The Importance of Showing Off Your Soft Skills
A remote professional’s resume is a symphony of their skills: namely, hard and soft ones. The hard skill set is discussed in countless articles and is generally considered to be more important. Soft skill set, on the other hand, is mysterious and not thoroughly documented. When deciding to update their resume, a remote worker wonders:
Well, which soft skills should I list? And do they even matter?
As a matter of fact, they do matter! In this article, we will study the importance of your soft skill set and analyze how each of them can be showcased in the most effective manner.
Importance of Soft Skills
The term “soft skills” encompasses a wide array of competencies that range from career attributes to emotional intelligence. The main advantage of this skill set lies in the ability to cooperate with other people, communicate with them and understand them, which allows for a more productive working environment. Coupling them with hard skills, we can approach our work in a more creative manner.
In some cases, a remote professional may ask themselves:
Shouldn’t soft skills only apply to jobs with a focus on interpersonal communication? Although it is true that, say, nursing is soft skills-heavy, more technical professions like software engineer also benefit from them greatly. There is a pitfall all tech people should avoid: namely, thinking that a tech specialist only interacts with their machine of choice (which is barely concerned about their communication skills).
Nowadays, the tech sphere is pioneering movements like equality and inclusivity which means teams are comprised of people with different cultural and educational backgrounds. In this environment, the ability to successfully manage your relationships with other people is ever so important. To showcase this, we can turn to the history of the world’s most valued company — Apple. Its success can be attributed to the ability of its star CEO, Steve Jobs, to convince professionals to come work for him — and Jobs’ soft skills weaponry would always deliver to do just that. Although his harsh authoritative management style was criticized by many Apple employees, one thing has been for certain: Jobs excelled at using his soft skills to make the very best professionals of the industry feel at home at Apple.
This example demonstrates that the ever-elusive “success” we seek (however we define it) cannot be reached with only hard skills in mind — we also need soft skills to complement our knowledge.
Integrating Soft Skills into Your Resume
Having understood their importance, we now need to determine which soft skills we should actually use in a resume. Although many job-oriented websites suggest stating something like
I’m proficient in communication with team members and nothing more, we would rather take a different route — soft skills need to be showcased and proven, not just mentioned in a casual way.
The difference between soft and hard skills lies in the measurability: while hard skills are constantly assessed in the work process, rating employees’ soft skills often comes as an afterthought. However, if a candidate lacks in any of these spheres, their career progression will be sufficiently hindered — so they need to integrate both of these skill groups in their resume. One of the caveats is this: which soft skills to pick and how to display them succinctly?
A good way to learn about your strong sides is to ask for feedback from your colleagues or close friends: provided that the feedback is honest, you can analyze the way you interact with other people in a work environment. With some self-reflection, you can pick a few skills out that suit you best. Curiously enough, the number of soft skills you put in is irrelevant to your potential employer — what matters is how you showcase them.
Soft Skill as a Use Case
Since soft skills cannot be proven with a certificate (e.g.
We the undersigned do hereby proudly present this Certificate of Achievement for their achievement in communicating with their team members!), we can use real-world situations and use cases from your work experience. Applying the same principles as for hard skills, you can provide concrete examples of how you managed to solve problems. To illustrate your achievements in a clearer way, you can utilize the STAR method — “Situation, Task, Action, Result” — to dissect them.
- Situation: “As the project lead during the company crisis in 2018…”
- Tasks: “…I was responsible for keeping my remote team intact and releasing the product…”
- Action: “…I developed a systematized agile approach to the management of our professionals…”
- Result: “…and this approach has now been adopted throughout the whole company thanks to its successful product delivery.”
Best Soft Skills to Use
Although every professional is equipped with their own set of skills and strong sides, our experience tells us that these skills are welcome in any company or team — they build the foundation which draws the line between a good worker and the best worker.
We will take the role of Mythbusters and say it: the days of distant web developers who spend days coding in solitude are gone — today’s teams of programmers are remote, competitive, and skilled at communication. With their products being used by millions of people, good communication between team members is the only way to stay ahead of their game: let’s say there is a team of 10 extremely talented individuals, all of whom have a clear vision of what the product should look like.
This means that there are 10 distinct visions, with only one to rule them all. This situation begs the question: how can team members convince each other if their hard skills are equal? The answer: communication as a soft skill. We can bust another myth while we’re at it: to be good at communication does not mean to perform a live improv in front of a crowd of strangers; it means to listen well and manage to get your message understood. In a team where conflict is brewing and no side wants to give in, communication can actually save the entire team and avoid many problems.
How can this skill be showcased? The optimal way would be describing your previous work experience, detailing any conflict you managed to avoid thanks to communicating your needs and wants to the other side of the conflict. Your potential employer will appreciate the logic in your actions and readiness to sacrifice something for the sake of the team.
Another source of communication skill is social media: having a great presence on, say, Medium and showing your articles proves that you have an open mind and you are willing to learn.
Nowadays employers prefer not to rate work efficiency by work hours: in a time where a lot of work can be optimized via IT solutions, this can be a rather archaic approach. Instead, you can present a skill that is crucial for work efficiency of the whole team — time management. Why is it crucial? This skill allows you to maximize one of the most valuable resources you can have — time.
Working in conjunction with your ability to set goals and deadlines (and actually deliver on them), time management skill helps you to alleviate any stress associated with big projects or difficult tasks: dividing your work into smaller parts — ones you can easily understand how to complete — brings you peace of mind and encourages to approach your work more creatively. This skill is closely related to work-life balance that many remote professionals may neglect: in a race for the title of The Most Hard-Working Hard-Worker work-life balance becomes a triviality, potentially leading to burnout — and time management can solve this problem.
How can this skill be showcased? On your resume, you can list a difficult and/or time-consuming project — and highlight which measures helped you to complete it efficiently and on time. For bonus points, you can show which of your tasks you delegated to focus on more important ones. 😉
Although the skills we have discussed offer great value to the worker, this one can be considered to a meta-skill of a sort: it contains all other soft skills, utilizing their power in order to achieve goals and high performance. In many jobs, it is important for a remote professional to be capable of becoming a leader of their own team — such person would be a valuable addition to any company and employers appreciate this fact.
Some people are hesitant to adopt this skill as they do not want to look “bossy”; however, a true leader should not be associated with their high status — instead, this trait is related to taking responsibility for your and your team members’ actions. In a time of crisis, this readiness can save the company — and you do not have to be the CEO to be the leader.
How can this skill be showcased? Utilizing the STAR method we described above, you can highlight the problem you encountered and the solution you came up with (with your colleagues deserving an honorable mention).
As it turns out, soft skills are not hard to integrate — try this yourself and become a better professional! Share this article — and help the whole industry become better. 😉
This time around, we’ll cover the biggest HR Technology events that are due this year, starting from August and finishing up in November. Feel free>>>
I talked to Tim Burgess, the Director of Shield GEO Services Limited, a Global Employer Organization (GEO), an expert in outsourced employment and>>>
We talked to Oksana Tripolskaja, a co-founder of HR House, a small recruiting agency in Ukraine. Oksana has visited the Running Remote conference>>>