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Soft skills essential for career success

Published Oct 19, 2023

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ACCORDING to Wikipedia, soft skills are defined as “a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients… that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.”

When hiring, most employers will be looking for much more from you than the hard skills you’ve acquired and learnt through a qualification or training. By reinforcing these soft skills, educators can prepare young people to enter the workforce with a skillset that allows them to compete equally. Penny Demmer and Divine Muland, grade heads at Centennial Schools, say that research indicates that what were previously, and at times negatively referred to as soft skills, are today increasingly sought-after in the business world – mostly because those skills have been proven to boost productivity, efficiency and profitability.

In fact, most studies and surveys show that soft skills are now of paramount importance for the global work environment. A Stanford Research Institute study determined that 75% of long term success in a job role depends on the mastery of soft skills, whereas only 25% of job success comes from technical skills. The World Economic Forum (2018) report on The Future of Jobs highlighted that the top skills required by employees are all “soft skill” related. Top of the list are active learning, creativity, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving, leadership, and emotional intelligence.

A recent new entrant in the skills arena is the adaptability quotient. “In today’s uncertain environment, the concept of AQ, which is a measure of an individual’s ability to adapt to new and changing situations, is becoming one of the foremost determinants of success,” explains Talita van Wyk from The Independent Institute of Education. “AQ has become increasingly relevant in the world of work. This is because individuals with a high AQ can manage challenges and changes, and solve problems quickly and effectively.” Muland and Demmer add that employers are now realising that soft skills encourage motivation, performance and communication – and should be nurtured as early as possible.

“The days where technical expertise (hard skills) alone could guarantee success in the workplace are gone. In the digital age, where automation and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly prevalent, the distinction between hard and soft skills is almost obsolete. Soft skills are hugely helpful for the younger generation to adapt, collaborate and thrive in this new world,” says Demmer. Interestingly, a global study conducted by consulting firm Korn Ferry found that women outperform men in 11 out of 12 emotional competence skills.

“Women typically excel in emotional intelligence when compared to their male peers – and this leadership characteristic can strengthen employee work ethic, critical thinking skills and collaboration for female leaders,” says Muland. “Communication, social and emotional skills are as essential as technical skills, and together are equipping students for the new world, and more importantly, the new workplace.”