Developing Soft and Hard Skills for Career Growth and Higher Pay

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byKatrina Raenell

Updated: March 22, 2024

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byKatrina Raenell

Updated: March 22, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Having the right blend of soft and hard skills is necessary for the workplace. Soft skills refer to non-technical interpersonal skills, while hard skills are technical and showcase proficiencies and the ability to use certain tools or technologies. By developing your soft and hard skills, you can stand out among your peers, transition into new roles, obtain a higher salary and improve your overall capabilities. Learn the most in-demand skills employees look for, how to develop the right skills and showcase them in job recruitment.


What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills, sometimes called people or workplace skills, are typically general characteristics a person develops through life experiences. These interpersonal skills determine whether an individual fits the company culture and can collaborate effectively with the rest of the team.

Soft skills demonstrate your workplace personality and behavior. Below are some of the most common types of soft skills.


What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills, also known as technical skills, are measurable abilities. They’re specific to a job. Employers use hard skills to determine a person's suitability for a particular position. Technical skills show that a candidate has the practical know-how to accomplish tasks relevant to the job. A person develops hard skills through education or hands-on experience.

Hard skills are proof of what you can do. Here are some examples.


The Differences Between Soft Skills and Hard Skills

Differentiating soft and hard skills is not as complicated as it seems. Generally, you can identify them by how they’re acquired and applied. Soft skills are relevant to personality traits. They’re naturally developed and more universal. Hard skills are technical and learned through education, training or hands-on experience. They’re often job-specific.


Why Is Learning Soft and Hard Skills Essential for Career Success?

Organizations look at hard skills to evaluate candidates' suitability for a job. Soft skills determine if the candidate fits the workplace culture and can effectively interact with other team members. Although hard skills help you qualify for a job, soft skills are necessary for career success. Developing the right blend of soft and hard skills can also help individuals who are restarting their careers or are searching for a job.

The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Whether you’re trying to build your career or seeking a higher salary, having soft skills is a must as it helps you solve problems, build relationships and facilitate growth. According to America Succeeds, employers seek soft skills 3.8 times more frequently than the top five hard skills.


The Importance of Hard Skills in the Workplace

Hard skills showcase your practical know-how. They define your technical expertise and show employers you can do the job.

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Both soft and hard skills are critical for career growth. Use your hard skills to complete your tasks and soft skills for collaborations.

It’s also important to show that you’re willing to improve. Look for ways to learn new skills or develop existing ones. You can participate in training, enroll in courses or pursue certifications for hard skills. Since soft skills are harder to measure, being open to feedback and accepting criticism may help. You can also learn new methods to develop your soft skills through worthwhile courses like communication, leadership and time management.


Most In-Demand Skills for 2024

The most in-demand skills typically vary across organizations. There are specific skills that many employers seek. As a job seeker or employee, you may want to consider learning these skills to help you stand out among your peers. HR practitioners may also use these lists when looking for the right employees.

The Most Valued Soft Skills by Employers

The most essential competencies companies usually look for in employees include soft skills that show their readiness to perform their tasks. According to the Department of Labor, these include networking, enthusiasm, professionalism, communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking.


The Most Valued Hard Skills by Employers

The most in-demand hard skills are those relevant to technical roles, usually in the technology sector. LinkedIn analyzed employers’ most sought-after skills. Based on these, the company created a list of the most desired hard skills in 2023.


Best Ways to Improve Skills for a Career Boost

Having the right skill set can help you secure your dream job. For many employees, improving soft and hard skills can help sustain professional development and get higher pay. For job seekers, taking extra steps to develop their skills can help them stand out and earn the job they want.


Choosing the Right Skills and Upskilling

Upskilling is taking existing skills to the next level. It helps employees increase their value to get hired or promoted. But before you move to upskilling, it’s important to identify the right skills based on your career goals and the job description.


Set your goals

Think about your career plans. What do you want to accomplish? Is it for a promotion, raise or new job? You can specify the right training, courses or certifications based on these. Creating a timeline can also help you stay on track.


Know your strengths and improvement opportunities

Assess yourself and ask for feedback. Determine what you’re good at and areas you need to improve. Then, look for learning opportunities like workshops and classes. You can also check with your employer if they offer programs for employees.


Highlight skills needed to qualify for the job

Consider including the specific job you wish to get when setting your goals. This way, you have a clearer idea of what skills you need to learn and improve. You can also review job postings in your chosen field to see if certain certifications and experience are necessary.

Showcasing Soft and Hard Skills to Help Land a Job

You need to take specific steps before landing a job. Your resume is the first thing recruiters and employers look at to assess you as a candidate. When you land an interview, employers will often use your resume to ask questions specific to your past experiences. To increase your chances of getting hired, make sure you highlight soft and hard skills relevant to the job.

Highlighting Your Skills for Resume Success

One of the most important documents you need to prepare when looking for a job is your resume. It showcases your experience and skills and gives employers an idea of whether you have the right qualifications.

In most cases, candidates list hard skills to showcase their expertise. However, many fail to include their soft skills.

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Your resume should have a skills section. It details all the hard skills that make you a good candidate for the position. It should also include evidence of your soft skills. You should also add examples of instances when your skill helped accomplish your work.

Showing off Skills in a Job Interview

Employers and HR practitioners use job interviews to gauge the abilities and expertise of candidates. Knowing how to show off relevant skills can help you stand out.


Share how your skills can benefit the company

Instead of talking about your different skills, it’s better to let the hiring manager know how you can use them to become a great asset to the company and a good addition to the team.


Use examples

Describe your skills and how you have previously used them to get good results. You can give examples from past jobs.


Provide clear answers

Answer questions clearly. Be respectful and professional. For example, if they ask you about difficulties you have encountered in previous roles, you can start by describing the situation, your tasks, how you came up with your decisions and the skills that helped you take action.


Resources for Soft and Hard Skills

There are many ways to learn and develop skills. Finding the right resources and tools can help you get started.

  • Coursera: Find free and low-cost courses to help you upskill. You can also get certifications for specific courses.
  • Employment and Training Administration: Find government training programs. Find apprenticeship and job opportunities.
  • HubSpot Academy: Access free online courses you can use to learn the most in-demand business skills.
  • Idaho Government: Help young ones plan their future with the help of various online activities suitable for seventh- to 12th-grade students.
  • Jobs for America’s Graduates: JAG is a nonprofit organization that helps empower the youth by assisting them in learning essential skills and providing support to help them succeed in employment.
  • Jobs for the Future: Learn about the different programs JFF offers, including the adult learner success that assists community colleges nationwide to increase training programs and education success rates.
  • Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential: This national initiative by The Annie E. Casey Foundation aims to bring LEAP learning and teach career pathway strategies to various communities. This resource material includes a list of members of the LEAP network across the country.
  • National Mentoring Resource Center: This organization offers multiple technical assistance services, research tools and training sources.
  • Project for Pride in Living: Find free info sessions and programs. Contact a career coach to help you choose the right program.
  • Skills to Pay the Bills: Download this resource created by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and learn about the soft skills that can help you achieve workplace success.
  • Soft Skills Video Series: Watch these videos and understand soft skills and the most common types of soft skills that can help with career growth.
  • Ticket to Work: Find free employment services, career counseling and training opportunities.

About Nathan Paulus

Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.