When it comes to being employable, you’ll hear a couple of terms bandied about a lot. If you want an effective CV, you’ll need to know how they work!
Hard skills are job-specific and qualify you to do a particular role or work in a certain industry. That might include being familiar with certain software and processes or having a certificate or experience of similar roles.
Soft skills are far more flexible. You can pick them up through academic or personal life, and they’re relevant across lots of jobs. These transferable skills are more about behaviours and personal qualities than qualifications: punctuality and people skills, for instance.
Going on about your patience, perseverance or Duke of Edinburgh award isn’t just a CV space filler – a 2018 survey by LinkedIn reveals soft skills are more important to some employers than hard skills. Here’s why they’re a winner:
For all those reasons, regularly reviewing and bulking up on soft skills can make a difference throughout your career. Let’s dig into it a bit more.
According to LinkedIn, four skills are in demand right now:
As with anything else that makes onto your CV, the most crucial skills are the ones relevant to the role you’re applying for. Other popular attributes include:
There are tons more you’ll see listed in job ads or implied in the application pack. Go through both with a fine-toothed comb to spot them! There are even predictions on the skills that will make you successful in the future.
Soft skills come from lived experience. They’re things you learn for yourself by doing them – and you can pick them up almost anywhere.
Essays and presentations cover persuasion, research and analysis right off the bat. Depending on your course and how it was delivered, you may also have collaboration and communication skills, not to mention attendance and deadline-meeting super powers.
Showing up regularly on time for activities shows commitment, time management and (for group events) team work. Solo player? You might have evidence of initiative, being able to work alone, or problem solving instead.
Learned to juggle conflicting priorities, keep others on schedule, keep the peace, overcome adversity or achieved goals? Bingpot.
Job-boosting soft skills can’t help you if you sit on them! Unlike qualifications and certificates, you have to demonstrate how you’ve used soft skills.
Once you’ve identified which you have, think of a specific time you used each one, and what the outcome was. Turn it into an anecdote that you can drop into your CV or bring up at interview.
Soft skills aren’t just face-savers when you’re light on work experience – they’re hugely valuable to employers in their own right. Course providers have cottoned on to this, so there are places and modules to develop new or existing skills, but remember that the most valuable qualities ultimately come from experience and practice.
Once you’ve identified the skills you have, find ways to build stronger evidence for them, or to grab fresh skills. Even throwing yourself into a personal challenge this year could arm you with attributes to crow about, so don’t just think it: do it!
Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK's largest student money advice site.