By Aadil F.

Manager – Communications, Branding & Volunteer Development

Recently, I was invited to TEDxNUV, an independently organized TED event at the Navrachana University in Vadodara. I had the pleasure of interacting with young students who are working day in and day out to pursue professional courses. They all are focused towards learning one thing or another. Undeniably, they are loaded and overloaded working towards coping with the work pressure and generating results that earn them better scores, promotions, and appreciations. 

They are learning so much and each of these learning has its own value. Each one of them is learning what’s taught in the classroom with the education that is confined to black and white textbooks. They are very focused on the hard-skills which give them assurance of getting good jobs and money. When asked about the soft skills and its importance, they didn’t have much to say. They weren’t aware of skills such as critical thinking, empathy, communication, emotional intelligence etc. 

During my interaction with students, I realized that we’re so inclined towards learning to memorize the concepts, definition, and theories, we forget that the world beyond us has so much more to offer. The learning which we can have if we focus on soft skills can change the way we see the world and the people around us. 

Like every other Indian student, I wasn’t much into “soft skills” or even realized or gave importance to them, but over time working with AFS, an international educational organization, I learned the value of soft skills. I learned that to excel in life or work, we all need to put our energy towards honing soft skills as much as other technical skills. They must be given equal significance. 

If we are able to communicate effectively keeping in mind various styles & tones of communication; if we are self-aware and responsible towards our own action; if we’re empathetic with deeper concern and sensitivity to others; or our decisiveness and flexibility helps us resolve conflict and problems or be open-minded with more tolerance, we have an upper hand towards being more efficient and productive. If we start to practice soft skills in daily life, the results would vary – you’d see the change in the way you tackle challenges and scenarios around you. Your outlook towards each of your way of strategizing work or your life will take a drastic change. 

Imagine a person who started to work in an environment where he has to deal with people from diverse backgrounds. He might have gained a lot of technical skills over time in school or universities or experiences he gained working, but if he doesn’t have the soft skills of communication, the sensitivity of others, emotional intelligence or approachability, he won’t be able to do his job effectively. His technical skills won’t be enough to bring desired results. If he wants to excel in his career and connect with people, he must hone the soft skills which would make him different from others and will give him advantage. Anyone can land a great job with technical skills, but it is soft skills that can get you better promotions, great appreciation, and success in any section of life. 

In 2013, Google decided to do a research titled Project Oxygen on the skills that matter most to its employee success where they used data of hiring, firing, and promotion since 1998 and the result was shocking. It concludes that seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills such as communication, listening, empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving etc. where STEM expertise came last in the list. Another research by Google named Project Aristotle also brings the same result which supports the need of soft-skills in high-tech environments. As per the research, the best team at Google have soft skills such as equality, empathy, emotional intelligence etc. and many more. 

There is an exhaustive list of soft skills that one can excel by learning. Perhaps, one needs to get out of their comfort zone or learn by experiencing, but if you are able to do the same, you’ll have a better success rate and you will be a better human being. 

Personally, I learned the value of soft skills when I started to travel – within India and abroad. Being in a different cultural setting, interacting with people, understanding their values and acknowledging the differences made me value the importance of soft skills. 

So today, I urge all of you to look at your learning. Evaluate it. Think whether having technical skills is enough or not. Do you need more of soft skills to create a better version of yourself or to move forward and be better than others? If your answer is yes, then find ways to teach yourself these soft skills because future belongs to those who have soft skills.