14 Soft Skills to Master As a Twenty-Something

Career will thank youGiven how much weight we place on the all-important question of “Where did you go to school?” it seems impossible… but what if, someday soon, you no longer need a four-year college degree to “compete” in the job market?

What if, as online courses become more legitimate and trustworthy and internships and apprenticeships provide even more value, employers stop caring about where we gain the skills required — and only care that we have them?

In order to attract the attention of those employers, here are 14 soft skills – intangible qualities you won’t find in any textbook – that you’ll want to master as a twenty-something:

1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Keep your eyes open and brain alert.

Like at a happy hour when you’re in a one-on-one conversation. And there’s a third person who stands nearby, listens in and looks for a way to join the discussion. Be the one who welcomes in that third person. That’s a “soft” skill few possess.

2. Arrive 10-15 Minutes Early to Meetings

Why? Three reasons.

  1. Prepare for a snag like if you’re stuck in traffic on the way.
  2. Give yourself extra time to find the meeting location.
  3. Allow a few moments to gather yourself and prep for the meeting.

3. Connect Two People Just Because

Great networkers bring other people together — even if the connection won’t directly help themselves. Selflessness makes the world go ’round. Email template here.

4. Don’t Talk About Yourself for an Entire Evening

Go ahead. Try it. Focus on everyone else, what they do and what they’re all about. Never turn the conversation back on yourself. You’ll be the most interesting person in the room — and you only asked questions (like these six).

5. Make Other People Feel Important

The next time you prep for a job interview, memorize a few nuggets about the interviewers career (ex: website bio). And then say something like “I see you spent 15 years as a project manager at Honda. What was it like to work there?”

“Soft” skill FTW.

6. Take the Heat

If you reach your 30th birthday and can’t handle criticism, it’s gonna be a long road ahead.

7. Match the Other Person

If someone writes an email full of exclamation marks, use ! too and bring the energy (more info on ! here). If a person has a low-key style around the office, be restrained and tone down the energy.

If you match the other person, you’re always right.

8. “So What Can I Do to Help Your Project?”

The question that opens doors and builds relationships. Ask it. Often.

9. Tell Stories

Cover letter, job interview, personal statement.

If you want someone’s attention, be entertaining.

10. Do What You Say You’ll Do

Or better yet, don’t say you’ll do anything. Just do it, and it’s done.

11. Value Your Network

If someone helps you land a job, the least you can do is send a handwritten thank-you note. The least.

12. Surprise People on LinkedIn

When you ask to “connect” with someone, remove the standard:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

And replace with a special note like:

I loved your blog post on finance tips! Great stuff. 

You’ll gain “connections” faster and perhaps spark new conversations.

13. Hold Actual, Human Dialogue

Social media isn’t a place to HAVE conversations. It’s a place to BEGIN conversations.

By age 30, train yourself to engage with people on the phone or, better yet, in person.

14. Know When Enough Is Enough

People have their limits, and you never want to exceed them. Through feedback and experience, understand when it’s time to stop. In our attention-deficit culture, it’s perhaps the “softest” skill you can have.

What “soft” skills would you add to the list? Share below!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at News to Live By!


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Danny Rubin headshotAbout the Author: Danny Rubin is the creator and writer of News To Live By, a blog for Millennials that highlights the career advice and leadership lessons “hidden” in the day’s top stories. In one short-and-sweet column, Danny recaps a top news story and explains how it can make us better at our jobs. He’s a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Business Insider, and his work has also been featured in The New York Times. Follow News To Live By on Twitter.



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