“What’s your major?” is a question many professionals had to answer at some point in their life. And if they responded with anything like History, English, Sociology, etc., they probably got asked what they thought they were going to do after graduating college.
Too often, people in the humanities get questions about the usefulness of their degrees in the real world. The truth is that people with humanities degrees often excel in the professional world.
Why? Because while they might not have learned “hard” skills such as coding or design, they learned plenty of “soft” skills such as listening and critical thinking. In fact, people with good soft skills are often highly sought after employees; they make great freelancers, too! Let’s take a closer at the role—and value—soft skills play in today’s world.
What Are “Soft” Skills?
Soft skills are non-technical skills that can sometimes be difficult to recognize. They are usually skills related to interpersonal relations, critical thinking, teamwork, or motivation. While soft skills are learnable, many of them are related to a person’s personality.
They are usually contrasted with hard skills, which can be learned, such as software coding, bookkeeping, database management, or statistical analysis.
Degrees that develop soft skills often include humanities degrees. Often, these degrees don’t have an immediate application in the professional world the way, say, a computer science degree might. However, students studying these subjects often develop astute critical thinking and writing skills (among others) that can take them very far in their career.
The Changing Economy
Between the 2008 Great Recession and the economic fallout from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the US economy today is much different than it was in previous generations. Today, workers can essentially work from anywhere with an internet connection, while many low-level repetitive jobs are being replaced with automation.
This has greatly led to the rise of the gig economy, with roughly 57 million Americans working independently, contributing about $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. And it turns out that people with soft skills make great freelancers! Freelancers need to be able to listen to their clients and interpret the information they’re given into a finished work product.
What’s more, freelance jobs often require a good deal of creativity. Even if a freelancer is applying a hard skill, it often needs to be applied creatively. This includes common freelance activities like designing a logo or website, or even creatively using stock videos in video projects.
In other words, it’s a soft skill to be able to turn abstract ideas into something concrete and marketable.
Skills That Are Increasing in Value
Whether you’re looking for a new job or you’re a freelancer, there are a number of skills that are increasingly in demand. These include:
- Communication—both written and oral
- Complex problem solving
- Time management
- Creative content development including editing videos, website design, and writing articles.
How to Develop Valuable Soft Skills
There are a number of ways you can develop soft skills. These include:
- Training courses in a variety of soft skills including team collaboration or leadership.
- Join a club or meetup for freelancers or gig workers.
- Tutor local high school or college students
- Sign up to teach a class on a skill sharing website.
- Solve logic puzzles or play word games.
- Write, film, and edit a creative video
Industries With Rising Career Opportunities
Our economy is starting to place more value on jobs that require creativity and problem solving. And that’s what makes developing soft skills so important; they’re entirely transferrable. In other words, the soft skills you develop in one job are applicable across a number of other jobs, activities, and industries.
Some industries where soft skills are highly valued include:
- Marketing & Virtual Content Creation
- Human Resources
- Customer Service
- Software Development (in addition to the actual hard skills needed to build software)
- Project Management
Regardless of the industry you work in or whether you work in-house or as a freelancer, having the right set of soft skills can define how successful you are. Developing and maintaining them requires an on-going effort, one that can pay dividends in the long run.