Soft skills set you up for success in any role, but have traditionally been overlooked and undervalued in favour of experience and industry expertise.
The importance of soft skills in a business environment is now becoming widely understood. Being a subject matter expert is definitely important, but soft skills are crucial to creating career opportunities and opening doors in your career.
What are soft skills, and why do they matter?
Leadership, emotional intelligence, and communication — these are soft skills that affect your professional relationships on a daily basis.
They impact how you collaborate with your teammates and how you’re perceived by your managers. They affect your office culture, and even whether you’re selected for a role in the first place.
“Soft skills are crucial for business success. Two-thirds of jobs are going to be soft skill intensive by 2030,” says Nick Patterson, course director of Deakin University’s Master of IT Leadership.
“Leaders are produced through a number of factors: their experiences and challenges in life and in business, and their willingness to learn and adapt.
“A lot of it can also come down to professional soft skills such as teamwork, communication and critical thinking,” Patterson adds.
Cultivating the right mix of soft skills can make you an attractive candidate and a valuable team member. It can also help you to overcome some of the following common workplace issues to become a better leader.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
In industries such as IT, hard skills and specialist knowledge are crucial to success. This often creates teams with strong opinions and expert know-how, but which lack leadership, direction and collaboration.
“The technical skills are the easier side of things — the elements related to being a professional employee and flourishing in the workplace are much harder,” Patterson explains.
When there are too many cooks in the kitchen — all of whom are certain their approach is the right one — it can be difficult to maintain cohesive teams and meet collaborative goals. Cultivating soft skills such as flexibility, communication and teamwork means everyone can bring their ideas to the table and work together to find the best way forward.
When you’re a specialist subject-matter expert, it can be difficult to see how your individual skillset fits in with an organisation’s overarching goals.
Without a strong connection between your role and how it contributes to your organisation’s mission, it can be hard to identify opportunities for career development and progression.
“In my opinion, we have many people who are good technically but lack the core professional skills and leadership to either get a job or progress up the ladder,” Patterson says.
To prevent tunnel-vision in specialised industries, develop soft skills like leadership, strategy and agility. This can unlock previously overlooked opportunities for career growth and professional development.
Lost in translation
Cultivating highly-specialised skills takes a huge amount of time and effort. Particularly in the IT industry, it can be hard to adapt these hard-earned skills and previous experiences to current and future solutions.
Soft skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving and adaptability can help you leverage your expertise in a range of different contexts.
Combining your expert know-how with the flexibility to apply these soft skills across a range of projects will make you a valuable asset to any organisation.
Deakin University is a world-class university providing future-focused postgraduate courses for ambitious professionals. Deakin is ranked among the world’s best universities, with a reputation for producing highly skilled graduates.