There is no definitive answer here. In some careers and industries, hard skills may be more valuable while others emphasise soft skills. Then, there other positions where you can standout because you have a little bit of each or you have some combination thereof. Here’s why:
Careers generally fall into three main categories:
1. Careers that need hard skills and some measure of soft skills:
While you might assume a physicist only needs hard skills, it is often these type of super smart people who have the most difficulty with interpersonal communication. But, they must develop this soft skill because they must give presentations that could win funding or help get a project fast-tracked. Or, they simply must be able to communicate what they want their team to do or help motivate them to get the job done.
2. Careers that need both hard and soft skills:
A number of careers fall into this category, such as solicitors, accountants, and physicians. First, they must know the rules of their industry, which are often firm and inflexible, but, second, they need to deal with people, negotiate, win arguments, motivate and change opinions. Here, soft skills like communication and relationship building are very important to being successful in these fields.
3. Careers that need mostly soft skills and some hard skills:
A salesperson does not have to have a lot of technical skills and they do not often have hard and fast rules in place to get their job done. Most of what a salesperson does really does require a certain number of soft skills to make their pitch, be persuasive, and close the deal. Negotiation, relationship building, and communication are the main soft skills that are necessary while hard skills require some knowledge about what they are selling.
“My experience with graduates is that they are unprepared for the business world and require more hands-on support than new recruits who join with limited qualifications. They seem to lack common sense and make poor decisions (initially). I think in today’s world, it stems back to graduates receiving GCSE and A/AS level results that wouldn’t have got them into University 10 or 15 years ago. It’s an inherent problem with the current educational system where the Government and schools appear to perform better each year when, in fact, it is a mask hiding the actual quality of the exam candidates. Everyone prefers to turn a blind eye.”
Retired UK Government IT Data Delivery Director
Careers need to be gauged for their soft skill requirements:
1. Does my level of communication and how I work with others impact my performance review and my ability to fulfil all aspects of my job?
2. Do others who share my same hard skill set do better and get promoted faster than me? This could be a sign that they have soft skills and you need to get some quick!
3. Does my attitude impact my job performance?
If your answer is yes, then soft skills are very important and a place that might need more focus for your professional development and career objectives.
Careers in business need soft skills now more than ever:
1. The business environment is more global and diversity knowledge and management are now more important, requiring enhanced soft skills that consider other cultural beliefs and attitudes.
2. Motivation and job satisfaction are touted as ways to attract and retain talent, which would mean more soft skills have to be used to recognise and treat this talent base in a way that keeps them engaged and loyal.
3. New types of virtual work and flextime environments require a higher level of interpersonal skills as well as teamwork and communication to reach performance objectives.
“They lack drive. Many of the younger people expect training to handle all of the issues they face in the workplace. They lack the internal drive to solve problems on their own and come up with answers.
They think all the answers should be provided for them by their superiors and, if their work performance is subpar, it is a reflection on the organisation instead of them looking at themselves. The people who are able to show self-determination and an ability to think on their feet will differentiate themselves greatly from their peers. You can pick these skills up by participating in student organisations and even internships.”
CEO, Ascendant Strategy, a CEO Branding Firm
A shift in emphasis
While most professional in today’s workforce spent most of their school and university lives focused on developing and honing hard skills, soft skills were only thought of as part of sports and social activities.
As work environments evolve and different perspectives are formed to remain competitive, soft skills have been viewed as very important to nurture. The first step is to know the most valuable soft skills to focus on that will help you stand out in today’s job market.