What Are Soft Skills and Why Do You Need Them?

"Intangible" Qualities Are the Key to Success in Criminal Justice Careers

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No matter what criminal justice or criminology career you choose, you can expect to receive plenty of training. Naturally, it's in your employer's best interest to make sure you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities you'll need to do your job.

Most of the training you'll get will be in so-called "hard" skills - those quantifiable, task-specific skills that allow you to perform the basic functions of your job.

Unfortunately, no matter what career path you choose, those hard skills are only one side of the coin when it comes to being truly successful in serving your community.

What Are Soft Skills?

Most job advertisements come with a list of so-called KSAs - the critical knowledge, skills, and abilities - necessary for a given job. Depending on the job, that list will include the ability to use computers and various software, physical abilities, and analytical or other skills that can be easily measured. Hard skills for law enforcement careers, for example, would include accuracy with a firearm and the ability to safely drive a car under various conditions and at varying speeds.

Soft skills, then, are those intangible qualities that different people bring to the table. Most often, these are described as people skills. Soft skills are far more about personality than ability. A pleasant demeanor, an apparent ability to listen or relate to others, flexibility and understanding, and professional communication are all examples of the kind of soft skills employers are looking for and the criminal justice field needs its professionals to possess.

Why Are Soft Skills So Important?

In today's climate, more than ever, soft skills are proving to be the difference between positive and negative police encounters and other interactions with the criminal justice system. For example, situations that lead to decisions on how, when and why police might use force can be influenced - and even curtailed - when soft skills like communication, empathy, and patience are employed.

Moreover, where technical skills can enhance your work efficiency, soft skills will influence and improves your work quality. Soft skills such as integrity, work ethic, self-motivation, and teamwork are vital to providing quality community service and upholding the high ethical standards demanded of criminal justice professionals.

How Will Having Soft Skills Help You Get and Keep a Job?

College educations are more often than becoming the norm rather than the exception so that there are more and more job seekers who meet the minimum qualifications for any given job. This means employers can often be choosier on who they hire, which in turn makes soft skills the difference makers when it comes to getting your resume noticed or winning the job interview. 

Like it or not, personality matters when it comes to landing a job. No matter how talented or otherwise skilled you may be, if you don't have the people skills necessary to put others at ease, work well with co-workers and stay motivated to perform well even in the face of adversity, it will show in your work history and future employers will take a pass on hiring you. What's more, if it becomes apparent that you don't play well with others, you won't stay employed long, even if you do manage to land a job.

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