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10 Best Soft Skills to Leverage in a Tough Job Market

As the job market evolves, are you equipped to stand out? Find out which soft skills can enhance your resume and help you thrive in today’s challenging job environment.
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In 2024, where technical know-how is increasingly augmented by automation and AI, soft skills are the human touch that machines can’t replicate. Unlike hard skills, which are specialized abilities gained through training, soft skills encompass the interpersonal and emotional aspects of our character, often innate and not easily teachable.

Simply put, harnessing these skills could help you stand out in your career. We'll explore the top soft skills for an ever-changing job market and why they’re more crucial than ever before. We’ll also outline the steps to highlight your intrinsic soft skills on a resume. Let's go!

10 In-Demand Soft Skills for Job Seekers in 2024

The 2024 job market is shaping up to be uncertain, with layoffs and countless other factors making the job search even more competitive. For job seekers, technical expertise is undeniably important, but the softer aspects like communication, teamwork, and leadership skills distinguish the best candidates from the good ones. Regardless of the role or industry you’re targeting, here are ten soft skills employers want to see in 2024: 

1. Adaptability

Adaptability has become an indispensable soft skill during a time of rapid technological advancements and changing market dynamics. However, it’s more than just adjusting to new situations; it’s about driving and embracing change positively. 

Adaptability reflects your ability to stay flexible and effective in the face of evolving work environments, customer demands, and business strategies. It’s about being open to new ideas, willing to learn and unlearn, and able to pivot strategies when necessary. It shows potential employers that you’re proactive in finding innovative solutions amidst uncertainty, which is especially desirable in fast-paced work environments and leadership roles. 

When illustrating adaptability on your resume or LinkedIn profile, consider including soft skills examples such as:

  • Quickly learning and applying new software or tools to improve work processes
  • Adjusting strategies to meet changing project demands or market trends
  • Successfully leading a team through a transition period, like a merger or organizational restructuring 
  • Demonstrating resilience and maintaining performance during unexpected challenges or setbacks 
  • Proactively seeking feedback and using it to improve your work 

2. Communication Skills

Effective communication is necessary for any team, and the rise in remote/hybrid work environments amplifies this need. Beyond the ability to speak or write clearly, communication involves conveying ideas, information, and emotions appropriately, depending on the audience and situation. 

Strong communicators know how to tailor their message, whether for a team briefing, a client presentation, or a tough feedback round with a direct report. Moreover, they believe in active listening and interpret both spoken words and non-verbal cues, ensuring they understand the other person’s perspectives and needs before making any judgments. 

Here are some examples of how you can express strong communication skills: 

  • Effectively negotiating with clients or team members to reach mutually beneficial outcomes 
  • Delivering engaging and informative presentations or training sessions
  • Writing clear, concise, and persuasive reports or proposals
  • Facilitating team meetings or discussions to ensure everyone’s views are heard and considered
  • Resolving conflicts or misunderstandings through empathetic communication
  • Conveying complex or technical information to an unfamiliar audience in a way they can understand 

3. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (often abbreviated as EQ) refers to how well a working professional recognizes, understands, and manages their emotions and those of others. EQ is crucial in building healthy work relationships and team cohesion, especially throughout challenging times when morale is low. 

Professionals with high emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills can read the emotional climate of their environment and respond based on the needs of their colleagues. Moreover, they’re willing to compromise or make compassionate decisions to resolve conflicts.  

Emotional intelligence is a core soft skill for any role that regularly faces tension, such as managers, HR representatives, and customer-facing roles. You can highlight your EQ in professional settings with the following examples: 

  • Acknowledging your strengths and areas for improvement and actively working on them
  • Recognizing and addressing team morale issues, leading to improved group dynamics and productivity
  • Handling difficult conversations with empathy while ensuring a constructive outcome 
  • Adjusting your communication style to suit different personalities and situations 

4. Collaboration and Teamwork

Unless your role is entirely independent and self-sufficient, it’s essential to show that you can work with others to reach a shared goal, regardless of personal differences or challenges. This involves openly sharing knowledge and feedback, respecting diverse viewpoints, and combining strengths to achieve common objectives. 

Likewise, a team player knows how to leverage a group's collective skills to achieve better results than what could be accomplished individually. Teamwork is ultimately built on trust and the understanding that every member’s contribution, even a small piece, is vital for the group’s overall success. 

You can show your soft skills related to collaboration with examples like: 

  • Successfully collaborating on a project with team members from other departments or backgrounds 
  • Playing a role in a team that consistently meets or exceeds its goals over an extended period
  • Organizing team-building activities that build trust and cooperation among colleagues
  • Mediating and resolving disagreements within a team
  • Proactively sharing expertise and resources with team members to support the overall project and individual development 

5. Problem-Solving

Problem-solving skills involve identifying issues, analyzing situations, and developing effective solutions. While this includes fixing immediate problems, like how to cover a colleague’s responsibilities if they’re absent, the best problem-solvers foresee future challenges and proactively address them before they happen. 

This soft skill is highly valued in any professional setting, as it demonstrates the ability to think critically, make informed decisions based on available information and resources, and maintain composure under challenging circumstances. Moreover, professionals with this skill are often seen as resourceful and innovative thinkers, which opens doors to new opportunities and areas for growth. 

Convey your problem-solving and critical thinking skills with evidence such as:

  • Identifying a recurring issue in your workflow and implementing a creative solution that improves efficiency 
  • Overcoming a significant project hurdle by devising a strategy that balances time constraints with quality outcomes
  • Analyzing customer feedback to identify underlying problems and implementing improvements to products or services
  • Leading a crisis management effort that minimizes impact and guides the team in the face of uncertainty 

6. Dependability 

Recruiting and backfilling a role is a significant investment for any company. It can take weeks, if not months, to review all the applicants, interview them, and come to a decision, not including the time it takes to train and get them up to speed. As a result, you want to show that you’re someone who your team can rely on, regardless of the situation. 

Dependable workers are known for their commitment to their craft and maintaining a steady presence even under pressure. It’s more than just showing up for work; it involves a consistent effort to deliver quality results and a willingness to take on responsibilities that sometimes stretch outside your normal priorities. 

You can show future employers that you’re dependable by communicating examples like: 

  • Consistently meeting expectations and project deadlines
  • Being a go-to person for urgent tasks or critical assignments 
  • Maintaining high-performance standards even during periods of high stress, additional workload, or little oversight 
  • Volunteering to cover for a colleague or taking on more responsibilities during staff shortages 
  • Showing a consistent pattern of attendance and engagement

7. Leadership

While leadership is especially needed in traditional management roles, it applies to any professional setting where collaboration is imperative for success. Leadership embodies the ability to inspire, guide, and influence others, even if that’s as simple as setting a positive example. 

Effective leaders possess a blend of strategic thinking skills, emotional intelligence, and the capacity to make decisive, well-informed decisions. They know when to delegate or take ownership, but they never see any task or responsibility as below them. Moreover, leaders protect their teams and act on their behalf, equipping them with the necessary resources to succeed. 

Here are various ways you can demonstrate your leadership skills:

  • Successfully leading a team to meet or exceed a project’s objectives
  • Mentoring, coaching, or developing colleagues to maximize their potential 
  • Navigating a team through a period of significant change
  • Resolving conflicts within the team or between departments 

8. Creativity and Innovation

Creativity is certainly a major component in the artistic fields, but it also plays a critical role in practically every industry. Being creative means thinking outside conventional boundaries to come up with unique ideas, while innovation is the practical application of these ideas to create new solutions. 

People with these soft skills are valued in the workplace as they challenge the norm, bring a fresh perspective, and drive advancements in ways no one else can. Whether it’s through redesigning workflow for better efficiency or conceptualizing a product that meets a previously unaddressed need, their contributions often lead to significant breakthroughs. 

To illustrate your innovative and creative skills, consider highlighting experiences like: 

  • Spearheading a project to introduce a transformative product or service in your industry
  • Applying unique problem-solving techniques to overcome a major obstacle
  • Championing the adoption of new technologies or methodologies that enhance team productivity 
  • Playing a key role in a campaign or strategy that achieved notable success 

9. Time Management

Time management is an essential skill that enables professionals to organize, plan, and divide their time between specific activities. However, time management isn’t all about work ethic and output. Those who know how to use their time effectively get the most impactful work done in less time and know which priorities are okay to drop or put on hold, even when tight deadlines and pressure is high. In short, time management means working smarter, not harder. 

Professionals with strong time management skills are adept at prioritizing tasks and setting realistic goals for themselves. They can block out distractions but understand the importance of balance, ensuring that workplace demands don’t compromise quality or personal well-being. 

Demonstrate your time management skills by including examples such as:

  • Developing a personal workflow system that optimizes efficiency and minimizes downtime 
  • Maintaining consistent punctuality in professional engagements and showing respect for others’ time 
  • Eliminating bottlenecks or implementing tools that increase productivity for you and your team
  • Knowing when to switch to different tasks and reallocate resources to address pressing or sudden deadlines 
  • Communicating setbacks or fluctuating priorities and planning for adjustments as needed

10. Lifelong Learning

No matter how successful you become in your career, there’s always room to grow and build your skills. A growth mindset enables you to adapt as technologies and industries change, whether that leads to additional education, acquiring new skills or certifications, or simply keeping up with new developments to stay ahead. 

A commitment to lifelong learning demonstrates curiosity, adaptability, and the willingness to grow, which shows employers you’re never complacent and want to improve yourself continually. While this is a soft skill that requires consistent practice, you can showcase your dedication by highlighting experiences such as: 

  • Participating in workshops, seminars, or conferences relevant to your industry
  • Pursuing additional certifications or courses to enhance your professional skill set
  • Regularly reading industry publications or engaging in self-directed learning 
  • Implementing new skills or techniques into your work processes or proposing an upskilling opportunity
  • Actively seeking feedback and using it as a tool for personal and professional growth 

How to Highlight Soft Skills On Your Resume

While it’s relatively common to have a section on a resume that lists technical skills, such as proficiency in programs like Microsoft Office, showcasing examples of soft skills isn’t quite as straightforward. Instead, you want to incorporate these soft skills into your personal brand. Here’s how you can convey your skills on a resume and align with the employer’s expectations: 

Step 1: Understand the Job Demands

There’s a good chance that you possess several soft skills important for the role, but you want to discuss the ones most relevant to your target job mainly. Start by carefully reading the job listing and look for explicit mentions of skills like “teamwork,” “leadership,” or “adaptability,” among others. For instance, a mention of “collaborating with cross-functional teams” can imply the need for strong communication and teamwork skills. 

Next, you want to go beyond the job description. Research the company’s website, social media profiles, and recent news to get a sense of its culture and what it values. For example, a company involved with technology and innovation likely values creativity and problem-solving, whereas a customer service role needs strong communicators and people with high emotional intelligence. 

Step 2: Align Your Soft Skills with Employer Expectations

Based on what you’ve learned about the role and the company, consider your main soft skills that meet the employer’s expectations, particularly for the position level you want. For entry-level roles, employers typically look for candidates who demonstrate a willingness to learn, adaptability, and effective teamwork. 

As you progress to mid-level positions, the focus shifts to skills like project management, advanced communication, and problem-solving. Still, every role and company varies, so you should mainly focus on communicating the soft skills that seem most important based on what you’ve researched. 

Step 3: Justify Your Abilities with Evidence 

Throughout your resume, you probably have sections that delve into your work experience and accomplishments. In these areas, you want to frame your relevant soft skills using keywords in the job listing, as applicant tracking systems typically look for them before progressing to a human recruiter.  

Whenever appropriate, discuss how you’ve used the soft skill and provide as much evidence as possible. For example, if you’re trying to show how you’re an adaptable worker who can navigate sudden changes, include points of previous instances where you’ve demonstrated this capability. 

When refining your resume, try to infuse details, statistics, and quantifiable indicators that further convey your impact, such as how much you decreased your team’s attrition rate because of a series of team-building exercises. While you can’t quite provide exhaustive details or detailed accounts of when you’ve used these soft skills, try to include small mentions to demonstrate you’re a worthy candidate. 

How to Uncover Your Intrinsic Soft Skills with JobTest.org

While articulating your soft skills is incredibly important for career development and progression, identifying these skills isn’t always as straightforward. This is exactly the reason JobTest.org was created—to provide career seekers, changers, or beginners with personalized insights so they can progress to the next step. 

Our career test is designed to reveal your work personality traits as well as the hard and soft skills you naturally excel in. It gives you a detailed report of how you operate in a professional setting, including what you’re good at, as well as how well you fit with different team structures or company cultures. You can use this knowledge for inspiration, including how to communicate your skills to future employers and where you can grow, which can make you a more self-aware candidate throughout your job search. 

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up, we encourage you to think of your soft skills just as critically as your technical abilities. The job market is changing, and more often than not, demonstrating these skills marks you as a well-rounded professional. They tell your story beyond the qualifications and technical expertise listed on your resume, so highlight them with pride and confidence.

For additional information and support, we invite you to take our career assessment and consider meeting with one of our expert career coaches. JobTest.org is here to help you succeed in your next professional chapter. 

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