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Future of Work | 5W1H of Soft Skills (Singapore Edition)

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

You hear soft skills being thrown around whenever you apply for a job, but what do they entail? Learn the 5Ws and 1H of soft skills and how you can package them as marketable assets for prospective employers.

If you are a product of the Singapore education system, it’s likely that you’ve seen your life as checkboxes. The narrative is not all that complicated: achieve all the milestones by society’s definition of success, and claim your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Student Checklist Singapore
Your to-do list could look a little something like this

The end result? A smooth path towards a cushy job. During our parents’ time, this was the holy grail. When it comes to job stability, academic qualifications mean the world’s difference in and of themselves.

In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, that promise has evolved.

It’s not news that graduating from university no longer guarantees a well-paying job. Emphasis has been shifted away from qualifications and towards skills. Local employers are more inclined to hire those with more on-the-job training experience. Even Google has launched its own Google Career Certificates designed for job seekers to break into the industry at a fraction of the cost of a traditional university degree.

The search for better opportunities, and especially to foster a concrete sense of purpose has birthed a new generation of workers who spend less than two years in a position. Previously shunned by employers, this practice of job-hopping is now increasingly embraced as a strategic move that builds resilient and adaptable employees with insights across different industries.

Amidst the constant change, we see the exponential emphasis on the role of soft skills. Before we explore the ‘why’, let’s unpack what soft skills entail.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are interpersonal attributes marked by an individual’s ability to relate and work well with others. Common examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork and leadership.

However, don’t be fooled by its name. There’s nothing “soft” about soft skills at all. The art of mastering human interaction and relationships is a delicate craft; they are amongst some of the toughest abilities to acquire and hone.

In contrast to hard skills, an individual’s soft skill proficiency is a lot more difficult to quantify. Its mastery is not contingent on specific occupations, seniorities or technical capabilities. Rather, they are influenced by an individual’s character. General dispositions such as personality traits, social and communication skills come into play when we evaluate the ease of working harmoniously with another individual.

who needs soft skills

Who needs soft skills?

It’s no surprise here when we say EVERYONE needs soft skills! Also often referred to as interpersonal or people skills, soft skills play a pivotal role in any individual’s career success. One way or another, everyone – whether they are in back-end or client-facing positions – has to interact with others. A strong command of soft skills in the workplace helps to facilitate human connections. Getting along well with co-workers, partners and clients enables employees to thrive individually and professionally in the workplace.

why are soft skills important

Why are soft skills important?

Because employers are looking for it

The importance of soft skills is easily overlooked and dismissed as resume fluff. After all, it’s not exactly highlighting something that we can visibly measure.

But as hiring managers continue to comb through heaps of resumes, soft skills are helping them seek out ideal candidates from adequate ones. A recent survey conducted by NTUC LearningHub found that 65 percent of employers identified soft skills as the top priority for their workforce.

65% of employers identified soft skills as top priority for their workforce

Personality traits such as adaptability and resilience are usually inherent in nature, meaning that they are difficult to teach. Learning or unlearning certain characteristics can be an arduous process. The axiom, “Hire the heart, train the brain,” thus holds particularly true during these turbulent times where resources are limited, and companies hire to meet both immediate operational needs and long term business goals.