Employers today are looking for a wide variety of skills within their applicants. With that, landing a job has become increasingly difficult for young adults. To help with the job-search process, it’s beneficial to think about how your past experiences have helped you form different hard and soft skills. Applying these skills within your job application, resume or interview will make you a more valuable candidate for a position. 

What exactly is the difference between hard and soft skills? Hard skills are usually tangible. Think about the things you’ve acquired through training and education. This could be knowing Microsoft Excel, having Adobe Photoshop experience, or writing articles. In contrast, soft skills are the more intangible and interpersonal abilities that you develop over time. They’re also cognitive and personality trait-based. Examples of soft skills include being empathetic, collaborating well with others and having creativity. 

In-demand hard and soft skills

In general, many employers want similar qualities within their applicants. However, keep in mind that hard skills can differ based on what specific career field you are looking at. 

According to a 2020 LinkedIn survey, in-demand hard skills include video production, scientific computing, sales, affiliate marketing, business analysis, artificial intelligence, analytical reasoning, cloud computing and blockchain. This list is specific, so if needed, think generally about experience with technological programs besides Excel, technical knowledge for a company’s products and services, data analysis and reasoning, and adapting to new digital programs. Since many companies are implementing digital products and mechanisms, experience in those areas is valuable. Again, wanted hard skills can differ based on the career field you’re looking at but the main point remains the same: These types of skills show that you are qualified for the position.

Soft skills are important for your long term success within any job, and these can help set you apart further from your coworkers or other job candidates. From the same LinkedIn survey, some of the most wanted soft skills include persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, emotional intelligence and creativity. Creativity especially is highly valued by most employers, so their employees can help create new solutions for the company. 

How to improve and build on both hard and soft skills

Developing hard and soft skills can feel very overwhelming, as employers expect a lot from their applicants. Because of that, we created some tips on how to get started.

For hard skills specifically, it’s important to do your research. Look up what employers are looking for and focus on what is specific to your job field. A good place to start for this type of research is job postings and descriptions, along with career articles. 

After you’ve done your research on what is valuable to employers, take classes to develop these skills. Even if it’s just an online seminar, doing this shows your commitment to learn and grow. Many universities offer free seminars for students, otherwise LinkedIn, YouTube, Skillshare and clubs may be some places to look at to get more information. If you’re stuck, reach out to a counselor or someone who is in the field you’re interested in. This not only builds your network, but they often are willing to share their ideas and connections to help you get started.

Soft skills are harder to develop. Since they are interpersonally-based, learning these skills often comes with the motivation to do so. With that, starting often begins with having the want to learn, being able to self reflect, and being open to criticism. It’s important to have the self-awareness of what you are good at already, and what are things you can work on. To help, you can ask your coworkers, old bosses, friends, or family what soft skills you possess. 

Besides having the motivation to learn, there are more tangible ways to show that you’ve focused on developing soft skills. Think about taking management or leadership classes and seminars, even if it’s outside your major. These classes often teach you ways to collaborate and understand others. Other college-specific activities to do to develop soft skills include being an RA, being a tour guide, being a TA, having a leadership position within a club, or entrepreneurship. Some of these positions will make it easier to help you define the soft skills you possess. 

How to make the hard and soft skills you’ve learned in college transferable to a job position 

Now that you’ve developed hard and soft skills, it’s important to be able to present them to a job recruiter or employer. Hard and soft skills are supposed to be transferable to a specific job position, as they create the foundation of how you work. These are the skills you rely on to complete a task. Some examples of transferable skills, that incorporate hard and soft skills, include: Writing effectively with good grammar, communicating clearly, good project and time management, good collaboration and leadership abilities, knowing the basics of certain software, and using social media effectively. 

Hopefully, you can see how the hard and soft skills you’ve learned can transfer to job positions. To make these transferable skills known on your application or within your interview, it may be helpful to think about your past experiences. Look back on times where you had to work in a team, juggle different projects at once, and complete things by hard deadlines. Thinking about these instances can help you identify what hard and soft skills you’ve learned, and it can give you a place to start on how these can be applied to a specific position. From there, you can include these skills on a cover letter, resume, or an interview.