Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: Differences and What They Are

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: Differences and What They Are

Clients are looking for professionals who demonstrate a combination of both soft and hard skills. Hard skills are job-specific, technical abilities that can be measured, while soft skills are character traits that show a person’s ability to work in a team.

Highlighting both skill sets on your resume is a winning formula when it comes to finding work and advancing your career.  

This article will help you understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills and how you can impress clients with a well-written resume that showcases both.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are technical competencies gained through education and experience. These are specific skills focused on particular tasks and processes and are essential for setting yourself apart from the competition.

For example, a career as a Digital Marketing Specialist requires hard marketing skills, including Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Campaign Management, and A/B testing.

These hard skills might seem difficult to learn without previous experience, but they are teachable. You can develop them through dedicated training materials, classes, being apprenticed or mentored, or taking entry-level positions.    

Hard skills are job specific and will vary according to your industry, role, and seniority. For many projects, you’ll be required to show a set of related technical skills, usually measured with certifications, diplomas, and tests.

Some examples of hard skills are:

Bilingual or multilingual

In our globalized, interconnected world, the demand for bilingual workers is on the rise, and employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow by 24% from 2020 to 2030. As a result, more professionals are using their ability to communicate across borders to their advantage.

If you already speak more than two foreign languages, this is your sign to start putting your skills into work as a translator or interpreter. English, Chinese, Spanish, and German are some languages you might learn for business.

SEO

SEO is the process of helping a webpage rank higher in organic search results. Considering that search is often the primary traffic source for companies with a digital presence, ranking higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) leads to greater visibility and, in turn, better results.

Today, thousands of professionals are learning the skill and becoming experts in the field. The good news is that learning SEO is accessible to everyone with an internet connection. This Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz is a great place to start.

If SEO sounds like something you could do, read more about becoming an SEO freelancer.

Programming languages

Python, Ruby, Java, C++, and JavaScript are common programming languages used to give instructions to a computer by acting as an intermediary between human language and the language computers use.

Of course, just because computer programming languages are in demand doesn’t mean that you’re expected to know every programming language out there. Clients look for an expert in a particular language, so try to figure out the type of projects you’d like to take on and choose languages in your interest.

If you’re interested in learning a programming language, there’s no better time than now. From video tutorials to local workshops and online courses, there are many ways to learn a new programming language or even get certified.

Cash flow management

Cash flow management is the process of analyzing, tracking, and optimizing what’s coming into and out of a business. That way, companies have more control over their budgets. They can resolve oncoming issues before they cause solvency problems and put the business at risk.

Cash flow is one of the most critical metrics of success for any business, regardless of its size. So, cash flow management is a hard skill highly sought after by entrepreneurs and business owners.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting and proficiency in accounting software can help you get hired by potential clients. If you’ve got the experience it takes, make sure to highlight any certifications and diplomas in your proposal.

Business analysis

Technology has transformed every aspect of how businesses operate. Keeping a company on the right track requires well-versed business analysts to identify business needs, optimize processes and functions, improve the workflow, and introduce new technology.

Business analysis is all about data analysis, statistics, and reporting. This skill investigates bottlenecks and drives recommendations to manage risks and improve performance.

As a business analyst, you’ll be expected to understand testing methodologies, compile and manipulate data on cloud and real-time databases, and report data and findings. Organizations like the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offer certifications in business analysis.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are traits and competencies that are much harder to quantify and a bit more difficult to define than hard skills. Soft skills are often referred to as people skills or interpersonal skills—with reason.

They include personality traits and self-developed attributes that help people work well in a team, lead by example, and adapt well to a company’s culture. Communication skills, teamwork, time management, dependability, active listening, and management skills are considered soft skills, to name just a few.  

When considering the ever-changing business landscape, clients are looking for professionals with high emotional intelligence and advanced soft skills to help them navigate uncertainty.

Some examples of soft skills are:

Creativity

Creativity is the ability to think about a project from different perspectives and provide new or different solutions. Apart from driving better results, creative thinking has far-reaching benefits in both your professional and personal life, such as staying mentally sharp, encouraging problem solving, and improving productivity.

Although creativity is often seen as a gift of nature, it is a competency that can be developed later in life through personal and work experiences—or even dedicated training. Brainstorming, lateral thinking, and mind mapping are some techniques used to trigger creative thinking.

Adaptability

We live in a fast-paced era in which the only constant is change. Being adaptable means learning new skills rapidly, adjusting to changing circumstances, and growing along with the company’s culture.

Flexible professionals also show excellence in project management, which requires you to acclimate yourself to the needs of different team members quickly and effectively.

The past years have shown us how vital it is for companies to be able to respond to unexpected change; adaptability is highly sought after by clients all around the world. Highlighting your remote work experiences in your resume and cover letter shows that you have a positive attitude toward change.

Critical thinking

The ability to address situations in a purposeful and reasoned manner can help you not only get more projects but also thrive in your work. Using critical thinking in your everyday life means analyzing facts and information and adopting data-driven practices to improve performance.

Showcase your critical thinking on your resume and during the interview process by drawing on past work experiences where you handled and resolved problems from a logical and reasoned angle. More than other soft skills, critical thinking can be developed. Learning to question your assumptions, to base your reasoning on data, and to consider outside opinions are all ways to improve critical thinking skills.

Patience

Although often overlooked, patience is a vital soft skill. Patience is the ability to limit fast and thoughtless reactions to a problem. Patient people instead take a step back and consider the situation, giving themselves time to make a rational decision.

From social media marketing and customer support to writing and translating, patience is essential for practically any role and any industry. If you feel that patience is one of your strong points, make sure to highlight it on your resume or refer to it during interview questions.

Flexibility

Change can be scary, but learning to adapt to new work environments is admirable. Flexibility is about being open to new alternatives, searching beyond the first answer, showing a solid work ethic, and confronting change with a positive attitude.

Being flexible shows clients that you’re open to finding the best option for both of you—whether it’s available hours, engagements, or communication tools.

How to include skills on your resume

Although your certifications and diplomas are important for your resume, soft skills can really make a difference when it comes to landing new engagements. Clients increasingly look for freelancers who showcase both skills in tandem, combining job-specific knowledge with interpersonal competencies.

Whether you’re a great team player, have excellent leadership skills, or have a problem-solving attitude toward projects, make sure you show it to clients. When creating or updating your resume and cover letter, consider creating a section that lists relevant skills. When applying to a specific job, make sure that you read the job description thoroughly and choose relevant skills to the work described.

Writing a strong resume is, however, easier said than done. Find out how you can get your resume right.

Next steps

With 71% of hiring managers planning to sustain or increase their use of freelancers in the next six months, freelancing is the answer to skills gaps and the need for specialized talent. .

If you feel ready to start your career as an independent professional, Upwork makes it easy. Prepare your resume and get ready to showcase your skills to clients from all around the world. Learn more about what it takes to succeed as a freelance professional and start looking for freelance jobs today.

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Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: Differences and What They Are
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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