Soft skills??What are soft skills? Why are soft skills given so much importance in today’s world?

Zeena Singh
Do you have what it takes? What’s your brand? Do you stand out in a crowd?
The answers to all of these questions will partly define the meaning of what soft skills are all about. We are living in an era of constant change. Because businesses are becoming less dictatorial and more social, the understanding and value of soft skills to an organization and to Individuals is growing daily.
“Soft skill” is a term relating to a collection of positive personal attributes and competencies that enhance your relationships, your job performance, and your value both in your professional life as much as in your personal life.
Let me help to show you the difference between Soft Skills and Hard Skills.
Soft skills include your ability to listen well, communicate effectively, be positive, handle conflict, accept responsibility, show respect, build trust, work well with others, manage time effectively, accept criticism, work under pressure, be likable, and demonstrate good manners. While “hard skills” are specific, trainable abilities necessary to carry out the professional or technical requirements of a job or occupation.
Hard skills would include knowledge, machine operation, computer procedures, safety standards, financial systems, technical analysis, and sales administration. Hard skills are typically easy to observe, quantify, and measure.
It’s often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get you the job as well as help in keeping the job. It’s no longer enough to be an expert in a field of knowledge alone. Competition is fierce; it’s your soft skills that make you stand out.
In contrast to soft or interpersonal skills, hard or technical skills are the core skills that allow you to complete your official responsibilities, such as the ability to summarize accounting documents using computer software programs, or put up drywall using nails and plaster.
Most people know how to fulfill the core technical duties of their trade without much trouble. Some people are more talented than others. By and large, it’s not hard to find someone who’s good at crunching numbers, editing magazine articles or stocking shelves. But what’s less common and much more in demand are the soft skills that every employer hopes comes with that technically well-qualified candidate.
That’s why it’s important for you to fully build your soft skills and then continue bringing it forward into your professional life together with applying it in your personal life to clearly set yourself apart from other candidates.
Gone are the days when a fancy management degree only with a double-spaced, puffed-up CV could fetch you a high-paying job, reports an article in the BPO world in North India. The modern-day industry requires much more than professional ability and scholastic achievements. The focus is now as much on communication, personality and behaviour of an employee, as it is on the performance.
Professional expertise needs now to be supplemented with an off-the-field, personal skill-set, termed in the corporate language as soft-skills. More and more corporations around the world recognize that, in order to gain a competitive advantage, they need to make sure their people know how to handle themselves at work and how to relate with their customers and peers.
Have you ever stopped to think that everything you do or do not do affects a person’s impression of you? It is true that the way people view you, impacts every aspect of your life—from your career to your personal relationships. Nothing is left out.
Freelance soft-skill trainer, Ms. Narasimhan, says that today, almost everyone preparing for a job in the IT or BPO industry, goes for a course on soft-skills. “It has become an indispensable part of your CV. Speech and communication, as well as understanding behaviour and etiquette, makes you a better employee,” she says.
There are courses available on business English, on wearing the right dress for the boardroom meeting, and on holding the knife properly during official luncheons. Every little personal detail matters, and could be worked upon and utilized in the workspace. “People get hired for their professional skills, but get fired for their lack of soft skills,” says Mr. R Saha of the Soft Skills World.
Just as products carry a brand, people also carry a brand. Branding is how the world sees you; the impression you make on others; the values you stand for; the qualities that mould your personality; the characteristics that make you stand out from the crowd. Here age does not play a barrier. Soft Skills are open for all, irrespective of age.
We are all branding ourselves every day in every way—by the type of cars we drive, their condition and cleanliness; by how we dress, fix our hair, or wear makeup; by our physical shape and health; by the way we talk and even walk.
Who we are—reflected through our brand—will affect a multitude of issues that in all likelihood we may not have previously thought about or perhaps may have blamed outside circumstances for. Perhaps you are not aware that who you are—your personality, attitude, words, and actions—impacts many areas of your life.
Soft Skills in your personal life
Developing interpersonal skills affects all of your life—far beyond your career.
• Your relationship with your spouse, children, and friends will deepen.
• You will attract like-minded people into your life.
• You will gain people’s respect and admiration.
• Your example will teach others how they can be more successful.
• You will feel that you have more control of your life.
In addition to the long list of ways your life will be enhanced, you will be making this world a better place. Never underestimate the impact your positive example can have on people’s lives, both directly and indirectly.
Soft Skills in the professional world
Soft skills aren’t just important in the obvious positions that deal with customers only. They are important for every person in any organization. Take IT professionals as an example. When they acquire soft skills, better relationships are built between other business units resulting in increased productivity.
Jim Rohn, once said, “For your life to get better, you must get better.” Expressed another way by Les Brown, “To achieve something you have never achieved before, you must become someone you have never been.”
Soft skills have a lot to do with career opportunities and career development, just as do harder technical skills. What does this distinction imply? Soft skills refer to abilities that make people better employees, and open doors to opportunities, that aren’t directly related to the subject matter for their jobs. In simpler language, soft skills refer to a person’s ability to relate to others, to get him- or herself (and possibly others) organized, to communicate in written, spoken or other forms, to conduct research or gather information about various topics as assigned, and so forth.
Soft skills might be considered the things you should know how to do to do your best at any job, no matter what that specific job might be. Soft skills also explain why college degrees are valued credentials for job candidates: it takes 2 to 4 years to earn most degrees (excluding the very top tier for PhD, MD, and so on).  To earn a degree, candidates must possess the ability to learn, to tackle a broad range of subject matter, to possess at least minimal communication skills and to dig into a subject (their major) to a considerable level of detail. Though this recasting of the degree isn’t meant to overlook or downplay the importance of a chosen field of study, nor to negate the idea that some majors are more valuable (and usually also more difficult) than others, the idea here is to illustrate how soft skills add value to a degree as a pretty substantial credential.
To live to the challenge of globalization which is in line with the era of information economy, the strength of a nation is strongly dependent on the ability of its citizen to be highly intellectual and skillful. The development of human capital is thus important and necessary since it drives the nation to envision vision and mission. Without a quality human capital, a nation will be weak as there is no human factor that is capable to embark on new initiatives and perspectives. A quality human capital comes from a quality education process. A carefully designed and well planned education system is critical to developing such human capital. Thus, institutions of higher learning play a very important role to produce a human capital that is highly knowledgeable and skillful to meet the demand and expectations of many people helping them find and build on their potential.
Soft skills are not a replacement for hard- or technical-skills. They are, in many instances, complementary, and serve to unlock the potential for highly effective performance in people qualified with the requisite hard skills.
The writer is Soft Skill Coach & Founder, Finezza – The Life Skill Learning Studio, [email protected]