Soft skills

(Redirected from Soft-skills)

One issue that frequently comes up among college students is soft and hard skills. Students often told me that colleges only teach hard skills (Technical skills) but not soft skills. However, there is confusion about what soft skills really are. Most students told me that soft-skills are communication skills, listening skills, leadership skills and presentation skills but when I asked “Do you really need communication skills to talk to your friends? Who can teach you to be a leader?” Then many of them seemed confused and could not answer.

Basically, soft skills lie in the realms of emotional awareness and control, dedication to self-improvement, empathy with others, awareness in social situations, and the ability to leverage these qualities for effective leadership. Some soft-skills is part of your personality such as optimism, common sense, responsibility, and integrity etc.. Other are skills that you can learn by practice such as empathy, motivation, teamwork, leadership, communication, negotiation, and presentation etc. Your personality in combination with your learned skills is what soft-skills are all about. For example, sometime, you have to be direct by giving order, tell people what to do and sometime you have to be more caring and encourage them on what to do. There is no clear rule about it but “knowing” when you need to be direct and when you should be more caring is what the soft skills is about. The “Knowing when and how” is the soft-skills. This is where many students are not clear because it is an “interpersonal skills” and that is why it is called “soft”.

The question of whether soft skills should be additional part of the training program at university or not. Today most universities training programs are already full with many courses. Changing the program to add more courses on soft skills may not be a good idea. Additionally, soft skills should be developed over time through experience and self-reflection not in lectures or tests. Many soft-skills that can be taught are already included in the training. For example, projects that require teamwork, class presentations, class discussion and participation. There are times when one has to step out in front and lead. And, there are times when one has stay in the background and not get in others paths, which is the essence of delegation and empowerment.

However, it is valuable for the school to support students by providing awareness training sessions so students can understand their strengths and weaknesses, their personality and prepare them to develop their own soft skills. It starts with the individual's recognition of its importance, constantly aware of these skills and many years of practice. So, the key for college is to address the recognition and expanding awareness aspects of its students before they graduate into the working world.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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