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Soft Skills: What Are They and Why Are They Important?

Updated: Sep 28

What skills are called soft skills, and who needs them

Soft Skills like the ability to communicate, think outside the box, make decisions, work in a team - are needed today in any industry to be successful as a professional. Let’s see what competencies are included in the list of flexible skills and where they can be acquired.


What types of skills are there?


Hard skills - professional or technical skills. We get them through the learning process and hone them by applying them in our work. Hard skills lend themselves to fairly accurate measurement: you can determine and indicate your level of English, the degree of proficiency in a particular program, and driving experience.


Soft skills are universal skills that are not associated with a particular profession or specialty. They reflect the personal qualities of a person: his ability to communicate with people, effectively organize his time, think creatively, make decisions and take responsibility.


Why Soft Skills Matter

In today's world, soft skills are essential to achieve professional and personal success. They are considered to be critical to employment, providing fast career development and high earnings.


Top 10 Soft Skills in 2020


In 2016, the World Economic Forum in Davos formulated ten flexible future skills that will be needed by a specialist in any profession by 2020:

  1. Complex Problem Solving

  2. Critical Thinking

  3. Creativity

  4. People Management

  5. Coordinating with Others

  6. Emotional Intelligence

  7. Judgment and Decision making

  8. Service Orientation

  9. Negotiation

  10. Cognitive Flexibility


4C Skills


Later on the ten soft skills have become a simpler and more understandable 4C model. These are four key competencies, the names of which begin with the letter C. They are also called The Four C’s of 21st-century skills. These four skills are essential for modern students to succeed in school and the workplace.


These competencies are:


critical thinking - the ability to critically assess information coming from the outside, analyze it and check for reliability, see cause-and-effect relationships, discard the unnecessary and highlight the main thing, draw conclusions;


creativity - the ability to think outside the box, find unexpected solutions to a problem, flexibly respond to ongoing changes;


communication skills - the ability to communicate, convey your thoughts, hear the interlocutor, negotiate;


coordination - the ability to work in a team, take on both leadership and executive functions, distribute roles, control the implementation of tasks.


What are the advantages of having soft skills?


Soft skills are needed for more than just building a career. They help to successfully study and interact with loved ones - parents, relatives, friends. The ability to communicate and express one's thoughts clearly helps, for example, to quickly grab the attention of the audience during a presentation or defense of a term paper, to make a good impression on an oral exam. The ability to manage your emotions saves you from bouts of bad mood that interfere with productive work. Knowing how to manage time and prioritize helps you save energy while preparing for exams, while planning skills helps you achieve your goals faster.


The need for flexible skills is also confirmed in the academic environment. For example, in 2018, Belarus conducted a study on the importance of soft skills among IT specialists. The research studied the stereotype that "tech guys" do not need to to communicate, make quick decisions or manage other people.


Scientists interviewed 262 employees and top managers of IT companies. 97.4% of them said flexible skills are essential for their work. For employees of IT service companies, the most relevant were:


the ability to clearly express their thoughts (89%);

explain complex things in a simple way (84%);

quickly identify a problem (83%).


How to develop soft skills


Sports, board games


Quests. Quests teach to think outside the box, quickly identify the problem and find a solution, allocate roles in the team, listen to the opinions of others, and argue their point of view.


Orienteering. Trains the ability to think quickly, make decisions, lead and obey, help other team members, feel and estimate time.


Board games. Not all board games are suitable for developing soft skills, but only those that require constant interaction with other players, the ability to recognize emotions, make decisions quickly, negotiate, and anticipate the actions of players: Munchkin, Mafia, Monopoly.


Sport games. Relay races, team games (football, volleyball, basketball) train leadership skills, discipline, the ability to take criticism and accept defeat with dignity.


Projects at school


School projects help to develop multiple skills - distribute roles, lead and obey, discuss a topic, give arguments, analyze information and draw conclusions, train planning skills and public speaking.


Extracurricular activities


To develop soft skills, it is useful to take part in the preparation of holidays, performances, competitions, quizzes. A drama club will help to find a connection with different people and be confident on stage. A school newspaper project will help to understand people and their needs, work with information, and offer different options to solve problems.


Educational camps


Educational camp is one of the new modern forms of education that allows kids to train both hard and soft skills. In any educational camp, there are two directions:


1. Skills training in the professional field that the camp is dedicated to: physics, mathematics, programming, graphic design, journalism. It takes place in the form of lessons, lectures, seminars and workshops, where educators share their professional experience and teach new skills.


2. Training in communication and teamwork skills.

Hands-on and outcome based activities give students the opportunity to make new friends by working in small groups, while improving on their interpersonal and leadership skills.





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