The skills shortage in many sectors is one of the biggest news stories when it comes to all things job-related. While the focus is usually on technical skills in IT, science, technology and finance, the shortage in soft skills may have a bigger impact.
Communication, decision-making and problem solving, time management and organisation, teamwork, professionalism and leadership: these are often the focus of interviews and can be more crucial to landing a job than anything else. All your technical skills and experience is on your CV anyway.
Obviously, customer-facing roles will be most affected if staff lack the necessary interpersonal skills, but soft skills are important in every industry. For example, manufacturing output could be hampered by staff with insufficient time management and organisational skills. Poor internal communication could also slow down a business or limit the exchange of ideas. Even those in industries that are stereotyped for a lack of social skills, such as science and IT, will struggle if they can’t adequately communicate or sell their ideas to those without the technical know-how.
For many entry-level positions, things like attitude and these softer skills are often more important than any technical knowledge – a company will be much more geared to teach skills internally that related to its own business. However, soft skills are teachable, and increasingly many employers are considering this kind of training. Fewer than 10% believe entry-level starters will be able to make immediate contributions to a business anyway.
The reasoning for the loss of soft skills however is unclear.
Many employers put the blame on schools, colleges and universities for failing to stress their importance when it comes to employability: where it is done, it rarely examined or put into practice regularly. Others suggest that fewer students have taken up part-time work whilst in education where they can develop these skills – in fact, many schools have discouraged it, preferring their pupils to give their studies full attention, although numbers are beginning to go back up. It’s also been claimed that the move towards written forms of communication, both online and also in text messages, has meant verbal communication skills are more poorly developed in some young people.
When you’re looking to change position, evidence and demonstration of your soft skill-set is just as important as your technical skills. It might just be what sets you apart from the competition.