What the heck is a “soft” skill?? I don’t hate easily, but I really, really don’t like the term “soft skills”. What is “soft” about these skills? Soft indicates mushy and yielding. While these terms aren’t deemed as unpleasant, in the professional workplace we assign them a negative connotation.

So I’m proposing we call them key skills, or core skills or better yet – essential skills.

Essential means extremely important, necessary and fundamental. Isn’t this what you want to bring to your professional role – things that are essential for success? As a hiring manager, don’t you want prospects that have skills that could be viewed as fundamental to the role? They are so much more than just “soft”!

So as we start looking ahead to the 2022 job market and how workspaces are changing, we need to look to see what employers will be looking for. According to a McKinsey report, essential [“soft”] skills are progressively in demand in the contemporary job market and its demand will continue to increase till 2030. 

Our professional environments are not static – they are flexible and dynamic. And there is an increasing need for our skill sets to do the same! So here are the seven most in-demand essential skills that employers will be looking for in 2022 (and beyond).

1. Empathy, Emotional Intelligence & Emotional Quotient (EQ)

The last few years have shown us that the ability to understand, use, and manage emotions in the workplace is critical to a productive working environment. This includes giving feedback, having difficult conversation and the general ability to manage emotions in a positive way. Those who show high levels of EQ help their team to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, and overcome challenges. While this skill used to be seen as only essential for human resource or people operations roles, it’s now deemed fundamental for leaders and other team roles. 

2. Growth Mindset & Adaptability

Growth vs. Fixed mindset conversations have become more “trendy” in the last few years. It is a newer way of describing the way an employee will view challenges and setbacks. Employers are looking for employees that understand that skill sets and abilities aren’t “fixed”, they are adaptable and can evolve. Skills and abilities can be learned over time and improve with practice and support. This is a growth mindset, and you can change yours to become more adaptable in the workplace!

3. Learning Abilities, Professional Development & Active Learning

One of the culture commandments here at ALV Coaching is “be a perpetual student”. While this feels similar to growth mindset and adaptability, they aren’t quite the same, but they are connected! In order to be an active learner, you typically need to have a growth mindset. You also have to set yourself up to be ready, willing and able to learn. Many of us want to continue to learn, but are self-defeating. We are busy criticizing ourselves! We should instead set up an environment where we can learn, create opportunities to develop, and tame our inner critic.

4. Superior Communications Skills

I feel like this one should be a given…all the time. The ability to communicate verbally, non-verbally, in presentations, and in writing seems like common sense. This is the case both personally and professionally. However, this skill is often overlooked until we realize it isn’t there. Key components to having effective communications skills is the ability to craft a message, deliver that message, and have the listener understand. This means you have to find out how your audience best takes in information so that you can craft your message for maximum clarity. 

5. Critical Thinking, Analysis & Creative Problem Solving

Figuring out the “how” for something is important to being able to create the overall strategy. Being able to take the how and translate it into actionable steps takes critical thinking and creative problem solving. Organizations are looking for team members who can identify the challenges and the solutions as seamlessly as possible. Those who excel here typically can recognize mistakes, own them and learn from them. This isn’t always about knowing what to do immediately. It’s about knowing how to find the information and making it usable! 

6. Ethical Responsibility & Integrity

You may be asking yourself, ”why is this deemed ‘essential’?” Ethics cover a few different areas in the workplace. It can be your personal ethics, the organization’s social responsibility and the integrity of those you are working with and for. Companies are increasingly looking at the whole person when they evaluate a prospective employee.

This seemingly abstract quality manifests in many ways that can have a significant effect on productivity and perception in the workplace. A person who has an ethical mind will ask “what kind of a person do I want to be? What kind of people do I want to serve and how? If many adopted this perspective, what would my job, my organization and the world be like?” These types of questions support a team that is willing to go the extra mile to support excellence for themselves, their colleagues, their clients and the environment at large. (Read more about optimizing your professional life through your personal one, here.)

7. People & Interpersonal Skills

“People” skills is like a catch-all for the characteristics of working together harmoniously that don’t fit into any of the categories above! Can you build and maintain effective, productive relationships? Are you able to give and receive feedback successfully? Do you build trust and accountability within the team? Can you respect differences in opinion, culture or behaviors? A skill common to answering ‘yes’ to all these questions is active listening. If you can master this, answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then you possess the people skills that employers are looking for!

So if your personal brand doesn’t include these essential skills, it’s time to start developing them. You can look for opportunities inside and outside your workplace to start learning, practicing and putting these skills to work! As you evolve, be sure to document your progress so that you can show prospective employers that you have what they need to contribute, provide impact and value in 2022.

Need help identifying where your essential skills gap is? Reach out to one of our Relationship Specialists for a complimentary consultation to be matched with a coach who can help you develop and hone these skills.

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Shari Santoriello

Welcome! I’m Shari Santoriello, a Career Specialist with Ama La Vida and I am as happy as you are to be here! I am a native New Yorker who resides on the beautiful north shore of eastern Long Island. I am a 25-year career veteran who has had success in marketing communications and a ten-year career teaching at the college level. Read my whole story here.