15 Types of Professional Soft Skills (With Definitions)

Updated July 5, 2023

Employees in most roles and industries can grow their careers with professional skills. Professional skills can help you get a new job, advance positions, build workplace relationships and improve your job performance.

In this article, we define what professional skills are, discuss 15 different types of soft skills and offer advice on how to develop your professional skills.

Key takeaways:

  • Professional skills or soft skills include your habits, characteristics and abilities to perform well and succeed at work and may benefit you, your employer and your colleagues.

  • Some examples of professional skills include leadership, emotional intelligence, organization, flexibility, communication and self-motivation.

  • You can develop your skills by attending conferences and workshops, asking others questions, cultivating positive professional relationships with colleagues, managers and clients and observing others you admire in the workplace.

What are professional skills?

Professional skills are abilities that can help you succeed in your job. A professional skill describes a habit, personality trait or ability that positively affects your performance in the workplace. Having such skills can benefit people in nearly all job positions, industries and work environments.

Professional skills are also called soft skills, meaning skills easily transferred from one job to another. Soft skills describe how we relate to our environment and the people around us. By contrast, hard skills refer to more technical or specialized knowledge related to a specific job or industry.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

15 professionals skills

Here are 15 types of soft skills that can help further your professional career:

1. Leadership

Whether you work in a supervisory position, leadership skills can be a valuable asset in your career. Leadership abilities mean you can motivate, instruct and offer guidance to others. People with leadership skills are confident in their abilities to help others work, collaborate, problem-solve or succeed at their responsibilities.

Skills related to leadership include:

  • Confidence

  • People management

  • Accountability

  • Prioritization

  • Motivational skills

  • Coaching

  • Project management

  • Analytical skills

  • Creativity

  • Mentorship

  • Inspirational abilities

  • Goal setting

  • Stress management

  • Politeness

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Teamwork

People who work well on teams have interpersonal skills that help them effectively collaborate. Many employees work in groups with their coworkers or supervisors to fulfill at least some of their job responsibilities. Professionals with teamwork skills understand how to accomplish their tasks while remaining aware of others' assignments and needs.

Skills needed to excel at teamwork include:

  • Cooperation

  • Reliability

  • Willingness to help others

  • Friendliness

  • Ability to persuade or convince others

  • Respectfulness

  • Tolerance

  • Working towards a common goal

  • Collaboration

Related: The Importance of Teamwork (Plus 11 Ways a Team Benefits From It)

3. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to how we express our feelings, relate to others and interpret others' behaviors. Professionals with emotional intelligence can perceive how others feel through their actions, speech or behaviors. If you have emotional intelligence, you also can identify, evaluate and assess your feelings. Emotional intelligence helps professionals in many social settings, whether with clients, coworkers or managers.

Here are some skills to develop if you want to hone your emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness

  • Empathy

  • Initiative

  • Conscientiousness, or the desire and ability to treat others well

  • Self-regulation

  • Trustworthiness

  • Sympathy

Related: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

4. Organization

Organizational abilities help you accomplish projects and duties. Professionals with organization skills understand how to prioritize tasks, create plans and implement solutions. A person's time management often relates closely to their organizational abilities as many employers need projects completed efficiently by their deadlines.

Skills needed to excel in organization include:

  • Stress management

  • Creation of plans

  • Delegation

  • Attention to details

  • Punctuality

  • Executive functioning, such as prioritizing duties

  • Time management

  • Distribution of resources

  • Dependability

Related: 10 Examples of Organization in the Workplace

5. Flexibility

Supervisors often appreciate employees who can adapt to a variety of situations and challenges. Professionals who are flexible can understand various perspectives, find alternative solutions to problems and alter their work responsibilities or processes as needed.

To become more flexible, consider strengthening these skills:

  • Remaining calm in stressful situations

  • Adaptability

  • Open-mindedness

  • Approaching challenges with a positive mindset

  • Proactiveness

  • Critical thinking

  • Patience

  • Willingness to consider additional information or change your opinion

  • Perceptiveness

Related: How To Be Flexible at Work (With Tips and Examples)

6. Communication

Most professionals use a variety of communication methods such as in-person conversations, meetings, emails, instant messaging systems and telephone calls. People skilled at communication understand how to efficiently deliver information, exchange ideas and pay attention to the other person's message. Communication skills most often involve either written or verbal words, but may also involve interpreting body language. Professionals with communication abilities also can adeptly manage challenging social situations, such as negotiating or finding compromises.

Skills related to communication include:

  • Conflict resolution

  • Etiquette

  • Advocacy

  • Networking

  • Business writing

  • Customer service

  • Facilitation

  • Kindness

  • Explaining the thought process behind decisions or actions

  • Respect

  • Clarity

  • Active listening

  • Negotiation

  • Concision, or using words efficiently

Related: 7 Tips for Improving Communication Skills

7. Self-motivation

Self-motivated professionals take the initiative. If you're self-motivated, you typically need minimal supervision to start or complete your duties. Many supervisors appreciate employees who accomplish tasks and work hard regardless of their supervision level.

To work on your self-motivation, consider developing these skills:

  • Self-starter

  • Independence

  • Desire to achieve

  • Resilience

  • Commitment to goals

  • Optimism

  • Initiative

  • Ambition

  • Willingness to grow and change

Related: How To Stay Self-Motivated at Work

8. Problem-solving

Most work environments have some unpredictability. Managers often prefer to hire people who respond proactively to new or challenging circumstances. Problem-solving skills help professionals evaluate altered or new situations, create effective plans and devise alternative solutions.

Abilities related to problem-solving include:

  • Risk management, or the ability to evaluate potential hazards of various plans

  • Innovation

  • Determination

  • Remaining calm during stressful situations

  • Analysis

  • Creativity

  • Understanding of data

  • Decision-making

  • Research abilities

Read more: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

9. Openness to learning

Professionals willing to learn new information and skills may receive more attention from hiring managers. Most jobs, industries or companies change over time, so employers appreciate candidates receptive to learning new concepts, abilities or processes.

To show your willingness to learn, focus on developing these abilities:

  • Receptiveness to constructive criticism

  • Enthusiasm

  • Openness to personal growth

  • Initiative

  • Learning agility, or the ability to develop new skills

  • Self-motivation

  • Continual engagement with industry, local, global or other news

Related: 10 Steps To Become More Open-Minded

10. Integrity

Integrity means that you are honest, dependable and have strong ethics or principles. When an employer hires someone with integrity, they trust that person and believe the new hire can uphold the company's values. Integrity also means a willingness to take responsibility for your behaviors and actions.

Skills related to integrity include:

  • Principled

  • Honesty

  • Trustworthiness

  • Understanding of ethics

  • Loyalty

  • Reliability

Related: Integrity in the Workplace: Definition and Examples

11. Self-confidence

Professionals with self-confidence believe in their abilities to effectively accomplish their job. If you have self-confidence, you project positive feelings about your skills to others. Having self-confidence helps convince prospective employers of your capability to accomplish job responsibilities.

If you want to develop self-confidence, focus on these skills:

  • Courage

  • Self-awareness

  • Describing your abilities to others

  • Tenacity

  • Being assertive

  • Optimism

  • Determination

  • Self-reliance

  • Understanding and assessing your abilities

Related: Self-Confidence in the Workplace: Why It's Important and How To Improve It

12. Public speaking

If you regularly lead company initiatives, public speaking skills can help your career. Professionals can use public speaking skills in a variety of situations, such as offering their thoughts during meetings, contributing to discussions about group projects or communicating complex ideas to a coworker. Public speaking skills assist you in effectively communicating your message to different people.

Abilities related to public speaking include:

  • Confidence

  • Poise

  • Awareness of body language

  • Planning your main talking points or ideas in advance

  • Leadership

  • Thinking and reacting to changes quickly

  • Clarity

  • Increasing the volume of your voice

  • Organizing ideas

  • Articulation

  • Connecting with your audience, such as through eye contact

  • Altering vocal tone

  • Openness to constructive feedback

  • Concision

Related: 5 Ways To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

13. Open-mindedness

People with open minds are receptive to new ideas, methods and knowledge. They also can respect, appreciate and learn from other people. Most jobs prefer employees who can communicate effectively with people who hold different perspectives or come from different backgrounds.

To work on becoming more open-minded, try developing these skills:

  • Inquisitiveness

  • Considerate of others

  • Introspection, meaning the ability to evaluate your thoughts and emotions

  • Empathy

  • Actively listening

  • Willingness to have new experiences

  • Positive thinking

Related: How To Become More Open-Minded in 10 Steps

14. Professionalism

Professionalism refers to skills and behaviors that respect others. An employee with professionalism shows courteousness to others, takes responsibility for their tasks and proves they're a dependable coworker.

Professionalism skills may include:

  • Reliability

  • Kindness

  • Poise

  • Civility

  • Respectfulness

  • Accountability

  • Maturity

  • Communication

Related: Why Professionalism Is Important in Every Aspect of Work

15. Positive attitude

Professionals with positive attitudes have optimism, motivation and enthusiasm A positive attitude can help you improve others' moods, collaborate more effectively and increase your job satisfaction. Many managers prefer hiring employees who bring passion and joy into their work environment.

Abilities and traits related to having a positive attitude include:

  • Optimism

  • Enthusiasm

  • Passion

  • Cheerfulness

  • Finding alternative solutions

  • Helpful

  • Self-confidence

  • Energetic

  • Positive thinking

  • Receptive to feedback

Related: 10 Ways To Have a More Positive Attitude at Work

Tips for developing professional skills

Here are some tips to help you \practice and improve your professional abilities:

Observe other professionals

Notice how team members, supervisors, distributors and others behave in their work environment. Observe how the professionals around you interact with one another, accomplish their tasks and navigate workplace processes. If you find a coworker who possesses a soft skill you want to develop, try to emulate some of their behaviors or attitude.

Related: The Importance of Networking in Business (Tips Included)

Attend conferences and workshops

Conventions, workshops and related events allow you to practice your professional skills outside of the workplace. Focus on communicating effectively, actively listening and other soft skills while networking with other professionals.

Lectures, workshops, conferences and other professional events sometimes choose soft skills as their subjects. For example, you may discover a webinar that discusses the role of self-confidence in the workplace. Looking for events like these can further help develop your professional skills.

Related: How Do Professional Development Programs Work? (Plus Types)

Solve workplace conflicts

Although you might sometimes have conflicts with your coworkers, strive to collaboratively resolve these conflicts. Managers and team members alike usually prefer cooperating with an employee they know can keep working, strategizing and communicating politely but clearly during challenging situations. Try to see conflicts as opportunities to learn more about how you and your coworkers can effectively collaborate, problem-solve and function as a team.

Related: 5 Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies

Ask questions

Ask people more questions during interactions. People who ask questions more frequently than argue or assert their own opinions may excel at many soft skills, such as communication, open-mindedness or willingness to learn. You can ask someone questions about the subject even if you know a lot about it or have a different opinion. Focusing on asking questions can help you gain insights into new perspectives or areas within the subject. If you decide at a later date to debate or offer your own opinion on the subject, you'll then be able to provide a more complex or thorough perspective.

Related: How To Ask Better Questions in 5 Simple Steps

Be receptive to feedback

Work on being open to constructive feedback. Many desirable professional skills relate to a person's ability to listen to, evaluate and implement someone else's assessment of their work or performance. Even if you don't agree with the feedback, consider what the other person said before dismissing it or arguing. Assessing the feedback other people give to you as objectively as possible can help you figure out how to rationally discuss the feedback and determine which parts of it to incorporate into your habits.

Related: Positive Feedback: Why It's Important and How To Deliver It

Create positive relationships

Cultivate positive relationships with your coworkers, clients, managers and other professionals you work with. Many professional skills describe your behaviors, habits and communication methods when interacting with others. You may have an easier time having cooperative and friendly interactions if you already have positive relationships in the workplace.

For example, you could try to have genuine conversations with your coworkers and clients. Ask about their weekend plans, hobbies, pets and other topics appropriate to the workplace that may give you more insight into their personal lives. You can also discuss your interests and plans, as this may help people to feel more comfortable talking about themselves.

Related: How To Build Good Relationships at Work and Why They’re Important

Practice self-care

Developing new skills generally becomes easier when you're already meeting your basic needs. Take care of yourself, such as by eating nutritious foods, spending time with loved ones, getting adequate sleep and making time for activities you enjoy. A healthy mind and body can help you learn and adapt to new habits.

Related: 14 Ways To Practice Self-Care at Work (And Why It Matters)

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