Top Soft Skills of 2021

It’s been a rough nearly two years for everyone and the working world has been far from immune to upheavals. Aside from worries about mass resignations and a general mass shuffling of employees and businesses, there has also been a cementing of the importance of some soft skill since 2019 and the emergence of some new ones. While the job market is slanted towards the power of the job seeker in many places (with more jobs out there than people to fill them), it’s still important to be able to put your best foot forward and understand what the employers and businesses need nowadays. So, what were the top soft skills of 2021?

Defining Soft Skills

Before we look at the top soft skills of the year, it’s important to understand what soft skills are. Soft skills are interpersonal skills, usually tied to your personality and character. They are ones that you use all the time, with varying degrees of success, and usually without even thinking about it. Examples of soft skills include:

  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Time management

They are things which are harder to quantify and train, but everyone has to different degrees and so can showcase in many aspects of their lives. For example, if you are mediating between two quarreling friends, you are using conflict management and communication skills. If you’re creating a new recipe for a cake, you’re using creativity (and probably some time management!)

Soft skills are important to employers because they help their employees do a good job, manage multiple tasks, and help the business expand. They are helpful for employees because it gives them an edge on the competition and can be pulled from all different positions and life experiences.

Soft skills have always been important on the job, but with the pandemic upending a lot of the norms in the workplace and the rise of automation, cloud computing, and technology, they’ve become even more important.

Most Important Soft Skills of 2021

Recruiters may be pulling their hair out over hiring at the moment, but they still have a list of things they need from their candidates. These include, of course, a top list of soft skills to fit with the new and upcoming trends in work. Which ones stand out to recruiters and employers?

  • Creativity: Creativity has been important for a while now, and then with Covid, it got even more imperative to be able to use creativity to handle new challenges and come up with new ideas for how to do things or make things work better. In this case, creativity is geared towards problem solving, particularly when faced with new challenges or situations. Covid proved just how fragile ‘the way things have always been done’ actually is.
  • Communication: Communication has always been important and now firmly encapsulates digital literacy. Being able to handle email, video chats, phone conferences and text chats is critical at a time when face to face communication isn’t always possible. Even things like understanding emojis and text tone is important now since many people are using texting and chat functions to communicate.
  • Time Management: Time management has always been important, but the rise to remote work has made it even more important. Right away, employers were worried that moving to remote work would make their people less productive (this was largely proven false as most employees were just as productive, if not more). And if this included you, definitely flaunt it in your resume and interview. Time management means being able to handle a schedule (or create your own) and block out your time to be productive. We do time management all the time in our lives!
  • A mindset for growth: this mostly means being willing and able to grow and adapt in a position – having a mindset of learning and keeping up with changes. While some people tie it to constantly moving up the corporate ladder (and it can be), I’d look at it more as a willingness to learn new things, update your existing skills, and shed things that aren’t working for you.
  • Emotional intelligence: This is the ability to respond to your emotions in a positive away as well as the emotions of those around you. Emotional intelligence didn’t used to matter as much to employers really, but covid brought out all sorts of negative emotions like grief, stress, frustration, and loss, so being able to navigate that and help others with compassion became even more important.
  • Teamwork: Working with others has always been important and now it’s important to be able to do it remotely. Showing your ability to work well with others can be as easy as supporting each other over text, trusting others, and give and accept ideas. This also covers the importance of active listening (even over remote work).
  • Leadership skills: Leadership skills basically cover all of these and then moves beyond where you weld them together to help lead a few people, a team, or a large group to success. If you’ve been in charge of big projects before, make sure to lean into that and show case the successes.

Looking at the list and panicking? Don’t worry! The great thing about soft skills is they can come from anywhere and you can start proving how well you can do them right from the interview.

For example, most of these soft skills, you’ve probably done in other jobs (no matter what the job was). If you’ve worked in fast food for example, you have definitely done time management to make sure everything is cooked and goes out quickly and properly, plus communication and teamwork. If you’ve worked in an office, you’ve done all of these. If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent, you’ve utilized time management, emotional intelligence (you try helping a toddler regulate their emotions successfully and then come back and tell me that it’s not an example of EQ), and communication. The trick is to take these skills and think outside the box as necessary. The other trick is to showcase them in the interview:

  • Talk about your achievements and why they are something you’re proud of
  • Talk about a difficult situation and how you resolved it
  • Talk about one of your passions and how you could turn it to help the company you are applying to (As relevant of course)
  • Talk about things you want to learn how to do and how working for that company will benefit you and the company.

Soft skills won’t land you the job by themselves – you still need to have the relevant credentials, hard (technical) skills, and often the education, but they can make you better stand out in a crowd and can be taken with you to any job or environment. It’s definitely worth doing up a list of the soft skills you’ve picked up and honed, in your time on earth and get ready to showcase them alongside your education and credentials.

Which soft skill are you proudest of having?

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