In a tech-driven world, job seekers often overlook the importance of soft skills, but they play a vital role in successful collaboration with colleagues and clients. Programs such as Michigan Technological University’s online Statistics degree focus on both the requisite hard skills needed to be a successful Statistician or Data Analyst such as predictive modeling, computational statistics, and programming languages and also help students develop a competitive edge in the global business environment with well-developed soft skills.
Employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of candidates having a specific set of soft skills. In 2016, Wonderlic conducted a study of 274 companies (employers) and asked the respondents to rate the importance of soft skills when making hiring decisions. Just over 93% stated that soft skills are either essential or very important for hiring consideration. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) research on “The Key Attributes Employers Seek on Students’ Resumes” also supports the Wonderlic report: problem-solving skills (82.9%), ability to work in a team (82.9%), and written communication skills (80.3%), ranked significantly higher than technical skills (59.8%).
That research was further substantiated a year later. LinkedIn’s data provides even more substantiation for soft skills vs. hard skills employer preferences. After reviewing LinkedIn profiles and recruiting that took place between January 1, 2017, and September 1, 2017, their research determined that 57% of recruiters or employers ranked soft skills higher than hard skills in terms of importance.
What are the soft skills needed?
It is true that technical or hard skills are the first factors that human resource departments and recruiters look for on resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Some soft skills are not as overt as others. For example, writing and communication have technical components, such as grammar and syntax. Meanwhile, skills such as emotional self-management and accepting responsibility are a result of an internal self-evaluation. Most soft skills are sourced from emotional intelligence which, according to Psychology Today, can be practiced and learned over time even within the context of an online applied statistics degree. But, as with any new skill, whether hard or soft, they need to be conscientiously applied until they become second nature.
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So, all of this being stated, what are the most prominent soft skills to learn? The list below is a general collection of the most frequently mentioned soft skills in the reports described above. The tricky part is that soft skills aren’t as easily measured, or quantified, as testing a candidate’s statistical or programming skill -- which have specific outcomes (e.g., did their code function correctly or did they choose the optimal statistical model?). There is a distinct element of subjectivity in determining whether someone has become highly skilled in any of the following areas. Nevertheless, students can sharpen each of the following soft skills throughout their applied statistics degree program:
- Interpersonal skills and teamwork
- Written and oral communication
- Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
- Self-management and time management
Taking a close look at the list reveals how challenging it is to disentangle one soft skill from the other as they have varying measures of correlation with one another. Teamwork requires interpersonal skills. Furthermore, written and oral communication skills are a major influence on interpersonal skills. Problem-solving requires critical thinking. Managing time is a part of self-management; if an individual cannot self manage, it’s more challenging to meet deadlines as it requires continual self-monitoring for both hard and soft skills.
Sharpening Your Soft Skills
Being an expert in analytics can work in favor of developing soft skills. How? Analytics is a triumvirate of data, critical thinking, and applying quantitative processes. Internal emotions can be self-quantified; in fact, some apps help monitor emotions by using various emojis. There are also a plethora of apps that help users track their time on task and workflow. All of the apps record data that can then be analyzed using descriptive stats, such as, how much time spent on different tasks over a specified period or comparing a certain emotional state to productivity over time. Interpersonal skills and teamwork require applied practice, meaning the maturation of these soft skills occurs through being in a collaborative scenario and receiving feedback on performance.
On the surface, it may seem that completing a masters in applied statistics online doesn’t precisely hit the soft skills. On the contrary, communicating with the instructor and other students calls for the continuous rehearsal of all the soft skills listed. Online degree programs are particularly demanding when it comes to self-management and time management.
Michigan Tech’s Online MS in Applied Statistics is a nationally ranked STEM degree program that provides instruction for both soft skills and hard skills. Michigan Tech’s expert faculty will guide students through solving real-world problems at the advanced technical, analytical, and soft skill levels (communication and leadership) which further ensures well-rounded graduates who are ready to tackle both the technical and people challenges presented in the business world.
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