Workers using their soft skills
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Soft skills are critical for career success, even in tech

2 May 2017

While many jobs in tech will require you to brush up on your technical knowledge, it’s the soft skills you need to watch out for.

With advancements in AI, robotics and other emerging technologies, it’s only natural that people are left wondering if their jobs are safe.

Technology is already set to eliminate certain roles over time. However, there is plenty of evidence to show that the number of jobs that will be created through these emerging technologies will ease growing concerns.

For those feeling nervous about the level of technical knowledge they will need for these new positions, recent studies offer some hope.

While there’s no doubt that a certain level of technical skill will be necessary, research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center shows that 85pc of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills.

While often underestimated, soft skills are the key to standing out from the crowd of candidates. If employers talk to 10 candidates who all get perfect scores during a technical interview, it’s going to be the skills such as communication, critical thinking and teamwork that will be the deciding factor.

Furthermore, Adecco conducted a poll of more than 500 senior executives in the US, which showed that almost half of respondents think Americans are lacking such skills.

Aside from giving you an edge over other candidates, soft skills will also give you a head start on the technology that is automating a number of jobs.

At the the World Economic Forum in Davos at the start of the year, Matthew Bishop, senior editor at The Economist, said it’s the soft skills such as creative and lateral thinking of human brains that won’t be replaced by AI and technology.

“AI is going to have a really big impact on jobs that are essentially about pattern recognition, looking at data and seeing trends and predicting the future. They’re not in jobs that involve elements of judgement and creativity,” he said.

This means that the people working in AI and similar fields with human interaction will need a certain set of soft skills to program these technologies for the world around us.

There is already a lot of discussion around the importance of diversity in the tech industry, to ensure that people from all walks of life are properly represented within these technologies.

According to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends study, introducing soft skills assessments to test job candidates on the cognitive and personality qualities such as critical thinking, adaptability and communication will become a top recruitment trend over the coming years.

How do I improve my soft skills?

For those with strong soft skills, all of this might come as good news. However, if you’re feeling nervous about your abilities, now is the time to brush up.

Firstly, being self-aware is key. Analyse the most important soft skills such as adaptability, problem solving and communication, decide how good you are at them and recognise what needs work.

When it comes to developing people and communication skills, you have to understand others and their motivations as much as your own. Start looking at why people do what they do and how you can ‘speak their language’. If you actively try to put yourself in other people’s shoes, you will go a long way towards understanding them and communicating with them better.

Make sure you practise your writing proficiency and read over everything you write before sending it – even your texts. This will get you into the habit of revising your emails, reports and messages, and spotting mistakes faster. It might not seem like a soft skill but it is a necessary part of your communication abilities.

Being adaptable is one of the most important skills in almost any work environment. Your potential employer needs to know that you’re willing to change and adapt your strategy when you’re faced with different challenges. Always look for alternative solutions, even when the most obvious one is usable. These are the best situations to practise thinking outside the box and learning to solve problems. What if the most straightforward solution wasn’t possible?

Another part of being adaptable is to take constructive criticism well and to listen to other people’s opinions. Ask yourself what your initial reaction is when someone offers advice about your work or tells you something isn’t working. If you immediately jump to feeling disgruntled, you might need to work on taking criticism a little better. Listen to what they’re saying, and instead of feeling victimised by the problem they’re presenting, see it from their point of view and brainstorm solutions.

No matter what career you’re heading into, soft skills will be a vital part of every job you do. Promote these in your interview and demonstrate them on your CV alongside your technical proficiency in order to really shine.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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