How to Choose a Career Path: Engaging Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

May 7, 2021 | Features | 0 comments

Your career path will largely depend on your skillset. Every employee has a unique set of hard and soft skills. Read on to learn all about them and how they can shape your career path.


RELATED: How to Make a Career Plan Using an 8-Step System

Everything You Need to Know About Hard and Soft Skills

What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are technical skills that usually involve certification or years of experience. These are the more traditional, teachable, or trainable skills.

Here are some examples of hard skills:

    • Editing skills
    • Foreign language proficiency
    • Computer or IT skills
    • Machine operating skills
    • Accounting or bookkeeping skills
    • Statistical data analysis skills
    • Video production skills
    • SEO marketing skills
    • Database management skills

Apart from these broad skills, hard skills can also include specific skill sets. For example, knowing how to use certain programs like Microsoft Excel, Java, Quickbook, or Adobe Photoshop are hard skills.

In the past, prospective employers would only really consider an applicant’s hard skills. These days though, more and more employers see the value in soft skills. 

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills refer to skills that are transferable to most work contexts. It refers to personal habits, personality traits, and interpersonal behaviors that can impact your work.

Here are a few examples of soft skills:

    • Communication skills
    • Attention to detail
    • Organization skills
    • Dependability
    • Teamwork or collaboration skills
    • Listening skills
    • Creativity
    • Empathy
    • Adaptability or flexibility
    • Perseverance
    • Patience
    • Critical thinking
    • Analytical reasoning
    • Time management 
    • Problem-solving skills 
    • Leadership skills
    • Other interpersonal skills

Soft skills are more than people skills. In many ways, your soft skills will show employers what you value. Regardless of what task you’re assigned to, you take these soft skills with you. 

hard and soft skills

Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

Hard skills tell your employers WHAT you can do, but soft skills will give them an idea of HOW you do it. There are two main differences between hard and soft skills:

    1. How you measure them
    2. How you learn them

There’s always clear evidence of hard skills. It’s easier to determine if someone possesses a hard skill. Evidence of hard skills can come in the form of a diploma, certificate, or work samples. In some cases, companies go the extra mile and administer tests for certain skills during the recruitment process.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are harder to measure. It’s more difficult to find evidence proving that you have a soft skill. This is why employers sometimes ask for letters of recommendation. People you’ve worked with can give them useful feedback about your soft skills.

People acquire hard skills by going to school, taking short courses, or apprenticing. There is no one way to learn soft skills though.

Others believe that some people are naturally inclined to have certain soft skills, but this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with your natural tendencies. There’s always room for improvement and everyone can benefit from new hard and soft skills.

How Do You Choose a Career Path with Your Hard and Soft Skills?

Everyone has a unique set of hard and soft skills. Pairing your skillset with your interest narrows down your career options. They address three very important questions:

    • What am I good at?
    • How do I get my work done?
    • What do I enjoy doing?

Remember, an important precursor to landing your dream job is knowing what it is. Your answers to these questions can launch your exploration of different industries.

If you go by interest alone, you may be disregarding your hard-earned skills and natural strengths. Having skills that are in line with a certain career path also saves you a lot of time and resources. 

How Do Hard and Soft Skills Impact Your Career Path?

A specific set of hard skills can land you a job, but your soft skills will have an impact on your level of success in any given role. More often than not, soft skills are what sets employees apart.

So if you’re having trouble getting a position that you believe you’re qualified for, then you may want to start thinking about your soft skills. Perhaps there are some practical aspects of a particular position that you haven’t considered.

Here’s some food for thought: it’s easier for employers to train people to learn new hard skills. There isn’t a short course that will magically teach you how to have a strong work ethic. So make sure to invest time and effort in developing your soft skills

hard and soft skills

Which Do Employers Value More?

Employers value both hard and soft skills. In most cases, human resources will short-list candidates based on their hard skills. But if all they look at is hard skills, then a lot of prospective employees will seem identical.

That’s when soft skills enter the picture. Once recruiters know that you have the know-how to do the job, they now have to consider how well you’re going to fit in the company culture. Your soft skills will clue them in on this.

Your ability to succeed in any workplace will depend on a combination of hard and soft skills. So prospective employers will usually inquire about both during the recruitment process.

Most employers want well-rounded people in their team. Being technically excellent is important, but it’s just as important to know how to work with others.

Just check out most job descriptions in the wanted ads. Hiring managers will usually include a good mix of soft and hard skills.

How Do You Capitalize on Your Hard and Soft Skills?

Lack It’s important to update your resume to showcase both your hard and soft skills. You can start with your formal education, technical expertise, or other training programs you’ve completed. This will speak of your hard skills.

You can add in your soft skills when you write about your work experience. Add short descriptions of how you handled each role that you’ve previously held.

It doesn’t end with your resume though, make sure that you highlight your skills during the interview process as well. Link your previous work accomplishments with both your hard skills and soft skills.

On the other hand, you may start to feel unmotivated if you’re working 24/7. That’s why it’s important to maintain work-life balance.

It’s easy to say that you’re a good collaborator or communicator, but it’s more impressive if you can prove it with your achievements.

Tip: It’s good practice to submit different versions of your resume for each position you’re applying for. Different positions and companies will have different priorities. Make sure to highlight the skills that are valued by the company.

hard and soft skills

How Do You Develop Hard and Soft Skills?

It’s important to keep learning new hard and soft skills. If you want to succeed in any industry, professional development is never-ending.

That’s why it’s important to have long-term goals. Your long-term career goals will inform your professional development. 

So try not to be too hard on yourself. Accept that you’re a work in progress, commit to being better, and move forward.

Tip: Avoid negative self-talk and try to be more constructive. For example, instead of thinking “I’m such a screw-up for missing that deadline!” try “I’m going to manage my time better so I won’t have to ask for an extension next time.”

How Do You Choose a Career Path with Your Hard and Soft Skills?

It’s important to keep learning new hard and soft skills. If you want to succeed in any industry, professional development is never-ending.

That’s why it’s important to have long-term goals. Your long-term career goals will inform your professional development.

What do you need to learn to get from point A to point B? List these skills down and the different avenues you can take to learn them. These days, there are many ways to learn new hard skills. Here are a few examples:

    • Self-education – With all the resources online, it’s possible to learn things on your own.
    • Mentorship – Find someone more skilled in your office who is willing to provide some hands-on training. 
    • Formal training – You can always try the traditional route of enrolling in a course or training program

Oftentimes, it’s easier to identify hard skills. As you progress in your career though, you’re going to need to work on your soft skills as well.

If it seems too abstract, try connecting with someone who’s achieved a career that you’re interested in. Ask them about the soft skills they needed to use to thrive in their career.

List these soft skills down and reflect. Developing soft skills often starts with self-reflection.

Is there anything you need to work on? Be open to feedback and be open enough to try new strategies and habits at work.

Tip: It’s important to choose a company that values its employees’ professional development and emotional intelligence. These companies often have good mentorship programs and invest in employee training.

hard and soft skills

Each profession will have different qualifications, but each role will require both hard and soft skills. To succeed in this competitive market, it’s important to invest in both types of skills.

Do you value your professional development? If you’re looking for an international company that prioritizes the development of both hard and soft skills, visit The Virtual Hub today.


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