Blog Iris Huisman: Why skills are so important for career success

Technical skills are far more tangible than soft skills, but nonetheless soft skills are crucial for your career. You may believe that there is nothing wrong with your soft skills, and probably you are right. During your life your soft skills have been developed by your environment from birth onwards. However, have you deliberately developed one soft skill more than another? Not always!

We can all agree that to be successful you need to have a minimum number of soft skills to collaborate and communicate properly. During a job interview you will be asked the question at least once: who are you?  Which soft skills make you unique? And if you focus on two or three, why are you better in these skills than your competitors are? You need to come up with really concrete and convincing examples to be able to discuss your skills properly. These examples may come from your group work experience in your studies, but often more revealing examples originate from your extracurricular activities.

During the “Bedrijvendagen” of the TU/e (Wervingsdagen) our student team has asked the recruiters of various companies one critical question: “What type of extracurricular activities are you looking for in future employees?” Although these companies cannot be more different, varying from energy providers through consulting, they all agree on the type of extracurricular activities a future employee should be involved in!

Extracurricular activities

The more technical your study background, the higher the interest of companies if you are the student who has both the technical and social skills! In order to stand out in your field, social skills are the critical factor in being hired or not.

Being successful in social skills is often measured against the experiences you have had during your studies. These experiences include your extracurricular activities, varying from a board year to relevant work experience or volunteering. As you may have experienced, your technical skills are not the most important skills you need to succeed with these activities.  The way you collaborate, come up with creative ideas, and communicate is much more crucial to make an impact in these situations.

Although you may believe that your technical skills are the most important, try to imagine it from the other side. There are more than 100 candidates for the job, all with sufficient technical knowledge to fulfill the job. Will you hire the person with the most technical expertise but with a lack of social skills, or will you hire someone with sufficient technical expertise in combination with excellent social skills? You may believe your task is to be the technical expert with the graphs and charts, but if you are not able to convince others of these outcomes and ideas they will not be adopted by the organization. What is more valuable do you think?

Exactly, soft skills really make the difference! If you want to stand out, you need to come up with examples that describe your unique qualities according to the experiences you have had during your extracurricular activities. Your study will not be so unique anymore, as your competitors will probably have the same or even more technical background than you have. This leads us to the following and concluding question that you should ask yourself:

What makes you unique?