The Value of Soft Skills

When I first entered college, I was so excited to learn new facts and skills. I wanted to be fluent in Spanish and be a better editor. I hoped to be more savvy with computer programs. I had all these ideas about what I wanted to learn and how each thing was going to somehow make me a more well-rounded person. It was those types of things, after all, that make one employable. Right?

I had been focusing on my “hard skills.” Hard skills are defined by investopedia.com as “specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured.” They appear to be more valuable. I certainly thought they were. Having a specific skill was something that could set me apart.

As it turns out, I am guilty of focusing too much on hard skills and not realizing the value of soft skills. Soft skills are not things that are easily taught. They take more time to practice and develop.

Since I’ve made this realization, I’ve made it my mission to recognize a soft skill when I’m using it and to be aware of what my strengths are. Here is a list of soft skills I have practiced in my various classes at Mount Mary and how I am noticing my development as a person through them.

Communication

As a writer, this is a necessary skill to have. I need to know what the message is that I’m trying to get across, who needs to hear it, how I should communicate it, and what the most important details are. This is not unique to writers. In any job, being able to communicate ideas is crucial. Whether it’s an email, a phone call, a conversation or a written document, people around you need to know what you’re saying.

Other classes at Mount Mary have encouraged growth in my communication skills. I’ve had two years of Spanish, a professional presentations class and a business communication class. Any other class that includes presentations or writing has helped to strengthen this skill as well. I feel confident putting communication as a strength on my resume, as I take notice of my use of it every day in conversations and emails.

Problem Solving

This is another big one for a future job. Problems will arise all the time, however big or small. You can’t go crying to your boss every time you have a problem.

In a college setting, you practice your problem solving skills all the time, whether or not you realize it. Did you forget to bring something important to school? Maybe you need to talk to someone, borrow something or make a substitution. Do you not understand the homework? Figure out who you can go to to ask for help. Did an event not go as planned? Figure out plan B.

Any class could give you training in problem solving. I noticed that I was using it a lot in my Spanish class. I’ll be honest, I’m not the most fluent in the language. Where do I go to practice? I looked for methods. I failed a couple assignments in Spanish these past two semesters because the concepts were new to me. What did I do? I worked to solve the problem. I figured out what went wrong and performed differently the next time.

I feel like I am a more adaptive person after using my problem solving skills.

Time Management

Any college student uses time management daily. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is good at it, though. Whatever a person’s level of skill, managing time and tasks will be a daily concern in a job setting. I’ll admit that I’m not the best at this, but I’ve certainly had a lot of practice.

I use my time management skills by making a checklist of all my assignments that are due so I can keep track of them, and then I make a second list to plan on which day I’m going to complete which assignment. It’s actually quite effective if I stick to the list. If I don’t, then I’ve got a problem to solve.

Critical Thinking

This one is my personal favorite. Critical thinking skills help people to come up with their own original ideas, make connections, and think outside the box when problem solving. I recognize this skill in all of my courses. Any time I have to explain myself in an essay or explain my answer on a worksheet, I have to think critically.

I’m in a class this semester called Logic. In that class, students have to think critically to evaluate arguments. You can’t just believe something is good and valid because somebody you like said it.

I have noticed that I used this skill all through high school, so far in college, in my jobs, and in my personal life. I think my creativity goes hand in hand with this skill. Critical thinking can be used anywhere and for countless tasks.

Hard skills are nice. Knowing how to do one specific thing can make your life easier sometimes, especially if a job in your field requires it. Having soft skills, though, can help you in whatever job you decide to have, and as a result, might in fact be more valuable.

With the right education, you can gain a good mix of both.

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