June 26, 2020  |  Purdue University Global

Soft skills are those personality traits and good work practices that enable you to get along with others, be an effective communicator and leader, and succeed at your job. While hard skills are more teachable, quantifiable, and apply to the technical requirements of a job, soft skills refer to your social and emotional traits and habits—and they are more difficult to train for and assess.

In a 2019 LinkedIn survey of 5,000 professionals in 35 counties, “Global Talent Trends,” 80% of respondents said soft skills are increasingly important to company success. In the same survey, 92% said soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has identified several competencies that help prepare students for a successful transition into the world of work. Along with NACE’s list of competencies that employers value most and our own experience in the space, Purdue Global has identified and evaluated students on six professional competencies that are important in the current work environment.

“We encourage students to highlight these competencies on their resumes, in cover letters, and in interviews as they speak directly to what employers are seeking across virtually every industry and job function,” says Jennifer Katz, director of Career Services at Purdue University Global. 

Here’s a list of soft skills employers are seeking in 2020.

1. Communication

The ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively is a highly sought-after skill. A good communicator can speak to groups of people with ease, is able to express ideas to others without creating conflict, and can write or edit many different types of communication clearly and effectively.

Demonstrating great communication skills can help others see you as a valuable member of the organization.

2. Leadership

To achieve common goals, leaders harness the strengths of team members. They also use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others, inspiring and helping them to reach their full potential. Displaying leadership skills can raise your visibility within an organization, which can lead to more opportunities.

3. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking, and the related skill of problem-solving, is always in need. Employers value people who can think critically and resolve issues quickly and effectively. With these skills, workers can use sound judgment to evaluate and analyze issues, form decisions, and overcome obstacles.

According to global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, the demand for skills such as critical thinking and decision-making is expected to grow by 19% in the United States and by 14% in Europe through 2030.

Katz says demonstrating this skill to potential employers is important. “It is one thing to say that you are a critical thinker, but another to be able to share an example of a project you worked on in which you demonstrated critical thinking and how that impacted the outcome of the project,” she explains.

4. Teamwork

Good team members collaborate and build strong relationships with coworkers and customers. They’re able to work within a team structure and can negotiate and manage conflict. Employees displaying good teamwork skills are those who cooperate with peers, contribute ideas and suggestions, and are responsible and have respect for a difference of opinions, customs, and preferences.

Employers look to team players to help build an office culture that’s friendly, which helps retain workers and attracts top talent. Being collaborative with your coworkers also strengthens the quality of your work.

5. Professionalism

Professionalism is not one skill. It is the blending and integration of a variety of skills. People who model professionalism are punctual, work productively with others, manage their workload, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The professional behaves with integrity, acts responsibly, is ethical, and is able to learn from mistakes.

6. Multiculturalism and Diversity

Someone who embraces multiculturalism and diversity values, respects, and learns from people of all cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. Diversity also includes flexibility of thought, leadership, and communication styles.

The individual with multicultural or diversity awareness demonstrates openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences. Embracing diversity helps eliminate prejudices and ignites thought, creativity, innovation, and inclusion.

Embracing Soft Skills for the Future

“From our involvement in NACE and interaction with its members, we're seeing a trend that employers increasingly value and consider competencies when making hiring decisions,” Katz says. “While earning a degree still remains important for many career opportunities and advancement, combining that with a demonstration of competency in these different areas provides the employer with a more complete picture of the value that the candidate could bring to the organization.”

Let Purdue Global Help You Meet Your Career Goals

If a college degree could help you grow in your current career or help you launch a new one, consider earning a college degree online with Purdue Global.* We offer more than 175 online college degree and certificate programs for busy working adults. Contact us today to learn more.

Filed in: Careers


About the Author

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.


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Purdue Global cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.

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