The IT Certification Resource Center

Featured Deal

Get CompTIA, Cisco, or Microsoft training courses free for a week.
Learn More ❯

The Big List of Soft Skills and How to Use It

Soft skills can be hard to acquire. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to engage in honest self-examination. Those who are willing to do the work, however, can reap substantial professional rewards.

Professional network shake handsWhen it comes to developing a career in IT, it’s too often the case that aspiring and practicing professionals put too much weight on hard skills, and not enough weight on soft ones. I’ve written many, many times on this topic for GoCertify and other sites, but IT pros remain surprised to learn that soft skills are essential to career growth and development.


In fact, it’s an unassailable truth that the higher you climb any career ladder — technical or management or otherwise — the more important soft skills become. That’s why I’m returning to that topic today, to remind readers to devote at least some energy and attention to their cultivation and development.


Understanding Soft Skills


The term "soft skills" refers to special human abilities such as communication, personal interaction, leadership, creativity, team building, participation, and a great deal more. Soft skills are hard to quantify and measure. This means they are also hard to test for based on objective observations or measurements.


When it comes to soft skills, phrases like “I’ll know them when I see them,” or “You’ll understand them by experiencing them for yourself,” often come up. Suffice it to say that while such skills are important, they require a different approach to learning, developing, and maintaining them than is the case for something like SQL query optimization or crafting a compelling web page.


Learning and developing soft skills comes more from observation and practice. Whereas building hard or technical skills comes from tackling a body of knowledge, learning its principles and structures, and then putting those elements to work, the process of building soft skills is less direct and quantifiable.


It often requires stepping back from a work setting and pondering how to improve upon or add to one’s ability to work and interact with others, across many modalities and dimensions. Also, there are a lot of soft skills out there, many of which are worth knowing about, and a fair number of which are worth tackling, learning about, and building for oneself.


The Big List of 87 Soft Skills


That’s why I was tickled to discover Anna Mar’s Simplicable soft skills inventory online. It’s titled 87 Soft Skills (The Big List) and it’s worth perusing and pondering repeatedly and at length. I’ve been thinking and writing about soft skills for more than 20 years now, and I got a lot from looking it over. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful, too.


The list is broken up by categories, and then into individual skills, so it forms a kind of taxonomy that organizes soft skills pretty nicely. Click through to the next page for the full list.