Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills- The Difference

Usually, job seekers aren’t giving that much thought to what the difference is between hard skills and soft skills. But hiring managers and employers think about that continually!

Hard skills comprise, for example, mathematics, statistics, data analysis, or project management. Hard skills are also including computer skills like Excel, Microsoft Word, and Powerpoint; foreign languages; software development; accounting, and bookkeeping, just to list mention a few.

So we can say that hard skills are all about knowing in what way we do certain things and to what extent people are experienced in doing that. It’s not that difficult to see or determine if a job applicant has these hard skills.

The problem with hard skills lies in the fact that with the introduction and application of new technologies, these hard skills are based on old technology and will be obsolete. Everybody who’s been active in our workforce for over a decade has witnessed that firsthand.

Herein lies the reason that soft skills are relevant and so important.

What are Soft Skills

Soft skills have to do with handling situations rather than performing specific tasks. Often, soft skills are called career skills since they relate to the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and this is an important element when thinking about, for example, refocusing and making a career choice.

Well-rounded soft skills are needed, for example, when we want to work well with people from different corporate cultures. When you work in an internationally operating company, you’ll be required to master the soft skill of being able to work with people from lots of different cultures.

Soft Skills Characteristics

Overall, we can say there are 28 soft skills that are essential to career success. Many people wish they had known about many of these skills earlier in their careers. Here we share these skills with you so you’ll be empowered to work smarter and achieve better results. It is important to understand your soft and hard skills before you set out job hunting.

For skills to be considered soft skills, they need to have 3 characteristics.

  1. The rules for soft skills are not black and white. Unlike with a hard skill such as math, where there’s always the same rule for doing something correctly, the effectiveness regarding soft skills changes. The effectiveness may depend on external circumstances, your emotional state, or the kind of people you’re interacting with.
  2. The soft skill is generally valuable and portable. Soft skills are about interpersonal effectiveness and inner strength. As long as you’ll be working with people, soft skills are valuable to any career.
  3. Mastering soft skills is a continuously ongoing journey. You may, of course, reach a certain level of competency, but at all times, you can encounter new people or situations when your soft skills will be tested again, and you’ll be pushed to learn more.

Soft Skills Definitions

There are experts that define Soft Skills as those skills that are ‘difficult to measure’ while other experts define these skills as ‘skills that characterize interpersonal relationships’ or ‘skills about how you approach work and life.’

However, there’s one common but very important set of skills missing in practically all definitions of the term Soft Skills. Most soft skills definitions focus on people skills, or how effectively we can work with other people. These are key elements, also if you’re looking for a less-stressful, slow-paced position.

Now, this is absolutely important; that goes without saying. But what we must also master to be successful are our self-management skills. These skills help us manage our relationship with ourselves; our inner dialogue.

Based on many years of research and experience, we can define 28 soft skills that all professionals really should develop. The following list of 28 soft skills includes 10 Self-Management Skills followed by 18 People Skills.

Regardless of the sort of work you’re involved in, you will find fulfillment, advancement, and value when you develop the following 28 Soft Skills early on in your careers.

List of 28 Soft Skills – Work Smart

Self Management Skills

Self-Management Skills deal with how we are perceiving ourselves and others; how we manage our personal emotions and habits; how we react to all sorts of adverse situations. It is only when we’ve built inner excellence that we can have a strong emotional and mental foundation to be successful in our careers.

  1. Growth mindset – We should look at any situation, particularly challenging situations, as opportunities for us to learn, change for the better, and grow. We should focus our attention on improving ourselves rather than blaming anyone or changing others.
  2. Self-awareness – We should know and understand what it is that drives, motivates, angers, frustrates, embarrasses, and inspires us. This enables us to observe ourselves objectively in difficult situations. It makes us understand how our perceptions of ourselves, others, and situations are driving our actions.
  3. Emotion regulation – This soft skill relates to how we manage our emotions, particularly the negative ones, for example, anger, embarrassment, or frustration. Emotion regulation allows us to think objectively and clearly, and to act accordingly.
  4. Self-confidence – This relates to believing in ourselves and our ability to accomplish things. Knowing that whatever you need is within you right now. Ols wisdom from Kung Fu Panda says: ‘People who are believing in themselves have unlimited access to power.’
  5. Stress management – This soft skill deals with the ability to stay calm, healthy, and balanced in challenging situations. If we know how to reduce our stress levels, we will increase our productivity, be prepared for new challenges, and support our emotional and physical health. These are all traits we need to achieve a successful, fulfilling career.
  6. Resilience – This relates to our ability to bounce back after a setback or disappointment, big or small. Resilience allows us to go upward and onward.
  7. Forgive and forget – The skill to forgive ourselves for making mistakes and forgive others for wronging us allows us to move ahead without emotional or mental baggage. If we free our minds from past events, we can focus all of our mental energy on our career goals.
  8. Persistence & perseverance – This is about our ability to maintain the same dedication and energy in our effort to learn and achieve in our careers despite failures, difficulties, or opposition.
  9. Patience – Patience allows us to take a step back in crises or seemingly rushed situations. It allows us to think clearly and take actions that fulfill long-term goals.
  10. Perceptiveness – This soft skill allows us to give attention to the developing emotional or cognitive empathy or unspoken cues of other people’s perspectives and/or situations. Often, we’re all busy just thinking about what we do and say without leaving some room for watching and understanding other people’s intentions and actions. If we misinterpret other people’s intentions or not try to put ourselves in their shoes, we may easily encounter lots of difficulties when we deal with people without even knowing why.

People Skills

Our People Skills deal with how well we can work with and interact with other people so we can build meaningful and successful work relationships, influence other people’s perceptions of us and our work, and how well we can motivate their actions. We can split these ‘People Skills’ into two sections, Conventional and Tribal People Skills. Let’s take a closer look:

Section 1 – Conventional People Skills

Conventional People Skills are found in most job descriptions. These skills are usually assessed in our performance. Depending on our levels, some or all of the following skills play a role.

  1. Communication skills – To what extent are we able to listen to others actively, and how well can we articulate our ideas verbally and in writing to any audience? This is about how well we are able to get heard to achieve our intended goals with that communication.
  2. Teamwork skills – How well can we work effectively with people with different personalities, skill sets, work styles, and/or motivation levels? How well can we achieve better team results?
  3. Interpersonal relationship skills – How effective are we at having emotional empathy, finding common ground, building trust, and ultimately at building optimal relationships with people in our networks and at work. These skills are also called our ‘Social Skills’ and are closely related to our ‘Communication Skills.’ Regardless of how smart we are, we need to have social graces if we want to get ahead in our careers.
  4. Presentation skills – If we present our ideas and work results effectively to an audience, we will captivate their attention and motivate them to act in line with our desired outcomes. Whereas our presentation skills are part of our communication skills, they can be listed separately since how well we are able to present our ideas and work is crucial to career advancement.
  5. Meeting leading skills – Managing and leading meetings efficiently and effectively will lead to results. Today, estimates are that at least 50 percent of all meetings are a waste of our precious time.
  6. Facilitating skills – When we can solicit and coordinate feedback and well-represented opinions from any group with multiple perspectives, we can come to better common solutions.
  7. Selling skills – This relates to how well we can build buy-ins to ideas, decisions, products, services, or actions. This is definitely not just for people working in sales.
  8. Management skills – How well can er create and motivate a high-performing team that includes people of varied personalities, skills, work styles, and motivations? Hugely important if you are looking for a well-paying position, for example, in basic industries.
  9. Leadership skills – This relates to how well we can define and communicate ideas and visions to inspire other people to follow with dedication and commitment.
  10. Coaching/mentoring skills Provide constructive guidance, wisdom, and/or feedback to help other people enhance their professional options and career development

Section 2 – Tribal People Skills

This section addresses and describes what we call ‘Tribal People Skills.’ This is what we usually don’t find in job descriptions, but these skills are equally essential to our career success.

We call these skills tribal because they’re more “insider knowledge” than what we gain and learn from mentors or work experience. There are many people who go through entire careers, often without being aware of some tribal skills.

  1. Managing upwards – This relates to managing our relationships with our bosses, their expectations of our work, and their perception of our performances. Whether we are given opportunities, challenged, or recognized at work is heavily dependent on our ability to communicate well and build good relationships with our bosses.
  2. Self-promotional skills – This is about subtly yet proactively promoting our work results and skills to people of influence or power in our network or organization. It’s never enough that our bosses know that we do a great job. We need to subtly build up our reputations with the key people that may influence our performance reviews. Hard work alone will not guarantee our success.
  3. Managing difficult personalities – How well are we able to achieve targets and results while working with people we conceive as being ‘difficult.’
  4. Managing unexpected/difficult situations – How well are we able to remain composed and still be effective when we’re faced with difficult or unexpected situations? This soft skill also includes our ability to keep our feet on the ground and to articulate our thoughts in an eloquent and organized way, even when we’re not prepared for discussions or situations we find ourselves in.
  5. Being office politics savvy – How well can we proactively manage and deal with some of the unspoken office nuances and people dynamics? This is helpful to stay away from unfair treatment and to further our careers. The fact of the matter is that office politics comes with everyday business life. If we don’t play with it, it will play us.
  6. Persuasion/influence skills – How well are we capable of influencing decision-making or career perspectives while still having those that you influence think that they have made up their minds by themselves?
  7. Negotiation skills – This addresses how well we can understand the other side’s leverage and motivations, for example, in salary negotiations, and come to a win-win solution or resolution that we conceive as favorably satisfying both sides and that will lead to continuing relationships for future situations and interactions.
  8. Networking skills – Can we remain an interesting party in business networks or conversations and motivate people to become part of our network? The stronger and bigger our network, the easier we can get things done.

This post is dedicated to helping you work smarter. Developing your soft skills is also your key to success! You shouldn’t worry if you don’t master all of these skills immediately today. Most people don’t. Just go over these skills again and again, and try to understand why soft skills are so important. Then ask yourself which ones need perhaps your attention. Which are the ones you want to work on next?