These 20 Soft Skills are Your Road to Success!

Soft Skills you need in your career | Maroon Oak
How strong are your Soft Skills? Do you communicate well, work with others effectively and self regulate where needed? Assess yourself on these 20 skillsets.
Soft Skills are the Make – or often the Break – of Careers!

Simply put, these are personal attributes that enable us to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people, especially in a work context.

85% of career success is driven by soft skills, and only 15% is attributed to technical skills, says a Harvard Study.

The professional world recognizes the importance of soft skills.

Large companies and mid-sized businesses alike focus on soft skills as job prerequisites today. LinkedIn has been consistently adding fields (and sub-categories) on skills like communication and negotiation in Member profiles. Many companies and coaches offer training programs to enhance them.

And yet…
The individual focus on developing soft skills remains marginal – plenty of entrepreneurs and professionals do not actively work on improving theirs.

Diana Salzberg did a certification as a Social Media Strategist but her poorly written proposals and inconsistent email followups kept new business away. A simple effort to improve her written communication skills could have been the game changer.

Lasheena Graham enjoyed tech and her small company was doing well but she missed the people facing side of the work, so she started handling sales full-time to feed both her interests.

Kristen Kovack’s high demand cupcake business couldn’t expand because she wasn’t able to retain the right people on her team. While she paid well, her high-handed manner and poor delegation kept the employee churn high.

How strong are your Soft Skills?

Do you communicate well, work with others effectively and self regulate where needed?

Assess yourself on these 3 key categories – Communication, Personal & Interactive Skills, broken down into 20 skillsets below.

See how you fare on the questions and if the answers are mostly a no, you’ll know which areas to focus on.

Communication skills – the words that count!

Active listening

We all need to listen to learn. And learn to listen. Responding comes later. Are you a mindful listener? How focused is your attention during conversations? Do you observe cues like tone and body language? How much are you able to absorb or recall later?

Your ears will never get you into trouble.

Brevity

Can you keep it brief? Succinct? Do you use shorter, simple sentences to convey your message or verbose rhetoric? Do you use pauses meaningfully? Or even pause?

Clarity

Do you possess the ability to articulate  – your mission, premise or even an offer? Do you think through your words first? Choose the right ones? Think about the different facets of an argument?  Ramble or roll?

My goal today is clear – convince you that Soft Skills come in many forms and each one counts!

Written Communication

Everyone is writing emails today. Preparing presentations. Pitching, responding, questing. Can you balance content and form? Use breaks and white spaces, smartly? What about visuals & links?

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Do your words make a purposeful impact?

Use tools like Grammarly to limit errors and write better.

Presentation Pro

Are you one? Is your eloquence effective? Can you memorize your content and share (seemingly) effortlessly? Manage pitch and fluency while speaking? Keep a pleasant expression and limit the hand gestures? 

All it takes is practice. Lack of preparation shows and who’s to blame?

Web & Social Media

Most experts and web articles will tell you the latest tips to managing your FB page   or getting more out of Instagram. But is your content – words and visuals alike – truly crisp & inviting? In other words, click worthy!

Personal skills – You’re as good as your skills

It all starts with us. The more skilled we are managing ourselves, the better control we will have on our work outcomes.

Managing Stress

If it’s not the wi-fi or an email snafu, traffic delays will mess things up. Something will always go wrong or off-rhythm. How do you respond? Do you lose your cool or deflect with humor? Think calmly and on your feet?

Time Management

Everyone wants things done yesterday. Can you meet deadlines? Be productive within assigned time limits? Can you realistically estimate time to completion for jobs? Do you multi-task or work in time banks?

Also Read Motherhood and It’s Skill Amassing Side Effects.

Confidence

How do you handle new situations  – breeze through or with reluctance? Or when needed, can you fake it (the confidence, that is). Do you focus on your strengths instead of harboring on your flaws?

Perception

Are you a pro at reading a room?  Does the customer team look unhappy about your proposal? Is your sales pitch causing people to zone out and yet you remain oblivious? If you can indeed sense the vibe, are you able to course-correct a tough situation?

The most important thing – hearing what isn’t being said.

Interactive skills – Do Unto Others

You can’t control how others behave. But you can decide how you react.

Selling

How convincing are you, really – can you win people over to your point of view? Show clarity and salesmanship without hustling? Are you persuasive? Do you inspire trust and confidence in the eyes of your customer? Can you close deals or at least leave the door open for the next conversation?

Knowledge is power but enthusiasm pulls the switch.

Networking

Are you comfortable connecting with strangers and acquaintances? Interact with ease, be personable, even share quick pitches in a group or one-on-one setting? Do you know the networking best practices and no-no’s.

Also Read Back to Work? Your Mommy Years Count!

Negotiation

Arriving at a compromise goes beyond contracts or pricing. It also involves deadlines, to-do’s, even finalizing info and content. Are you win-win focused? Can you plan and anticipate a conversation? Lose a negotiation with grace?

Teamwork

Do you see yourself as a team player? Can you take orders? Collaborate when needed, work solo when not? Pick up the occasional slack without whining?

Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play together is another story.

Feedback Friendly

Turning constructive criticism (link) into action is an art. Can you process suggestions into consensus based outcomes? Go back to the drawing board with a ‘let’s do it better this time’ outlook?

Leadership

Not everyone’s a CEO. But taking a plan to completion often needs someone to spearhead it. What kind of leadership skills do you bring? Knowledge based or value oriented? Functional strength or people centric?

A manager says – go. A leader says – let’s go!

People Skills

Very simply – can you get along with people? Being a channel between different stakeholders needs attention to detail, tact and a sense of humor. Can you put out the work related fires with customers, vendors, employees? Motivate and inspire others to do their best? Be an enforcer with grace and style? Retain employees and inspire loyalty?

Conflict Resolution

How effective are you interactions? Do your words and actions count? Do you get nods of agreement when you speak? Or even an ‘agree to disagree?’ When someone feels differently, do you take it personally? Can you remain objective while resolving their concerns?

10% of conflicts are due to a difference of opinion. 90% due to wrong tone of voice.

Mentoring

Today, everyone knows something. Mentorship is often a game of equals. Can you share insights at a peer level? Talk with and not down? Offer help without being asked? Are you gracious when thanked? And especially when you’re not?

Learning Mindset

We all have it – the question is, how deep and how strong is yours? When was the last time you learned a new skill, tip or hack? And which soft skill are you working on mastering right now? Do you see it as a drudge or embrace it with pleasure?

It doesn’t end here.

There are numerous more skills that can help a professional immensely. Organization skills, empathy and a keen memory count big time too.

So what did you discover about yourself?

And importantly, how do you plan to leverage your strengths and overcome the improvement areas?

Also Read 15 Ways to Ace Soft Skills on a Resume or Interview.

To succeed, we need to remember that Soft Skills are learnable and they evolve as we do.

When in doubt, think of the irrepressible Jack Sparrow.

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.

What say?

Pooja Krishna

Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. 

A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries. 

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42 Comments
  1. Lucy 5 months ago

    Fantastic post! I loved the part ‘ ears never get you in trouble’, so true! We all need to listen more.

  2. Christie Moeller 5 months ago

    I think soft skills are a HUGE asset in the workforce. They are like 80% of my job. Understanding personalities and being able to communicate with them is key.

    xoxo Christie
    http://icanstyleu.com/blog/

  3. Evelyn Reese 5 months ago

    Wonderful post, I am working on active listening especially on topics that I am passionate about. This post really put things into perspective. I have booked this link.

  4. Awesome post.

  5. Laura 5 months ago

    Great communication and listening skills are so very important as are the rest of these soft skills. I’ve always been a good problem solver and I’ve experienced many times in business people wait for the problem to be solved for them rather than try and come up with solutions themselves.

    • Pooja Krishna Author
      Pooja Krishna 5 months ago

      Great point, Laura! Problem solving skill is a convergence of so many contributing soft skills.

  6. brandi anne 5 months ago

    Great post! I learned the 85/15 in selling when I worked for the Luxottica Corp. I was an optician for their company Sears Optical. We used that concept when working with our customers.

    • Pooja Krishna Author
      Pooja Krishna 5 months ago

      Agree, Brandi. The best communicators make the message about others.

  7. Bianca Karina 5 months ago

    Communication is so so so important. It’s amazing how little people skills are valued in technical fields – as if their knowledge is an excuse on how to work with people. Glad to see there’s a word for these.

    • Pooja Krishna Author
      Pooja Krishna 5 months ago

      True, Bianca. They’re called soft skills because they are the most resilient – each one will outlast every technical skill we possess.

  8. Megan @ Ginger Mom 5 months ago

    Wow! You talked about a lot that, although it seems pretty obvious, I wouldn’t have guessed. This was a very helpful post and I have bookmarked it for future reference. Thanks so much!

    • Pooja Krishna Author
      Pooja Krishna 5 months ago

      Thanks, Megan. One of the biggest issues is how many people assume that soft skills don’t need work while intact, they are the big success drivers.

  9. Jithin 5 months ago

    Thanks for such an amazing lessons. I find it very useful for my career. Thanks for sharing.

  10. These are wonderful tips.

  11. Tiara 5 months ago

    These are some fabulous tips to success. I live on being mentored in my business to become better and help me build.

  12. Obi 5 months ago

    This is a great read. Will share with my coworkers. I need to brush up on my soft skills too!

    • Pooja Krishna Author
      Pooja Krishna 5 months ago

      Thank you! Soft skills are learnable (to a degree) and smart people are always working on theirs!

  13. Olla Swanson 5 months ago

    Thank you for your tips! I think it’s important to always hone in your skills to be successful. I have to work on a few of these. lol

    • Pooja Krishna Author
      Pooja Krishna 5 months ago

      Don’t we all, Olla 🙂 Most leaders talk about communication and empathy before they even mention tech skills.

  14. Nati 5 months ago

    This is an amazing and very helpful list! find to have a few of soft skills myself I should be putting those forward in my interviews for a job 🙂

  15. Tina 5 months ago

    I love this post! I will definitely be sharing! As a business owner I agree that I would much rather hire someone more adept at soft skills than technical skills. Technical skills can be taught but you are right soft skills make or break the candidate!

  16. Davi 5 months ago

    What a great topic! I’ve learned by working in the corporate world that soft skills can sometimes be even more important than your technical abilities. I’ve always enjoyed reading books on the topics you’ve mentioned to try and refine my soft skills.

  17. Candy Rachelle 5 months ago

    Listening and written communication are my two strongest skills. I absolutely love this post. About to print it out so that I can take the time to read it in-depth!

    http://www.keepingupwithcandy.com

  18. Amy @ Chew Out Loud 5 months ago

    We often talk about how kids these days don’t get much practice with soft skills anymore; this is a great reminder of how important human connection is 🙂

  19. Ashley J. 5 months ago

    Great resource for professionals in any field!

  20. Alicia Taylor 5 months ago

    I wish more people would focus on conflict resolution. It’s damaging not only in personal relationships but also in the professional sphere. I am happy to see you included it.

  21. Courtney Andrews 5 months ago

    I love the part about “your ears will never get you into trouble” 🙂 I try to remember that listening is just as important as talking when it comes to having effective communication.

  22. David 5 months ago

    Active listening is probably the toughest soft skill for me to achieve on a daily basis. My wife says it is because I am a man lol. I think it is my lack of interest in repetitive everyday conversations. These are important I know when meeting new people but it is nauseating to me for some reason.

  23. Shevoneese 6 months ago

    I totally agree with you about these soft skills. These are very crucial in the world of work especially communicating well.

  24. Nicole 6 months ago

    These are the kinds of things everyone needs more of or to recognize in life better. The soft skills are the ones lacking by a lot of people. Proper communication is a must and I agree with all of them!

  25. Michelle Leslie 6 months ago

    Thanks so much for this Pooja. These skills are all super important and as a woman I found that many of us didn’t have role models to teach us these skills growing up. Maroon Oak sounds like a wonderful resource to learn and share.

  26. Kathryn Dickson 6 months ago

    Great post! I believe one needs to have personality skills as well as the tech skills to survive the workplace too.

  27. Kathryn Dickson 6 months ago

    Great topic! I like to look for a colleague with personable skills as well as the skills to do the job. Makes for a way more enjoyable workplace.

  28. Lynn Woods 6 months ago

    This is a great list. IMO, many times the soft skills are more important!

  29. Brandie Stewart
    Brandie Stewart 6 months ago

    Great post Pooja! So much food for thought!

  30. Ana De- Jesus 6 months ago

    I agree that soft skills are very important, especially good communication. I found Grammarly very helpful when I was at university! x

  31. Larissa 6 months ago

    Yes, I agree with all of these! I believe communication is the basis for every successful relationship, whether it be professional or personal. I know I need to work on my communication skills, as well as other skills. Personally, I don’t believe these skills are only pertinent in a business setting, but also very useful in life in general.

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