The skills you'll need to succeed

The nature of the modern workforce is changing and it’s both interesting and a little daunting to think about the types of roles that will be available to us in the future. Automation and artificial intelligence are estimated to displace between 400 million and 800 million people globally, yet this period of change will create many new roles – we just don’t quite know what they are (yet).

As the types of roles change, so too will the types of skills we’ll need. But while technical skills and formal qualifications are important, soft skills are equally as important, if not more, and can have a profound impact on the direction our careers take.

Hard skills vs soft skills: what’s the difference?

Hard skills are the job-specific skills we learn through training and education. For example, apprentice electricians will learn how to install and repair electrical systems and isolate circuits. Soft skills are the personal attributes and characteristics that shape who we are as people. They are things like leadership, communication and teamwork, which are important in every workplace.

In a recent study by LinkedIn, 57 per cent of businesses surveyed said they value soft skills the most, because you can always gain technical skills but soft skills are harder to teach. In this study, employers listed leadership, communication and teamwork as the soft skills sought after the most. Whereas other research identified problem solving and adaptability as the priority for recruiters.

Why are soft skills so important?

Soft skills are embedded in everything we do. We interact with people every day, so we need to be able to communicate with each other. Collaboration is essential when working as part of a team, a good manager will have good leadership skills and a mechanic or doctor will need good problem solving skills to diagnose an issue. It’s no use having the relevant qualifications if you don’t have the right skillset to do the job properly.

Can you teach soft skills?

Soft skills can absolutely be taught to the right people, it just takes a lot of practice, repetition and perseverance. Leadership is a good example. We can’t learn to be leaders overnight, but we can practice our leadership qualities through mentor programs, directing presentations and meetings to improve public speaking, managing projects and undergoing formal leadership training. It is up to schools to help students develop soft skills that prepare them for the workforce while employers should invest in the ongoing training and development of their employees. 

Ultimately, your qualifications and technical skills will get the employer’s attention, but it’s the soft skills that will help you succeed.

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