms or only from language teachers may not be the advisable.  Lots of informal learning opportunities, loads of listening, lots of observation might do the trick.
Many small things, we are familiar with, may have a big impact on our communication skills improvement efforts. Here are some things we need to specially focus on:
  • Make sure we remove MTI from our speech. Especially, in a language like English, it is essential that we maintain neutrality.
  • Enunciate words properly
  • Use correct expressions with a good understanding of grammar and usage
  • Develop appropriate body language, including eye contact.
  • Have better analytical skills
  • Listen more, observe even more
  •  Above all, enjoy making conversations with virtually anyone.


In almost every imaginable situation, we need to give a nice account of ourselves-our skills and abilities. In such situations confidence holds the key. It’s important to remember that others will assess us well only when we make a forceful and confident demonstration of our strengths and achievements. However, it is equally important that we accept our limitations and act humble and polite .We need to ensure that our knowledge and skills provides us the strength to back your confidence.
5-Creative Thinking
Creativity and imaginative thinking are given much value in any job, more so in jobs involving technology. Even the most technical professional must exhibit an innate ability to think outside the box (thinking differently). So, we must never underestimate the power of innovation. In fact, managers always love to have innovators around as innovation is the surest driver of technological growth. Creative skills are acquired and honed through reading, writing, presenting and participating in activities wherein one creates opportunities for making use of critical thinking and lateral thinking. So, sooner you start, the better! Start thinking differently and do not miss the thrill or excitement in knowing or doing anything different.

6- Learning to learn: 

This is one of the most challenging soft skills, especially in this fast changing technology driven society. We need to unfailingly accept that learning is lifelong. Formal learning provides just a platform for launching into bigger professional as well as personal challenges. But to keep moving and growing we need to constantly learn. Firstly, to build a firm outlook towards learning we need to learn to learn, that means we need to be sure what to learn and how, why and when or where of learning. We need to be clear about the purpose and opportunities of learning. Then we are supposed learn to apply to real time needs. In this context, being able to accept constructive criticism by others is just as important.
7- Self- Motivation
It's important for a prospective professional to be a self-starter who takes initiative. This means constantly seeking out new, innovative ways to keep one’s work/job interesting and motivational, even in the face of repetition and monotony. Creativity plays a big defining role in motivating someone , but to sustain it for a long time requires courage, conviction and pure joy in thinking/ doing something different.
8. Leadership
A knowledge-based professional work force is expected to start off being a part of a team, but invariable move onto taking up leadership positions. Hence, it is essential that the seeds of leadership are shown early on, most preferably in campuses. A leader makes the biggest difference to a team and hence plays a pivotal role in any organization. However, it is to be borne in mind that leadership is an act of self actualization, sort of baptism by fire. Hence, theoretical learning may be quite inadequate. One must start taking up smaller responsibilities and look to learn, being conscious of skills on play. Simply, it’s about self belief that differentiates a leader from a follower. One must be conscious of the leadership inputs one receives or makes use of along with the consequent assimilation process, just as Satya Nadela,CEO, Microsoft, was able to do when he trace back to his school cricketing days to discover his leadership journey.

9- See the big picture

Success squarely depends on one’s ability to constantly star gaze, at the big picture, that means being able to constantly dreaming of bigger things. Ambition need not be put to rest following one achievement. One must constantly set bigger and brighter goals to accomplish, that keeps fresh the determining factors of success. It also means recognizing a risk that's worth taking, and knowing when to take it.
Finally, while it's important to recognize and build on your soft skills, that don’t mean that one comes at the cost of other, means Hard skills. We need to strike a fine balance between the two, allowing one to complement the other. Importantly, soft skills enable hard skills to shine and bring out its best application and value.
So, here we go…..make soft skills learning a passion as well as your fashion statement.