Soft skills... so what?

Soft Skills

When I was completing my arts degree, I envied friends from other disciplines. My radiography pals knew how to take x-rays of things; my engineering friends technically knew how to build bridges (maybe not single-handedly); and my aspiring accountant buddies could churn out a superb bank reconciliation. Me?  I could write a really good essay…and where was the future value in that?!

Sometimes it can seem hard for graduates to articulate their considerable range and depth of general workplace skills (also known as soft or general workplace skills), so let’s unpack three of the most common soft skills you’ll need to demonstrate during just about any recruitment process and once you secure a job.


There’s no great mystery to problem-solving. It’s the ability to take an unresolved issue and a desired end point (either specific e.g. achieving a sales target, or general e.g. ‘fix it’) and then work out the steps to get from one to the other. You might need to investigate various options, you might change your course of action once or twice, and you’ll probably spend a lot of time toward the end of the project justifying your recommendations or actions. Sound a bit like a college assignment? That’s because you’ve likely solved problems in relation to artificial circumstances numerous times before during the course of your education. In the workplace, the issue may be more multidimensional, the project may compete for attention with other projects, and the timeline may be super-tight – but you’ve got this.


Hands up if you’re just not that into group assignments. You know, there’s a great first meeting where everyone’s enthusiastic, and by the due date, there are one or two committed people pulling an all-nighter to get the work of six people completed…I much preferred having exclusive control of my university assignments – and yet working in teams of smart people with complimentary skills and personalities has been the number one highlight of almost every role I’ve worked in since graduating. You see, in the workplace, projects are more complex than an assignment, and team members’ range of experiences are much more diverse, and as a graduate, you’ll already know how to identify and harness genuine synergy amongst contrasting minds to create truly superior outcomes. Essentially, it’s like problem-solving with quadruple times the brain power.


On almost every day of your career, I guarantee you will be adapting those essay-writing skills you perfected in your tertiary studies to translate important messages into forms that their intended readers can actually understand. As a graduate you have rich potential to readily learn the art and process of writing a concisely worded, well structured email with a clear purpose (usually asking a question or providing an answer), a report with a killer contents page for people who don’t really like reading reports, diagrams that explain things much more efficiently than words can – and importantly, the ability to verbally articulate all the more complex issues underpinning these communications.

When you’re hanging out in college student or new graduate circles, it’s easy to forget that plenty of jobs out there simply involve following an established list of instructions. Graduate jobs aren’t nearly so linear, and regardless of the job-specific skills your role demands, your combined soft skills will prove central to your overall success.

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