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There's No Denying the Career Value of Soft Skills

Employees and employers alike should constantly be aware that soft skills like communication, team building, and adaptability are valuable assets to develop (for employees) or acquire (for employers).

Soft skills are of increasing importance in the modern workplace.As somebody who’s followed IT certifications and career development for more than two decades, I find myself circling back to the subject of soft skills on about an every-six-months basis. “Why?” you might ask.


Because soft skills are so important at work, no matter whether you specialize in R programming for data analysis or building out equipment racks for a cloud service provider (and all points in between), that’s why. Let me proffer a definition for soft skills, and then do a little analysis on how often soft skills turn up in IT career discussions to explain.


A Working Definition for Soft Skills


I found a pretty good one as I started perusing recent articles on soft skills in the IT arena. It comes from Annamarie Higley, at a female-oriented, U.K.-based website (Brit+Co) in an article titled “How to Sell Your Soft Skills in a Job Interview.” (Hint: Anyone, even those of the male persuasion, will find this article worth reading in its entirety, particularly should you be prepping for or thinking about a job interview any time soon.)


The definition reads as follows:


Soft skills can be defined as qualitative attributes, such as adaptability, communication, and teamwork, as opposed to hard skills, like editing, coding, and accounting, which typically require some sort of subject-specific training or education. Soft skills are especially important because they provide hiring managers with a sneak peek of an applicant’s professional behavior.


Among other good definitions, I’ve come across, I’ve also heard soft skills described as being all the things you must know and be able to do to practice your profession that don’t involve some specific hard skill set or knowledge base. If you think about how you spend your workday, it’s pretty rare to spend more than half of your total working hours doing head-down, straight-up technical work.


It’s at least arguable that soft skills should be every bit as important as hard ones for that reason alone. In fact — in my experience, anyway — as you climb the career ladder and advance into more senior positions, be they technical or management-oriented, soft skills become increasingly important. As your responsibilities advance and your paycheck grows, so should your investment in (and awareness of) soft skills.


Scraping the News for Soft Skill Mentions


To get a sense of how soft skills register on the Google News radar, I used the search string “soft skills in IT” to produce a series of current headlines. Here is a list of the top 10 (11, actually, because the Brit+Co story already cited, came up as item number 2 in this search) such items.