Soft Skills. Transferable Skills. Experience. Everyone always goes on about them. But what are they? Why are they important? and How do you get any?

Soft skills and transferable skills are really interchangeable terms and they refer to skills you need no matter what industry or role you work in and which you can take from job to job, improving as you go.

These are the skills that aren’t obviously taught or tested on in education or job training, but which are needed to be successful in any role;

  • team work,
  • communication,
  • time keeping,
  • the ability to understand and put instructions into action,
  • being able to work within a timescale and to a budget,
  • self-motivation,
  • the ability to seek out further information or help,
  • networking,
  • problem solving,
  • flexibility,
  • decision making,
  • responsibility,
  • creative and reflective thinking
  • good attitude
  • and so many more.

It doesn’t matter if you are a brain surgeon or a baker, an adventurer or artist, waiter or wrestler, if you want to succeed you need to have these skills and others like them.

Although there aren’t any specific classes that can teach you these individual skills, the skills themselves are incorporated into everything that you do, at school, at home and in extra-curricular activities. You have these skills without even realising it; When you turn up on time, when you complete a team project at school, when you plan a charity event, etc. Every day you are developing your soft skills.

Soft skills are so important when you are applying for jobs, because employers can’t teach them to you. Employers can give you opportunities to develop your soft skills and improve your abilities, but you have to be able to demonstrate that you have the basics and the ability to learn from your experiences (another important soft skill.) Your soft skills and experiences also set you apart from all the other candidates who will likely have similar academic qualifications. If you can talk about a time you put your knowledge into action you stand out over someone who has only read about it.

Experience is essential for growing and adding to your soft skills. You can only learn soft skills by doing things. And you can only illustrate your soft skills to employers with examples of when you used them, not lists of qualifications.

Most young people won’t have lots of work examples they can talk about to demonstrate their soft skills, but they can talk about projects they did in school and extra-curricular activities.

The best way to get experience is to volunteer, undertake work experience or get a part-time job. Soft skills are transferrable, what you learnt while you worked in a shop is just as appropriate for working in a hospital, or anywhere else; customer service, communication, responsibility, etc. These are all transferable skills that every employer is looking for. If you can demonstrate that you understand the needed soft skills and have put them into practice already, an employer will know you can do it working for them.

You never stop developing your soft skills and you are never too young to start gaining them. It doesn’t matter where you work, what industry you are involved in, if you are in a company of thousands of staff or are self-employed, or if you’re the highest or lowest paid person in a company, you need soft skills and the experiences that allow you to develop them. Look for and create your own opportunities to gain experience and make yourself stand out in applications and interviews.