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Life After College: Highlighting Your Soft Skills

Highlighting Your Soft Skills
"Soft skills get little respect, but will make or break your career."  -Peggy Klaus

Improve Your Soft Skills

Pick a Skill and Practice it Consistently 

You can improve any soft skill if you make it a practice. Choose a soft skill you would like to improve, and practice it consistently. For example, you can practice dependability both on the job and at home by improving your punctuality by showing up on time or early.

Observe and Mimic Soft Skills You See in Others

It is likely that you know or work with someone who has strengths in various soft skills. Observe the soft skills others practice and incorporate them into your own daily routine. For example, if you notice your coworker often writes down notes when others are talking during meetings, and this helps them organize their thoughts and prepare follow-up questions, incorporate active listening (and jotting down notes to stay organized and focused) into your own life and work. 

Set Milestones to Improve Your Soft Skills

Set specific and measurable goals by carefully reading your performance reviews at work or asking others for constructive criticism. This can help you identify areas of improvement and areas of strength to highlight on your resume and in interviews. Prioritize the soft skills to work on based on skills needed for your current job or advancement. 

Find Resources to Help You Learn

Find outside resources to help you improve your soft skills. These can include books, podcasts, online articles, and more. Try out a few different types of resources and see which ones are best for your learning style. 

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What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are the skills that enable you to fit in at a workplace. They include your personality, attitude, flexibility, motivation, and manners. Soft skills are different from hard skills (also called technical skills), and soft skills are harder to quantify and are more subjective. 

A hard skill, for example, is the ability to operate a certain equipment or piece of technology, while a soft skill would be the ability to communicate effectively with coworkers and clients. 

All jobs require you to have some soft skills because all jobs require you to interact with someone at some time (no job is 100% isolated). Soft skills are harder to teach than hard skills, but are extremely valuable to employers. 

Types of Soft Skills


Soft Skills within communication are important in every job. Communication happens between you and clients, customers, colleagues, employers, and more, and comes in the form of in person, phone, and written communication. 

Communication Skills Include: 

  • Listening
  • Negotiation 
  • Nonverbal Communication 
  • Persuasion
  • Presentation 
  • Public Speaking
  • Reading Body Language
  • Verbal Communication 
  • Visual Communication
  • Writing Reports and Proposals
  • Writing Skills

Critical Thinking 

No matter the job, being able to think critically is important and essential. Throughout your career, you will need to be able to understand problems, think critically, and devise solutions. 

Critical Thinking Skills Include: 

  • Adaptability 
  • Creativity 
  • Critical Observation 
  • Critical Thinking 
  • Desire to Learn 
  • Flexibility 
  • Innovation
  • Logical Thinking 
  • Problem Solving
  • Research 
  • Thinking Outside the Box
  • Troubleshooting 
  • Willingness to Learn 


While not every job is a managerial position, but every job has the opportunity to let you be a leader. Leadership means stepping up to the plate in difficult situations and helping to resolve issues and problems. 

Leadership Skills Include: 

  • Conflict Management & Conflict Resolution 
  • Decision Resolution 
  • Delegation 
  • Dispute Resolution 
  • Facilitation 
  • Leadership
  • Management 
  • Mentoring
  • Successful Coaching
  • Supervising 

Positive Attitude 

Positive attitudes in the workplace is something everyone wants. Being friendly to others, eager to work, and generally a pleasure to be around makes you an asset to your workplace. 

Positive Attitude Skills Include: 

  • Confidence
  • Cooperation 
  • Courtesy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Friendliness
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Respectfulness


Whether you will be doing a lot of team projects or simply attending workplace meetings, you need to be able to work effectively with those around you. 

Teamwork Skills Include: 

  • Accepting Feedback
  • Collaboration
  • Customer Service
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Empathy 
  • Establishing Interpersonal Relationships 
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Networking 
  • Persuasion 
  • Social Skills
  • Teamwork

Work Ethic

Having a strong work ethic will get you far in your job. Having a strong work ethic means you come to work on time, complete tasks in a timely manner, and stay focused and organized. 

Work Ethic Skills Include: 

  • Attentiveness 
  • Business Ethics
  • Competitiveness
  • Dedication 
  • Dependability 
  • Independence
  • Motivation
  • Multitasking
  • Organization 
  • Persistence
  • Planning
  • Punctuality
  • Self-Directed 
  • Strategic Planning
  • Time Management
  • Working Well Under Pressure

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