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  • Cheryl Karp Eskin

The Importance of the “Soft Skills”

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

Teen Line originally published this post in February 2017. You can find the original post here.

Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, has all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).

How is it that so many people who didn't go to "Ivy League" colleges manage to be very successful? And how do some "average" students manage to be more well-rounded and successful than overachievers? The answers can be found in the "soft skills." In today's dynamic world, the ability to interact well with others, be flexible and adaptable, and have common sense are more important than ever.

To me, it doesn't matter how "smart" you are if you can't get along with people. And if you somehow manage to be successful without getting along with people, then you're probably lonely or alone.

My son has a photographic memory for spelling words and does very well in school with minimal effort. Sadly, he has inherited my coordination (or lack thereof), so athletic endeavors are more of a challenge. He struggles to understand how people can dance without effort when he cannot. At an early age, he sees that being talented academically is not a panacea for "fitting in" or cruising through life.

Over the years, I've interacted with adults and teens who didn't "work" in our milieu setting at Teen Line. Their social skills or inability to work collaboratively conspired against them. Interpersonal skills are not just something you can study for and "ace:" for some, they come innately, for others, they require practice and effort.

I recently read an article on how "C" students are more successful after graduation. One reason is that they know how to leverage others' abilities. They are not afraid to admit they don't have all the answers and can surround themselves with those who do, freeing them to dream and create. Can you imagine the pressure so many of us would feel lifted if we didn't have to "know everything?"

I had a startling realization the other day that my children will never have to go through the awkwardness (at least for me) of calling a friend's house and having to make small talk with their parents while waiting for the friend to come to the phone. Online food ordering (which I personally think is the greatest thing ever) unfortunately takes away the opportunity to learn patience and how to communicate clearly. Google (which I use multiple times a day) has reduced our need to problem solve and creatively look for answers.

We need to promote and teach "soft skills," both at home and in school. Make sure our teens know how to have a conversation IRL. Promote teamwork and collaboration within your family, as well as role-modeling compromise. Understand there are different types of intelligence, including emotional and creative, and we need these as much as the academic. And most importantly, let's not just measure success by ACT scores and GPA. Let's look at the bigger picture of who a teen is.

At Teen Line, we work to provide personal teen-to-teen education and support before problems become a crisis, using our national hotline and community outreach. Visit our Parents & Caregivers page for more resources and information to help you understand and support teens' mental health as well as promote overall well-being.

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