Well-rounded, highly developed soft skills can be essential to creative success, but what are they and why are they important? While soft skills can at times be more difficult to develop than hard skills — more quantifiable attributes such as web design, accounting or photoshop — they are arguably equally important in your overall creativity. Understanding what they are will help you identify yours and any that you may need to develop in the future.
Soft skills are the ones that can be hard to quantify but that you show or demonstrate by doing/being them. Some examples include:
- the ability to think on your feet
- strong leadership skills
- being a good communicator
- being emotionally intelligent
Why are they important?
Soft skills affect your ability to do the hard skills, as well as how you work with other people in a creative setting. Think of your soft skills as a synonym for your people skills. I think we can all admit we know people who are creatively brilliant, but working with them is an unpleasant experience. You can be the best graphic designer in town but if you are impossible to work with, no one is going to want to hire you. In order to flourish creatively, it’s crucial to have a balance of soft and hard skills. Plus, if you hit a roadblock with a hard skill, your soft skills are what helps you overcome or work around the challenge.
How do you grow your soft skills?
While it’s true some people are born with more natural soft skills than others, they are still traits you can actively work to develop!
- Solicit and listen to constructive criticism: This is easier said than done, but if you really want to grow in your soft skills, you need to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are. Ask those you trust for their constructive criticism and let them know what you need it for. Be prepared to hear some things that don’t feel great, but will eventually encourage your personal growth in the end. Make a list of any running themes from the criticism you receive and use those to pinpoint the soft skills you could improve upon.
- Find a mentor to help you: Whether it’s a creative mentor, a business mentor or a therapist, finding someone who has more experience than you that you respect is so beneficial for your growth.
- Get outside your comfort zone: Realize that you build soft skills by putting yourself in situations that push you or make you uncomfortable.
Which soft skills are important for creatives?
Whether you’re dealing with a client on a creative project or are just trying to grow your creative storytelling skills, communication is one of those soft skills every creative needs. Active listening should also be considered a key communication soft skill because it helps you listen to and actually hear what others say. You need to be able to listen to understand how to best communicate with someone. Without strong listening skills, any communication efforts will be one-way and probably ineffective.
If this past year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of resiliency. But as a creative, the ability to cope with stressful situations is easier said than done. In a way, resiliency has the capacity to ingest other soft skills. Stress management, optimism, motivation, flexibility, adaptability — a resilient creative brings together many other faculties to overcome and to continue to do the job effectively.
Some people are just born with a built-in work ethic while others…not so much. Creatives with a strong work ethic place a high value on their personal and professional success. If you have a strong work ethic, you believe in the importance of your creativity and typically feel that hard work is essential to maintaining a strong character.
Sitting around and waiting for someone else to figure out the solution to your problem will get you nowhere as a creative. When the going gets tough or you come across a roadblock, someone with strong problem-solving soft skills is able to assess both kinds of situations and calmly identify solutions. A lot goes into problem-solving; research, analysis, decision-making, just to name a few.
There are definitely a lot more soft skills that are valuable for creatives, but these four are some of the most beneficial for helping your flourish and grow!