In school and in the workplace an individual’s abilities are grouped into the general categories of soft skills vs hard skills. Let’s look at the difference between these two skill sets.
Soft Skills vs Hard Skills Examples
Hard skills are learned through school or on-the-job training. These skills are specific to a particular job. For example:
- A hard skill for a cashier is using a cash register.
- A hard skill for a teacher would be lesson planning.
- A hard skill for an electrician would be the ability to use specialized tools and machines.
Every job requires an individual to have a particular set of hard skills in order to perform their duties.
Soft skills are non-specialized skills that may be useful no matter what an individual does for a living. You may also hear them referred to as “transferable skills” because you can transfer them from one job to another. Soft skills are often used in everyday situations as well, not just in the workplace. Examples of soft skills include:
- The ability to work with a team
- Communicating with others effectively and efficiently
- Time management
- Problem solving
As you can see, soft skills can be used in a variety of everyday situations. That’s the greatest difference between soft skills vs hard skills. The ability to use a cash register is really only useful while working as a cashier, whereas the ability to multitask is useful at just about every job.
As you may also gather from the above soft skills and hard skills list, while the two sets of skills are different from one another they are both necessary to be successful on the job.
Developing Soft Skills vs Hard Skills
Hard skills are more objective and concrete that soft skills. That means that once you learn how to do a particular task you would then possess that skill. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more difficult to develop. They are not learned through training sessions, rather, they are acquire over time by practicing them in the real world with other people.
Hard skills are easy to measure, as employers can get a fairly good idea of an individual’s hard skills by looking at their education, previous work experience, and certifications. Soft skills are more difficult to evaluate as they cannot be simply communicated through a cover letter or resume. Employers typically cannot evaluate soft skills without going through a job interview, or seeing how an individual performs during their first few weeks on the job.
One thing that soft skills and hard skills have in common is that a particular skill may come naturally to some people, while others do not have such an easy time with them. So an individual should not be discouraged if he or she feels they don’t possess a particular soft skill. Just as a teacher can become more efficient at lesson planning over time, a person can also become more efficient at multitasking over time.
Another way to understand soft skills is by comparing them to executive functioning skills, as they are all technically soft skills. Executive functioning skills are learned in the same way as soft skills, they are not easy to evaluate, and they take time to develop. Like executive functioning skills, soft skills are also versatile and transferable from school, to work, to social situations, and to independence at home. For example — skills like pacing, self monitoring, taking initiative, and prioritization can be used at various times throughout one’s life.
By contrast, hard skills are specialized abilities and difficult to transfer outside of the situations in which they’re most useful. Cooking is a great hard skill to have, but it’s only useful when you’re in the kitchen preparing meals. Knowing how to build a computer is another skill that, while nice to have, is not something that can be transferred to other tasks.
That brings us to another term you may be familiar with — generalization. In terms of acquiring skills , generalization is the concept of using past learning in present situations. It allows people to transfer knowledge across multiple situations. This is something everyone can relate to, and it is directly tied to both soft skills and executive functioning skills. Take self monitoring and editing, for example. You may discover, in various situations, that using manners such as “please” and “thank you” evokes a more positive response than omitting those words. Knowing that, you would become conscious of using good manners more often.
By now you should have a better idea of the differences between soft skills vs hard skills. Believe it or not, one way to evaluate a child’s soft skills and hard skills is through fun activities like computer games. We encourage you to introduce your son or daughter to Identifor’s unique selection of games, which can help identify the strengths in their skill sets.