Future Worker

Beginners level

Unit 1: Understanding soft career skills


  1. The purpose of this Unit is to enhance migrants’ basic soft skills and competencies, which are needed in today’s labor market and help them in their fist steps while in search for a job.

  2. The Unit includes five units, focusing on themes such as soft and intercultural skills


LOut1: Understand the importance of enhancing your soft skills for labor market and describe all intercultural skills, needed for workers in the 21st century

LOut2: Create a suitable CV and Cover letter, explaining why you are suitable for a future job


  • Soft skills
  • Intercultural skills
  • CV/Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Social media

1.1 Introduction

According to the “Skills Panorama Glossary” (European Commission, CEDEFOP), soft skills are skills that are cross-cutting across jobs and sectors and relate to personal competences (confidence, discipline, self-management) and social competences (teamwork, communication, emotional intelligence).

Obviously, they have more to do with a person’s character, personality, way of thinking, attitude and motivation.

Soft skills are considered cross-cutting and transferable, meaning that they can be useable in many different jobs, which is exactly what makes them so valuable.

This Unit discusses the importance of soft and intercultural skills, clarifies the differences in comparison to “hard” skills and offers useful advices so as the learners to improve their soft skills.

1.2 Defining soft skills

As the European Social Fund (2016/2019) mentions, “soft skills”, also referred to as communication skills, transversal skills or personal and social skills or even “talents”, are skills that everyone has and that everyone uses, like the following:

  • Teamwork
  • Self-motivation
  • Decisions making
  • Time management
  • Effective communication
  • Ability to perform under pressure
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Integrity
  • Work ethic
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Adaptability.

1.3 Hard VS Soft skills

“Hard” skills refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. They can be defined as technical, teachable abilities or quantifiable skill sets, that workers need to have in order to successfully perform a specific job.

They are usually obtained through formal education and training programs and it is relatively easy to be evaluated and quantified by tests, official qualifications or specific certificates.

Some hard skills are more in-demand than others and employers might hire recruitment agencies to fill jobs that require high-level skills.

Typical examples of hard skills include computer programming, data analysis, web development, cloud computing, graphic design, writing, marketing, project management or accounting, finance, or even legal skills.

“Soft” skills are more general and have more to do with “who we are”, rather than “what we know”, and that is why it is difficult to measure them.

As Kenton (2020) mentions, they include personality traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. Sociologists may use the term to describe a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ).

In the workplace, soft skills are a complement to hard skills and its role is crucial in helping employees interact with others and succeed in their tasks.

Examples of soft skills include the ability to communicate with prospective clients, to have a good understanding of the company’s products and services, mentor your co-workers, lead a team, negotiate a contract, follow instructions, and get a job done on time. The ability to learn new methods and technologies is also a desired soft skill for all workers.


1.4 Intercultural skills

Intercultural competence, according to the European Commission’s ESCO Initiative (2020) is described as understanding and respecting people who are perceived to have different cultural affinities, and responding effectively and respectfully to them.

In the context of a survey conducted by the British Council (Mulholland, 2013) among more than 360 recruitment decision makers at large organisations in nine countries, intercultural skills, from the employers’ point of view, include:

  • the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints,
  • demonstrating respect for others
  • adapting to different cultural settings
  • accepting cultural differences
  • speaking foreign languages and
  • being open to new ideas and ways of thinking.


According to the same survey, employees with these skills are valuable because they:

  • bring in new clients
  • work within diverse teams and
  • support a good brand and reputation.

Top indicators of intercultural skills, according to the employers, are the following:

  • strong communication throughout the interview and selection process
  • the ability to speak foreign languages
  • demonstration of cultural sensitivity in the interview and
  • experience studying and working overseas.

1.5 Tips to improve your soft skills

Take online courses and search for useful articles & videos

  • Search for YouTube videos and online courses, in various languages, many times even free of charge, using as key-words “soft skills course” or “co-operative”, “organisational”, “personal and social” or “intercultural” skills courses.
  • More specifically, search for courses on project management, time management, problem solving, stress management, effective communication, body language, intercultural communication, negotiations, conflict management or courses on self-development.
  • Popular websites that offer courses to learn soft skills include Coursera, Lynda.com, Udemy, Open University and edX.
  • Useful tips, articles and videos can also be found in job portals and recruiting websites.
  • Search also for EU funded projects, offering free online lessons on soft skills in various languages, like https://softskills4.eu, http://icaro-softskills.eu, http://www.understandingmyjourney.eu

Discuss, practice and get feedback from others


  • Being aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses, discussing with other people, observing and listening carefully can guide you down to the right path to find and develop the soft skills you need the most.
  • Identifying your soft skills is sometimes easier when it is done with other’s feedback. Ask friends, colleagues or even your employer about the soft skills they believe you have and maybe give you some examples where you have used that soft skills effectively. Ask them also about the soft skills they think you need to develop more and why.
  • Practicing skill development in all relationships can help you both personally and professionally. The job and recruiting website “Glassdoor” proposes to practice with a friend: “Let’s say you want to get better at negotiating. Sit down with a friend and practice asking for what it is you want – whether it’s a salary raise, a promotion, or a better benefits package. Have your friend play the role of your boss, and then give you feedback about your proposal”.


This Unit summarizes the basic terminology related to Hard and Soft skills, in view of helping learners to understand:

  • Being aware of their weaknesses and strengths

  • Identifying their soft and hard skills needed to be highlighted into the CV

List of References

Further Reading