Hard skills are what might get you noticed, but soft skills will get you hired. There’s much more to work than just your pure ability to do a job. Much of what determines your success in the workforce has to do with emotional intelligence and the ability to interact with others.

Here, we’ll review what soft skills are and how they can be applied to nearly any work environment.

Person typing on a computer.
Image source: Getty Images

What are soft skills?

What are soft skills?

Soft skills refer to your intangible ability to navigate social situations and workplace environments. Some examples of soft skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills: Being able to get along with others in professional environments is critical to your career success. This includes communicating effectively with others to achieve mutual goals and building relationships with teammates. Ultimately, people learn from one another in workplace environments, and it’s helpful to be able to navigate these situations well.
  • Time management: Time management is one of the most critical soft skills. Employees who demonstrate a track record of superior time management are often appealing to employers. This means handing assignments in on time, responding in a timely manner to emails and other messages, and communicating if you have too much on your plate at the moment. This helps operations run smoothly and ultimately creates trust among co-workers.
  • Willingness to lead: Someone who can take the initiative without being told to do so is likely to succeed in their career. A willingness to take the proverbial “bull by the horns” is quite valuable in real-life situations. This can also mean taking calculated risks if the projected benefits outweigh the perceived costs. Realistically, a willingness to lead will always come with some possibility of failure, but that’s part of what makes courage so valuable.
  • Creativity: Having a creative mind can help solve problems in different and nuanced ways. New ways of thinking are generally welcome in professional environments as long as they remain cost-effective and within the bounds of possibility. A creative mind, coupled with sharpened hard skills, makes for an adept problem-solver.


Foolishness is about speaking the truth, even if it's not what people want to hear. We aim to tell you what you need to know and hope it helps you become a better investor.

Why do soft skills matter?

Why do soft skills matter?

Learning hard skills, or the specific abilities needed to actually perform tasks at work, can be challenging. But it’s often more straightforward than learning soft skills. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is acquired with experience. Both verbal and non-verbal communication play a role in developing soft skills, which is why practice is necessary. Sometimes the things that go unsaid are as important (if not more important) than the things that are said.

Because soft skills are harder to teach, employers will often look for candidates who have a strong combination of both hard and soft skills. This is why it’s so important not to ignore or gloss over the importance of soft skills. Employers want employees who are dependable, adaptable, and can manage relationships with a variety of people.

How to work on your soft skills

How to work on your soft skills

Unlike hard skills that can be learned mechanically, soft skill development requires real-world practice with real people. We live in a rapidly changing, technologically driven world that requires a driven, flexible person to succeed. In other words, employers who see employees willing to take decisive action (without being instructed) in the face of uncertainty are likely to favor them more when it comes to promotion and leadership opportunities.

If you’re unsure about your soft skills, practice as much as you can to develop further confidence in yourself and your abilities. Work on communicating with people in situations you might have shied away from in the past. Be sure to demonstrate that you’re punctual and dependable in your current workplace. Over time, you’ll develop a strong track record as an employee with superior soft skills.

Soft skills in the real world

Opportunities to showcase your soft skills happen every day. Try it out: Reply to emails in a timely and friendly manner and indicate your willingness to work on new projects. Simply being friendly can also go a long way in fostering strong workplace relationships.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.