The importance of soft skills for future careers

17 Feb 2024
In a world that is rapidly changing due to the accelerating speed and scale of digital transformation, deciding which career path is best for you or how to begin your journey back to work can feel overwhelming. 
The ever-changing job market stimulates creativity and innovation, resulting in an abundance of job opportunities and support for all skill sets.  
The current digital age has shown a desire for quick, experienced and highly organised workers to keep up with demand. However, research by Mckinsey & Company reveals up to 50% of all employees will require some level of reskilling within the next five years to perform effectively in their role.  
The difference between hard and soft skills 
Each person is different, with unique in the skills we can offer, and these skills sit in two categories when it comes to the employment process; hard and soft skills.  
Both hard and soft skills can be learnt and strengthened through experience.  
Hard skills are those that are gained through hands-on experience, training, or education such as maths, writing, reading and the ability to use software programmes, whereas soft skills are personal attributes that enable you to be effective, including leadership, effective communication, creative thinking, time management, motivation and adaptability.  
Hard and soft skills are valuable and can give people an advantage when looking for jobs, and both can be learned and improved to get people where they want to go. 
Bridging the digital skills gap 
The digital skills gap is the divide between the digital skills employers expect employees to have and the skills employees and job seekers possess.  
Based on a survey completed by over 16,000 employers and professionals between April and May 2020, 38% of UK employers say they have all the skills they need to meet their organisational objectives, at 62%, the majority admit their workforce only has some of the skills required or face severe shortages. 
Bridging the digital skills gap is achievable; skills can be adopted and developed - where job seekers and employers can explore new ways of learning and progressing the relevant skills for future success.  
Digital literacy  
Growing up in a technological revolution, digital literacy is second nature to millennials and Gen Z. They can demonstrate the capacity and skill to discover, evaluate, utilise, share, and create content employing information, technologies and the Internet, whereas older generations have had to learn and adapt.  
Digital literacy can be viewed as both a hard and soft skill, where individuals use practical, collaborative and social and cultural skills to work within the digital world.  
A government report states that digital skills are required for around 82% of all jobs in the UK. They are also 29% more expensive than employment that does not require these skills (£37,000 versus £28,000 per year). Despite this, employers were unable to fill one-third of roles last year due to a lack of digital competency. 
Sam Hufton, Founder of Pull The Pin Agency comments “In an age when digital literacy is the norm, it's essential for those starting on a career journey to have those soft skills ingrained to offer a tech-savvy yet personal offering to a new role. .” 
Critical communication 
Communication is an important aspect of digital literacy. The ability to utilise soft skills such as building trust, listening, asking relevant questions and showing respect is crucial when communicating in virtual and real-life situations.  
Those who appear confident online may not feel the same way in person since they have not needed to be physically present in their job, emphasising the importance of soft skills when changing or learning new skills to gain confidence in both the digital and physical worlds. 
The YouGov survey of 2,046 UK workers, commissioned by Microsoft UK, found that 51% of respondents who had the choice to mix remote and office working would consider leaving their company if this flexibility was removed, showing the shifting landscape of physical and digital employment.  
Importance of soft skills 
Although hard skills show employers your knowledge and technical abilities, soft skills demonstrate the ability to engage with others and determination to grow within a workplace. 
Soft skills enable those starting on their career journey or returning to work to build relationships and solve problems, helping to contribute positively to a team or company. For those who are looking to work in customer-facing roles, it impacts customer service and the applicant's ability to display confidence and problem-solving.  
Workplace culture thrives when these skills are implemented throughout a team, creating a positive and happy workplace culture in which employees and employers enjoy being a part of as well as promoting employee well-being.  
How to future-proof your career and skills  
Future-proofing your career and skills is extremely important to prolong determination and drive to get you that dream job or work your way up the career ladder.   
Read some of your favourite books or articles, watch tutorials or take lessons on how to become more tech-savvy, step outside your comfort zone and challenge your skill set, ask for feedback from friends and those you admire, listen, digest and reflect. 

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