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Soft-Skills for Employability by Yusuf Mehdi

Soft-Skills for Employability by Yusuf Mehdi

Soft-Skills have been described in dictionaries as the “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Soft-skills are a combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, and emotional intelligence quotient among others that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.”

These are the desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude. (Collins English Dictionary). In simple terms – one’s ability to get initial employment, maintain employment, and obtain a new employment if required.

According to Prof. Mantz Yorke,

“A set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.”

Professor Mantz Yorke (2004), ‘Employability in Higher Education: what it is – what it is not,’ Higher Education Academy/ESECT

In the past, Businesses and Academic Institutions focussed on Hard Skills which may be described as the specific teachable abilities that can be measured and which are job specific e.g. math skills, accounting abilities, etc. These technical skills are certainly important but what really separate a superstar employee from an ordinary one are the intangibles. Intangibles are the things like motivation, showing up on time (punctuality), being dependable, working hard, and getting along with co-workers – even when they don’t agree. These intangibles are the Soft-Skills, or the Employability Skills. Most of the companies today make their hiring decisions on the basis of soft – skills. Soft-Skills are not job specific, these are general skills. These intangibles certainly improve productivity no matter what industry one works in. People who have these skills are well adjusted individuals. For instance, even a lot of knowledge can’t help sustain a job if one comes late and goes early. In the competitive hiring environment, employers are asking and looking for certain soft skills to establish the most suitable people for the role. While technical and experience-specific skills still very much have a place in the mind of a hiring manager, soft skills give candidates an edge and show potential employers the social and cultural benefits they would also bring to their new role and company.


Some of the Universal soft-skills include:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Self-Presentation Skills
  3. Multi-Tasking Skills
  4. Positive Attitude/Motivation/Energetic
  5. Self-Confidence
  6. Leadership/Management Skills
  7. Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness
  8. Loyalty
  9. Professionalism
  10. Willingness to Learn
  11. Customer Service Skills
  12. Common Sense

In a workplace, most compliments will deal with the use of soft – skills than the actual knowledge about a particular situation. Customers appreciate a “willingness to help” or the fact that you “listened to my complaint.” Soft – Skills make you stand out of the crowd. Soft – Skills are the most difficult things to teach and the most common reasons for hiring or not hiring. These intangibles are increasingly becoming the integral part of today’s work place. Being highly trained in technical skills is certainly important but what is more important is developing the softer, interpersonal and relationship-building skills that help people to communicate and collaborate effectively.

These people skills are more critical than ever as organizations struggle to find meaningful ways to remain competitive and be productive. Teamwork, leadership, and communication are underpinned by soft skills development. Since each is an essential element for organizational and personal success, developing these skills is very important and does matter…a lot!

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Prof. Yusuf Mehdi is a Cambridge University certified English Language Teacher.
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