What are Soft Skills?
CareerU with Ryan, Volume II
Welcome to Volume II of CareerU with Ryan! For this series, my goal is to provide an inside-out
perspective on how to be successful both in your career and in life. Each segment of this series will focus
on a “soft skill” that will provide an in-depth look at why and how these interpersonal skills will build,
strengthen and reinforce your career goals and character. I encourage you to share your thoughts and
ask questions as you see fit throughout this series. I embrace any and all commentary and questions you
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
The skills one can possess can be broken down in to two separate groups: soft skills and hard skills. Hard
skills are essential to being effective at specific tasks, and can be learned through practice (i.e. on the job
or in a classroom). Here are a few examples of hard skills:
- Fluency in a foreign language
You can continue to improve these hard skills by taking time to master them, either on your own or with
the help of others (such as taking a class). There are different levels of mastery one can achieve, but
anyone can learn hard skills through the above methods.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are not so easily learned. It has been debated for quite some time that an
individual cannot build their soft skills. As the old motto goes, “you’re either born with it or you’re not.”
This isn’t entirely true: you can learn to master soft skills, but this process is more complicated and more
introspective than mastering hard skills. You must seek out new experiences while building your
We are going to dive deeper into this process in the coming series, where I will provide strategies for
how to improve a wide array of key soft skills. In the meantime, here are a few examples of soft skills:
- Effective communication
In my experience, being a master of soft skills has laid the groundwork for current and future success.
When I first entered the working world, I found I could learn any of the hard skills with practice. Yet, the
soft skills I had been developing for most of my life were what paid off beyond my wildest dreams.
The bottom line: find a balance between a mastery of soft and an array of hard skills. This will ultimately
lead to a better you, and will help you be a more effective team member and leader in any career you
decide to take on.