For years I would cringe when I heard the term “soft skills.” The skills that make you an effective leader and great teammate are critical and calling them “soft” seemed to downplay their importance.
However, as I sit here under a soft blanket that keeps me warm and productive, and up against a soft pillow that offers comfort and support, I can tell you that yes, “soft skills” is exactly the right term. The workplace needs soft, the world needs soft, and we need to shout your soft skills out from the rooftops — and on your resume.
“Hard skills” or “technical skills” might include skills learned in a classroom like coding, business analytics, financial modeling or database management. For some jobs, to succeed you need to already have these skills or be able to learn them quickly.
“Soft skills,” on the other hand, can sometimes be considered innate personality traits, like being adaptable, curious or creative. Soft skills can also include learned behaviors that you hone over time like teamwork, leadership or communication.
Now imagine a workplace devoid of those soft skills.
Does it look a little robotic and unwelcoming? Are you concerned about how you’re going to interact with your boss, clients, or teammates? Sweating about customer retention?
Soft skills matter. They build culture, drive revenue,and keep the workplace rolling.
So with that in mind, grab a resume template here, then follow along to update your resume and make sure your soft skills shine.
Here’s a secret — if you have a job posting in front of you, it’s like having the keys to the castle. Understanding what problems a company is trying to solve when hiring for this role helps you to frame your soft skills in a way that will have the employer jumping out of their seat to call you.
Pull up a job posting you are interested in and copy and paste it into a blank document. Now, go through the posting and highlight the “hard skills” mentioned such as knowledge of specific tools or programs. Next, grab another color and highlight the “soft skills” noted in the posting. You’re going to find a lot of them! Communication, collaboration, working independently, time management, detail orientation, etc. are all soft skills.
Think about how your skills, traits, and abilities line up and use the company’s language to communicate them.
You could start your resume by launching right into your experience, but why let a list of jobs dictate the narrative of your career? Instead, show off your soft skills — the ones you know the company values because they told you in the posting — by drafting a resume introduction that highlights what makes you unique.
Here’s an example:
Creative and mission-driven project manager with a proven track record of driving client satisfaction and retention. Recognized as a go-to resource for scoping and executing on complex projects for major accounts, improving processes and training team members to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
The skills section of the resume isn’t just to tell future employers you are proficient in Microsoft Word.
If there are technical skills required for the role, then it does make sense to include those skills within your skills section so they pop out as keywords to the reader. However, your soft skills can show up here too because those keywords could be just as valuable.
Look at the job description again and focus on the top qualifications and responsibilities. Is the employer looking for someone who can collaborate across teams well and that just screams “You!”? Then, “cross-functional collaboration” belongs in your skills section to call it out.
Does your resume currently have a list of responsibilities under each job title? If so, we need to adjust it so that your soft skills (and your hard skills) are highlighted.
Try this. For each role, think about what Problems you solved, Action you took to solve those problems, and the Results of your action. Each bullet point you list should include these factors and in doing so you’re going to show how your soft skills make an impact.
Here’s an example:
Increased employee retention by 50% by coaching and mentoring associates to take on stretch assignments and grow into leadership roles across the organization.
So often people will discount their volunteer work and leave it off their resumes. However, unpaid work can also be an important aspect of your professional portfolio.
The soft skills you deploy in volunteer roles can help you to transition into a new paid position that requires strong communication skills, active listening, or team management. Use the same PAR statement framework noted above when describing your volunteer work so that your transferable skills stand out.
Feeling stuck? Pull up this list of 48 transferable skills to remind you of all the awesome you have to offer. Then, come back to these steps and let your resume do the talking.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Becca Carnahan is a career coach, author, and mom from Massachusetts. As the founder and CEO of Next Chapter Careers, LLC, she specializes in helping women and moms make big career changes to find more joy and fulfillment at work. Signup for her weekly newsletter and access free career resources at beccacarnahan.com.
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