Soft and Hard Skills: Finding a Balance

Jul 14, 2023 | Career Advice, Professional Development, Student and Alumni Resources

In today’s competitive job market, it is more important than ever to have a strong set of soft and hard skills. Sometimes, it might feel as though one set of skills is more important than the other, but in reality, both skillsets are equally important to be successful in advancing or changing careers. Hard skills can help you get the job, but soft skills can help you keep it.

What are soft skills compared to hard skills?

Hard skills are the technical knowledge and abilities that you need to perform specific tasks in your job. These skills can only be developed through teaching and learning. For example, if you’re a software engineer, you need to have hard skills like programming languages and software development tools. To get these skills, there is a need for some type of education.

According to LinkedIn, some of the most in-demand hard skills include…

  • Database Management
  • Software Development & Testing 
  • UX Design 
  • Adobe Software Suite 
  • Network Security 
  • SEO/SEM Marketing

Soft skills, on the other hand, are the personal qualities that help you interact effectively with others in the workplace. Most of the time, soft skills are traits that someone already has, but can be just as well developed through personal and professional experience.

Some important soft skills to have developed include…

  • Effective Communication 
  • Teamwork 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Open-mindedness 
  • Adaptability 
  • Organization
soft and hard skills

What are the differences between these skills?

  • Hard skills are teachable and measurable. You can learn hard skills through education, training, or on-the-job experience. They can also be easily quantified, such as by taking a test or demonstrating your proficiency in a particular software program.
  • Soft skills are more difficult to teach and measure. Soft skills are often innate personality traits, but they can also be developed through practice and experience.
  • Hard skills are typically required for specific jobs. For example, a software engineer needs to have hard skills in programming languages and software development tools.
  • Soft skills are more transferable across different jobs. For example, communication skills are important for success in any job, regardless of the industry or specific role.

Why are these skills important?

In today’s job market, employers are increasingly looking for candidates with a strong mix of both skillsets. Current hiring trends suggest that hiring managers across many industries are opting to use skills-based hiring to find the most well suited candidate for their businesses. Skills-based hiring is where employers hire “based on specific skills and competencies instead of education or experience (Arnold 2018; Gallagher 2018),” as stated in the March 2022 research report on Skills-Based Hiring and Older Workers. This hiring paradigm is not slowing down anytime soon and when developing new and old skills, it can be used to your advantage when thinking about advancing or changing your career.

soft and hard skills

How can these soft and hard skills be developed?

  • Take a class or workshop. There are many classes and workshops available that can help you improve both skillsets. Some classes can teach you specific techniques and strategies for improving your communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Other classes can develop hard skills, such as the many certificate programs that DWC offers. (Learn more about them here: Certificate Programs)
  • Read books and articles. There are many books and articles available that can help you learn more about soft skills. These resources can provide you with insights and tips on how to improve your soft skills.
  • Get feedback from others. Ask your friends, family, and colleagues for honest feedback on your soft and hard skills. This feedback can help you identify areas where you can improve.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The best way to improve your soft and hard skills is to practice them regularly. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become using them in the workplace.

By developing your soft and hard skills, you can increase your chances of success in the current job market. Identify the gaps between your soft and hard skills and consider one of DWC’s certificate programs to give you the leverage you might need to advance or change careers!