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Get ahead with soft skills

As part of Learning at work week, we're talking all things soft skills: what are they, why are they important and how FutureLearn can help you develop them.

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This week is learning at work week in the UK. But making sure you have the right professional skills is important wherever you’re based. So how good are your soft skills?

These aren’t the specialist skills required in your role that you might already have (for example coding or writing) these are skills that are often missed by most of the working population. Despite the fact that employers are looking for them.

What are soft skills?

‘Soft’ skills, sometimes known as ‘transferable skills’, can be quite hard to define. But generally soft skills refers to a group of skills that help you work successfully with other people. Common examples of soft skills are communication, leadership and collaboration.

They are usually contrasted with ‘hard’ skills which are more technical skills, like knowing how to wire a plug, write code or drive a car.

Why are they important?

For two reasons. The first is that you need hard AND soft skills to succeed. Let’s use the example of writing code. Imagine you’re hired as a programmer. You’ve built a web page, but when you show your team the page they don’t seem to understand it and when you explain  your language is confusing and you forget things. They choose to remove the page. With better communication skills you could have helped your team understand, with collaboration skills they would have already been on board with your project.

In a globalised world you might end up working with a huge range of people, being able to communicate and work with them is vital.

The second reason is a changing job market. The advance of automation means that soon machines might well be capable of more and more technical or ‘hard’ skills. But we still can’t teach a computer how to collaborate or show leadership – having soft skills like being able to negotiate well or motivate others means even in a digital world you can add value to a company.

How can you improve your soft skills?

We’re here to help. So far over 300,000 learners have joined our most popular ‘soft skills’ courses. To make it easy we’ve grouped them together, along with some extra information about soft skills, so you can easily find which skill you want to improve.

We’re also going to be sharing more advice this week about how we’re improving our soft skills at FutureLearn, so keep an eye out!

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