I originally published this soft skills list in June 2011. I am honored to discover that more than 500,000 of you have since read my soft skills list and found it helpful.
There are 28 soft skills essential to your career success. I wished I knew about many of these earlier in my career. I want to share them so I can empower you to work smart and achieve more. I look forward to your comments.
What are Soft Skills?
- Rules for mastering this skill is not black and white – Unlike hard skills, like math, where the rule for doing it perfectly is always the same, how effective you are at a soft skill changes depends on your emotional state, external circumstance, and the type of people you interact with.
- This skill is portable and valuable to any job/career – Because soft skills are about your inner strength and interpersonal effectiveness, as long as you work with people, these skills are valuable to your career.
- Mastering this skill is an ongoing journey – You can reach a level of competency in it but you can always encounter new situations or people that will test your soft skills and push you to learn more.
Other experts agree. Some define soft skills as those that are “difficult to measure” and others define soft skills as “skills which characterize relationships with other people, or which are about how you approach life and work.” There is however, one common set of skills missing in most soft skills definition. Most focus soft skills on people skills – how effective we are in working with others. This is absolutely important. However, what you must also master to accelerate success are self-management skills. These are skills that help you manage your relationship with yourself – your inner dialogue.
Based on 20 years of working experience, I define 28 soft skills that every professional should develop – 10 Self-Management skills and 18 People Skills. No matter what type of work you do, you will find value, advancement, and fulfillment in developing these 28 soft skills in your career.
Soft Skills List – Self Management Skills
Self-Management Skills address how you perceive yourself and others, manage your personal habits and emotions and react to adverse situations. Only when you build inner excellence can you have a strong mental and emotional foundation to succeed in your career.
- Growth mindset – Looking at any situation, especially difficult situations, as an opportunity for you to learn, grow, and change for the better. Focusing your attention on improving yourself instead of changing others or blaming anyone.
- Self-awareness – Knowing and understanding what drives, angers, motivates, embarrasses, frustrates, and inspires you. Being able to observe yourself objectively in a difficult situation and understand how your perceptions of yourself, others, and the situation are driving your actions.
- Emotion regulation – Being able to manage your emotions, especially negative ones, at work (e.g. anger, frustration, embarrassment) so you can think clearly and objectively, and act accordingly.
- Self-confidence – Believing in yourself and your ability to accomplish anything. Knowing that all you need is within you now. “Those who believe in themselves have access to unlimited power” – wisdom from Kung Fu Panda
- Stress management– Being able to stay healthy, calm, and balanced in any challenging situations. Knowing how to reduce your stress level will increase your productivity, prepare you for new challenges and supports your physical and emotional health, all of which you need for a fulfilling, successful career.
- Resilience – Being able to bounce back after a disappointment or set back, big or small, and continue to move onward and upward.
- Skills to forgive and forget– Being able to forgive yourself for making a mistake, forgive others that wronged you, and move on without “mental or emotional baggage.” Freeing your mind from the past so you can focus 100% of your mental energy on your near and long-term career goals.
- Persistence and perseverance – Being able to maintain the same energy and dedication in your effort to learn, do, and achieve in your career despite difficulties, failures, and oppositions.
- Patience – Being able to step back in a seemingly rushed or crisis situation, so you can think clearly and take action that fulfills your long term goals.
- Perceptiveness – Giving attention to the unspoken cues and developing cognitive or emotional empathy of other people’s situation and perspective. Often times, we are too busy thinking about ourselves and what we are saying, we leave little room to watch and understand others’ action and intentions. If you misinterpret other’s intention or don’t try to put yourself in their shoes, you can easily encounter difficulties dealing with people and not even know why.
Soft Skills List – People Skills
People Skills address how to best interact and work with others so you can build meaningful work relationships, influence others perception of you and your work, and motivate their actions. I have split them into two sections – Conventional and Tribal
Conventional – List of people skills you can find in most job descriptions and you will be assessed on some or all of these in your performance reviews depending on your level.
- Communication skills – Being able to actively listen to others and articulate your ideas in writing and verbally to any audience in a way where you are heard and you achieve the goals you intended with that communication. This also include languages skills if the spoken language at work is your second language.
- Teamwork skills – Being able to work effectively with anyone with different skill sets, personalities, work styles, or motivation level to achieve a better team result.
- Interpersonal relationship skills – Effective at building trust, finding common ground, having emotional empathy, and ultimately building good relationships with people at work and in your network. Also referred as you social skills, this skill is closely related to Communication Skills. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you must have social graces in order to get far in your career. As Maya Angelou said “I have learned people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
- Presentation skills – Effectively presenting your work results and ideas formally to an audience that captivates their attention, engage their input, and motivates them to act in accordance to your desired outcome. While presentation skills is a form of communication skills, I decided to list it separately given the ability to present plays a huge role in any business profession especially as you move up in your career.
- Meeting management skills – Leading a meeting to efficiently and effectively reach productive results. At least 50% of meetings today are a waste of time.
- Facilitating skills – Being able to coordinate and solicit well represented opinions and feedback from a group with diverse perspectives to reach a common, best solution.
- Selling skills – Building buy-in to an idea, a decision, an action, a product, or a service. This is not just for people in sales.
- Management skills – Creating and motivating a high performing team with people of varied skills, personalities, motivations, and work styles.
- Leadership skills – Defining and communicating vision and ideas that inspires others to follow with commitment and dedication.
- Mentoring / coaching skills – Providing constructive wisdom, guidance, and/or feedback that can help others further their career development
“Tribal” – List of people skills that you will not find in any job descriptions. They are also essential to your career success. I call it tribal because they are more “insider knowledge” that you gain from work experience or from mentors. Some people can go through their entire career and not be aware of some of these skills.
- Managing upwards – Proactively managing your relationship with your boss, his expectations of your work, and his perception of your performance. Whether you are challenged, given opportunities, or recognized at work heavily depends on your ability to communicate, manage expectations, and build a good relationship with your boss.
- Self-promotion skills – Proactively and subtly promoting your skills and work results to people of power or influence in your organization and network. It is not enough that your boss knows you do great work. You need to subtly build your reputation with all key people that can influence your performance review. This is because hard work alone does not guarantee success.
- Skills in dealing with difficult personalities – Being able to still achieve the work result needed while working with someone whom you find difficult.
- Skills in dealing with difficult/unexpected situations – Being able to stay calm and still are effective when faced with an unexpected or difficult situation. This includes being able to think on your feet and articulate thoughts in an organized manner even when you are not prepared for the discussion or situation you are in.
- Savvy in handling office politics – Being able to understand and proactively deal with the unspoken nuances of office and people dynamics so you can protect yourself from unfairness as well as further your career. Office politics is a fact of life. If you don’t choose to play, it can play you.
- Influence / persuasion skills – Being able to influence perspectives or decision making but still have the people you influence think they made up their own minds.
- Negotiation skills – Being able to understand the other side’s motivations and leverage and reach a win-win resolution that you find favorably, satisfies both sides, and maintains relationships for future interactions.
- Networking skills – Being able to be interesting and interested in business conversations that motivates people to want to be in your network. The bigger and stronger the network you have, the more easily you can get things done (e.g., find a job, get advice, find business partners, find customers, etc…)
I know this is a daunting list. We are here to help. This entire site and all its resources are dedicated to helping you work smart and live more through developing your soft skills. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of them today. Most of us don’t. The important thing is to understand why these soft skills are important and then ask yourself – which one do you want to develop next?
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I look forward to your comments. I am always in your corner.