Our soft skills are responsible for success in both our professional and personal lives and need to be nurtured from a young age

There are some skills that will make students do well in studies and there are some skills that will make them do well in life. Schools and colleges generally focus on having a curriculum that makes students well equipped to land a good job. They nurture skills that are classified as ‘hard skills’, that are testable through exams and which include professional skills such as accountancy, medical expertise, programming, teaching, etc.

The other kind of skills is ‘soft skills’, which are responsible for success in both our professional and personal lives. These skills are also called ‘people skills’, ‘social skills’, ‘core skills’, ‘key competencies’ and ‘employability skills’.

These emotion-based skills characterise relationships with other people, and our attitude to work, responsibility and life in general. It is based on what is inside us — our values, outlook and other versatile aspects that are hard to measure and test in the conventional sense.

Soft skills have more to do with our emotional intelligence than our intelligence quotient. And it is by developing and mastering these soft skills that we can learn, work and live more successfully.

Soft skills include leadership, integrity, creativity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, professionalism, enthusiasm, flexibility, networking and teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking. These are far from the only skills we need to do well in life, there are other soft skills that are as important, but for now we will just look at some of these and see what makes them important.

  1. Leadership

Leadership is not about a position, it is about impact, influence and inspiration. A real leader needs to have enough impact to get the desired results, should have enough influence to spread the passion for work, and inspire and empower others to do their best.

A person with good leadership skill always has the enthusiasm to seek and see the best in himself and others. He will also take responsibility for things and not buckle down under pressure.

Good leaders are needed both in the classroom and workplace. So focus on your leadership skills from now so that you become a pro by the time you enter the workplace.

2. Communication

Communication skill is one of the most essential soft skills and also one of the easiest to develop. Good communication is very important in building relationships with people around us and to do so we not only need to be good speakers and writers, we need to be good listeners too.

 Good communicators also modify their communication according to the need of the situation they are in.

In this digital age, there is so much interaction in all sorts of ways, but most of it not being done face-to-face, good communication is more important so as not to send out a confusing message or share more than required in a situation.

Digital communication is swift and there is no undoing what has been sent out in the form of a message, email or post. This makes it all the more important for us to reflect on what we are conveying. This is one of the reasons that at the workplace those who have good email/report writing skills are valued and appreciated.

Plus, not being able to see those who are receiving our messages, it becomes almost impossible for us to gauge their actual reaction.

At school, we have a lot of friends, so it is easy to work on our overall communication skills with them and there is always the classroom to practice the formal writing side of communication. So work on developing your communication skills while at school.

Tream work student collaboration
Anna Samoylova/Unsplash

3. Collaboration

Collaboration results from a combination of other soft skills, such as good communication, empathy, adaptability and leadership qualities.

The ability to work in groups, be a good teammate and inspire others to also give their best makes a student capable of working well with anyone they have to deal with.

The collaboration that is displayed within the classroom will eventually pay off when students step into the larger world of their careers.

4. Creativity

It is mostly considered that creativity is an inborn skill, which is right. But that doesn’t mean that those who are not very creative should leave that to those who are.

Creativity is so very important, in almost everything, so it needs to be cultivated. And the sooner you start exploring your creative side the better. But this doesn’t mean you should start painting.

Creativity is in the mind first, then it translates into everything that we do, even those tasks where logic takes the lead. There can be many people with the same idea, but the creative person presents his idea in such a way that it stands out among the rest.

Creativity can be displayed in how you do your assignments, problem-solving, communication, school projects and so much more. Later on in your career, it is your creativity at the workplace that will help you sell your idea to your bosses and your product to your customers.

5. Critical thinking and problem-solving

Critical thinking is simply thinking independently, responsibly and productively. How people choose to think and act affects all that they do and everything else that is connected with them.

They can choose to think in a more positive and constructive manner or they can simply give up without a fight when faced with any difficulty.

Those with good critical thinking skill will comprehend, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information well.

For instance, there is a subject that they don’t like, such as maths or history, how they choose to plan learning it depends on their critical thinking. Students who have good problem-solving skills will look into what makes the subject seem difficult to them and come up with different ways of learning it until they hit on one that makes them master their problem.

Those who don’t think this way will just not go down deep into things and will accept the situation as it is and will be satisfied with a D grade. Problem-solving is also very important for success in the workplace.

6. Enthusiasm

Success at anything — studies, sports, career, relationships, etc. — depends on our enthusiasm for it.

It is so obvious that when people are interested in something, they are very enthusiastic about it, and when they are not interested, it’s a different story.

Students who are enthusiastic about their studies and education know that what they are learning in school is going to help them in the future. Thus they pay attention in the class, ask questions when something is not clear and continue to seek the answers until everything is clear to them.

On the other hand, those who lack enthusiasm will just be in the class like any other piece of furniture. They will rarely be active in class discussions and will not pursue information outside the classroom too.

The obvious boredom that they show makes a poor impression on their teachers and classmates, who will start side-lining them. This laidback attitude will reflect in their poor grades and will hamper their growth in their careers.

7. Adaptability

The world today is changing at a faster rate than ever before. Adapting to these changes is the real challenge that is facing everyone today, both kids and adults. However, kids generally adapt to changes faster than adults, and if they maintain this flexibility after growing up too, they will lead more successful lives.

But the natural adaptability in a person needs to be nurtured in the right way to become a positive part of their personality. Keeping themselves informed about changes and knowing what changes are best to use to their advantage are things that need to be learnt.

If we turn to research into evolution and science, we will find that those animal and plant species that were able to adapt to changes in the environment were able to survive and thrive, while others perished and became extinct.

While extinction is a very unlikely scenario, being overshadowed and outdone by classmates and contemporaries is something we are more familiar with. Adaptability to the changes in our situation, school and family life, and the world in general, is a skill worth working on.

 We face choices at every step of our life, our soft skills help us to make the right or the wrong choices. Nurture and groom your soft skills to make the right choices and success is sure to follow.

This article was originally published in Young World, Dawn, on February 24, 2018 Read it here

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