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Mastering Essential Skills: A Guide for Career Success

Feb 16, 2024

If you were to browse Handshake, LinkedIn or any similar platform in search of a job or internship, you’d probably notice that there’s one thing that every single employment opportunity requires: skills.

Every job requires at least one skill. Not a groundbreaking observation, I know.

But the need for skills makes me think of how, most of the time, the mind of a student will go blank as they struggle to think about what skills they have that would be worth writing down on their resumes.

So that, in turn, makes me wonder: What exactly counts as a skill? Also, what exactly is a skill?

The conclusion that I came to is that, in the context of the professional world, skills are like tacos! Because they are divided into two main categories: hard and soft.

When you think about skills, you might think of stuff like coding, drawing, or mathematics.

Skills such as these are typically referred to as “hard skills”. They’re usually the kind of skills that help you perform a job on a technical level, to be able to do what you were specifically hired to do. For example, if you apply for an engineering job, then some form of engineering knowledge will be among your arsenal of hard skills, or if you’re hired to teach Spanish then you’d obviously need to possess sufficient knowledge of the Spanish language.

These kinds of skills are often learned from some form of education and are more objective and measurable than soft skills. To give you a better understanding of what I mean, allow me to list a personal example.

A hard skill I usually end up using is my writing skills because, well, I write things. Sometimes it's job-related, like right now, with how I’m writing this piece for the blog. Other times I do it as a hobby, writing stories and organizing important pieces of information I need to keep in mind while writing the stories. Either way, it’s a skill I practice often and one that I hope to constantly improve upon.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are skills that are specific to you as an employee. As such, they are more subjective and personal than hard skills. They’re the kind of skills that help you interact and cooperate with others. They help you manage social interactions and other situations you may encounter in your workspace. A few examples of soft skills include: empathy, teamwork and leadership.

Creative thinking is considered a soft skill and it’s one I have to use quite often as a writer. But of course, this skill is not restricted to my own practices. Plenty of other things will require creative thinking at one point or another. I’m sure there’s plenty of coding problems that need an outside-the-box thinker to solve, and the skill is always needed by people who do marketing.

Sometimes a skill is too complicated to fully fit into one label. For example: Time management can be seen as a hard skill because of the general principles or notions you have to know, like how you should never procrastinate or how you should carefully go over the amount of work your task requires and how much time that will take. But it can also be seen as a soft skill because of how it makes use of a combination of other soft skills, such as your own patience and attention to detail.

In short, hard skills are skills that are gained through some kind of formal training and are measurable, while soft skills are skills that are personal to you and are more subjective. Both skills are important in their own ways and help make you into a capable and respectable employee. I hope that this piece has deepened your understanding of skills and skill types and helps you learn how to define and list your own skills!