Developing soft skills requires a lot of practice. Unlike hard skills, there is no magic formula, test to prove that you improved. You measure your success in developing soft skills in how well you interact with those around you. It can be with family, friends, colleagues and customers.
Hard skills vs soft skills
The terms hard and soft skills have their origins in military science. In the late 1950s, the US Army started to develop a science-based approach to the military training program. As a result, the researchers identified the importance of not only professional skills (hard skills) for the military personnel but also human components (soft skills). It stated that hard skills are skills for working mainly with machines. Soft skills are skills for working with people and papers. After the terms took root in military science and psychology, they began to be used in business.
What are hard skills?
Professional (hard) skills are a set of skills and abilities related to the technical side of any activity. To obtain hard skills you need to learn, memorize and analyze information. This is the knowledge and experience that we gain at school or in the process of learning in the workplace. They are usually quantifiable and developed in the learning process.
These can be plumbing or carpentry skills, computer programming skills, or whatever. Hard skills are tested using exams and theoretical tests. They are easy to assess objectively. Hard skills are the minimum skills necessary to operate at work. Once you acquire professional skills, they usually stay with you throughout your career. For example, when you learn to drive a car, you will retain this skill for life, even if it can be partially weakened without practice.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills definition is simple. They are skills that are not technical or job-related. Human (soft) skills, as a rule, are associated with a person’s personal experience, character, and temperament. They are manifested in the ability of efficient communication and interaction with colleagues, customers, and partners. Soft skills are somewhat subjective and more based on emotional aspects than any specific skill.
Most of the soft skills you possess have not been taught to you. They are a natural result of your emotional development and life experiences. To master soft skills, you have to understand people, feel their mood, empathize. Above all, such skills take longer to develop than professional ones. Main soft skills are:
- Communication: active listening, negotiations, emotional intelligence, persuasion and argumentation, teamwork, customer focus), coaching tools as GROW model.
- Collaboration: team management and development, coordination.
- Creativity: creative thinking, complex problem solving, time management.
- Changing: adaptability, growth mindset, life-long learning, and education.
However, being a good specialist is not enough. A lot of jobs are threatened by the development of AI, automatization, and robotics.
AI, automatization, risks for technical jobs
Robots and artificial intelligence continue to develop. Due to technological progress, experts are already talking about the extinction of some professions, including technical ones.
Accountant, bookkeeping, data entry, assembly, factory workers are among the jobs AI will replace in the closest future.
Despite everything announced by the companies below, that they are here to help workers to make their work easier, they may simply replace them with robots.
Boston Dynamics’ New Robot has a Warehouse Job
The new generation robot called Stretch designed by Boston Dynamics will be available in the market next year. This four-wheeled robot has an arm that can lift fifty pounds. It can be used in warehouses moving and lifting heavy boxes or unloading trucks. Improving robot’s AI and manoeuvrability are among the company’s next steps. The developers state that mechanism will complement human warehouse labor rather than replace it.
Office jobs at risks: UiPath Closes $750 Million in Series F Funding
The UiPath company was founded in 2005 as a small Microsoft and Google subcontractor. Today UioAth is a 35 billion dollar value IT business. The company develops advanced software for businesses that use AI-powered computer bots to automate specific clerical works. Software features range from a paper document, photo, or PDF data extraction to filling out forms and database updating.
The same like its competitors, the company clarified that digital solution development doesn’t aim to replace human clerk workers. It rather lightens the workload removing monotonous and routine administrative tasks. However, considering their financial interest, employers will more willingly invest in software that is cheaper than human labor wage.
Which soft skills to develop?
The figure below, extracted from The Future of Jobs Report 2020 shows the top skills that employers are looking for. These include critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence as well as problem-solving.
Talk about soft skills vs hard skills would be incomplete without mention occupations where one or another skill prevails:
Hard over soft. For example, a scientist can be a genuine pro and do an excellent job. On the other hand, he may lack teamwork and communication abilities.
Equal hard and soft. Lawyers, accountants, customs officers. These specialists require a set of professional, as well as human skills. Communication, collaboration, critical thinking and analysis are a few of them.
Soft over hard. Sales, business, politics, or creative professions. You will need several social competencies to be effective in sales. You have to speak convincingly in public, to listen, to win over the interlocutor, etc.
To build a successful career, it is important to have well balanced hard and soft skills. Professional skills help a person find a job and do it with high quality. Human skills help to become a successful manager. Therefore, you are making the right decision if focus your efforts on developing both skill types and keep them balanced.
If any questions, comments please reach out! David Gousset.