What Is Soft Skill Development? (With Examples and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For most roles, employers look for candidates with specific hard and soft skills that can help them succeed in the position. Hard skills are technical abilities that are typically role-specific, while soft skills are transferable abilities you can use in a variety of positions. Learning more about soft skills and how to develop them can help you prepare for any job. In this article, we explain what soft skill development is, share types of soft skills, explain how to improve them, explore these skills in the workplace, and offer tips to demonstrate your skills at work, on your resume or cover letter, and during an interview.

Related: Technical vs. Soft Skills (Differences and Similarities)

What is soft skill development?

Soft skill development is the process of improving specific personality traits and abilities that help you work more effectively with your colleagues and customers. Communication, interpersonal, and teamwork skills are all examples of soft skills employers may look for when hiring new employees for any position. As these skills are transferable, meaning you can apply them to any career, developing them before you enter the workforce can be beneficial.

Related: A Guide to Soft Skills

Types of soft skills

Here are some types of soft skills you can develop or improve:

Communication skills

Having strong communication skills allows you to convey your messages and listen to responses more effectively. This allows you to build and strengthen professional relationships, as your communication skills can help you get to know your colleagues and customers better. It can also help you minimize conflicts as you can deliver messages tactfully in a concise way.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are traits and abilities you use to interact with others and build relationships with them. These skills help you learn more about your colleagues and customers so you can adapt your communication to them. This can help you with a number of tasks, such as improving collaboration, creating targeted marketing content, or teaching students a new concept.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Teamwork

When pursuing a job that requires you to work with other people, it's important to highlight your ability to work well with a team. This skill helps you contribute to the team's success, support team members with concerns or heavy workloads, and offer ideas or suggestions for improvement. Being able to work with your team effectively can also help strengthen your relationship with them so you can all work towards the company's goals together.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

Time-management skills

Time-management skills are important in almost any job. This skill allows you to use your time effectively by helping you organize and prioritize your responsibilities. Having strong time-management skills can help you structure your day properly so you can meet any strict deadlines.

Related: Time Management Skills: Examples and Definitions

Flexibility

Change constantly occurs in the workforce to ensure companies can remain relevant and competitive. Being flexible allows you to adapt to these changes easily so you can continue to achieve your professional goals. This can encourage your team members to be more flexible as well, helping the entire company adapt to the changes

Problem-solving skills

Positions in every industry face challenges sometimes, so having strong problem-solving skills is an attractive trait to employers. It allows you to resolve issues quickly and effectively to minimize the impact they have on the company's success. Thinking of a unique solution to your problem may require creativity as well.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to improve soft skills

If you want to improve your soft skills, here are the steps you can follow to do so:

1. Assess your strengths and weaknesses

Start by assessing your current strengths and weaknesses. This can help you determine what areas you want to improve. For example, if you notice you have strong communication skills but weak problem-solving skills, you may want to focus on developing your problem-solving skills first. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you create a detailed action plan to improve your soft skills.

2. Ask for feedback

If you're not sure what your strengths and weaknesses are, you can ask your colleagues or managers for feedback. They may suggest specific areas of improvement that you didn't think of beforehand. You can also ask your friends and family members as they likely know you best and may be more willing to offer honest feedback.

Related: Giving and Receiving Meaningful Peer Feedback (With Tips)

3. Seek development opportunities

Once you know what skills you want to develop or improve, you can seek development opportunities to do so. Many companies offer professional development opportunities, such as additional training or credit towards college or university classes you can take. Talk to your manager to learn more about these opportunities.

If you're not in the workforce yet, consider pursuing these opportunities on your own. Look for classes that pertain to the skill you want to develop, such as public speaking classes to enhance your communication skills. If you earn a certificate or diploma, you can even include it on your resume to impress employers when applying for jobs.

4. Network more

Networking, which involves meeting other people that work in your industry, can be a great way to develop many soft skills. It can help you improve your communication and interpersonal skills and allow you to learn more about your industry. If you're not in the workforce yet, networking can help you find positions you're interested in pursuing. Look for networking events in your area or find ones you can attend online to enhance your skills.

Related: How to Build Your Networking Connections (With Tips)

Soft skills in the workplace

Here are some tips you can consider to display your soft skills at work:

  • Get to know your coworkers. To showcase your communication and interpersonal skills, try getting to know your coworkers better. Join them for lunch, ask them to go for coffee, or suggest team-building activities that can enhance your professional relationships.

  • Ask for new responsibilities. If you're already familiar with your current responsibilities, you may want to ask your manager for new ones. This allows you to develop new skills and shows your manager you're willing to take initiative and can adapt to a new workload.

  • Offer your assistance. If you notice a colleague struggling with a task or their workload, offer your help. This can help you build stronger professional relationships and allows you to create a more positive work environment.

  • Apply for a leadership role. If you have industry experience, consider applying for a leadership role, either within the company you already work for, or a new one. This can help you showcase many soft skills, like communication skills, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills.

Related: Why Are Soft Skills Important? (With Definition and FAQs)

Highlighting soft skills

Here are three different ways you can highlight your soft skills to impress prospective employers:

Soft skills for a resume

One essential part of a resume is the skills section. This section highlights the hard and soft skills you have that employers are looking for from an ideal candidate. To determine which skills to include, assess the job posting or description and note any keywords the employer included. If you meet their requirements, highlight the specific skills the employer is looking for by including them on a bullet-point list. This can improve your chances of receiving an invitation to interview.

Related: How to List Soft Skills on Your Resume for Job Applications

Soft skills for a cover letter

Another way to improve your chance of receiving an invitation to interview is to include a cover letter in your application. While this isn't typically required, including a cover letter can help differentiate you from other candidates. Expand on your soft skills by mentioning specific times you used them successfully in previous roles. This shows employers you have proven success in your industry.

Soft skills for a job interview

If your resume and cover letter are successful, you may receive an invitation to interview. Prepare for your interview ahead of time by researching potential questions the hiring manager may ask you. They may ask a mix of general and role-specific questions to get to know you, your skills, your knowledge, and your experience better. Prepare potential answers to these questions to help you feel more confident during the interview. During the interview, highlight your soft skills by discussing ways you used them to make a positive impact in previous positions.

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