How marketers can develop their soft skills
If asked to think about their key skills, it’s natural for marketers to start off with something concrete, like digital marketing abilities, branding skills, campaign management or data analysis. This kind of ‘hard’ skill is very important, but there is another set of abilities that are just as crucial for a successful marketing career.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills a mixture of social and interpersonal skills and personality traits. Much less tangible than hard skills, they are hard to teach and difficult to measure. Although they can be difficult to define, soft skills are critical to moving up the career ladder.
These are the most common types of soft skills:
- Collaboration, including teamwork, conveying a positive attitude, social skills and conflict resolution
- Communication and interpersonal skills, including speaking, listening, selling and persuading
- Problem solving, including critical thinking, creativity, analysis and innovation
- Time management, including punctuality, reliability, organisation, planning and productivity
- Leadership, including motivating others, commitment, trustworthiness, setting and achieving goals
Marketing is a field that relies communication, creativity and many other soft skills, particularly when you progress into a more senior role where you are responsible for managing others.
Why do employers want soft skills?
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92% of UK talent professionals think that soft skills are as or more important than hard skills when hiring, and 82% said they are more important to their company’s success than before.
Businesses are becoming more digital and technology is evolving ever more quickly, meaning hard skills rapidly become outdated. In marketing, computers will handle more and more of our day to day tasks, leaving us to focus on creativity, problem-solving and communicating with our customers. It is increasingly becoming obvious that soft skills are those that drive success.
There are very few roles that work in isolation, particularly not in marketing, and being able to work effectively as a team is very important – research has shown that teams that work well together get more done.
Employers are increasingly coming to recognise that hard skills can be picked up quickly on the job, but they need candidates with soft skills to build their business.
How can you develop your soft skills?
Building soft skills is harder than learning hard skills and takes time to get right but investing that time can definitely be worthwhile. Here are four steps to developing your soft skills:
1. Decide which skills you need to develop
The first stage in building up your soft skills is to decide which areas to prioritise. According to LinkedIn, the soft skills currently most in demand are:
- Time management
You can work our where your current weaknesses are using online tests like these:
2. Dedicate time to improving
Self-development can be hard to justify when you have a lot on your plate and it tends to get constantly neglected in favour of more urgent tasks.
You need to accept that your soft skills will only improve if you take the time and effort to work on them. It’s generally accepted that you can learn nearly anything by practising for around 20 hours, so dedicated just one hour a week to improving your soft skills will quickly pay off.
3. Find resources to help you study
The good news is, there is a wealth of free resources online available to help you practise your soft skills. Podcasts, videos, blogs and online courses are all great ways to learn.
LinkedIn have an excellent list of recommended courses for each item on their list of in-demand skills.
4. Put your skills into practise
It’s all very well building up a theoretical knowledge of soft skills, but to really cement them into your skill set, you need to use them. The key to this is preparation and feedback. For example, if you’re working on your presentation skills, spend a bit of time before a team meeting where you are due to present some results to think of ways in which you could improve your delivery. Then ask your line manager or a colleague to give you some feedback on how you did and how you could improve.