Soft Skills = Success

by Julie Watson, Head Editor, INALJ Pennsylvania

Soft Skills = Success

This is the first of a series of articles on soft skills.

Part One: What are Soft Skills?

julie_watsonTo land a job, you need a solid knowledge base in your area of expertise, but that’s not all. Employers are also looking for soft skills. Developing soft skills takes Emotional Intelligence, a set of four attributes delineated by Daniel Goleman. These attributes – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management – are the foundation of soft skills. As you progress in your career, the key to success will be your EQ, and that requires reflecting upon yourself and how effectively you interact with others. It’s helpful to think of soft skills in two categories: self-management skills and people skills.

Self-management skills

Self-awareness – knowing and accepting the various aspects of yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions.

Emotional management – regulating the ebb and flow of your emotions without being overwhelmed by them or avoiding them.

Stress management –handling the stress that comes with deadlines and crises and knowing how to return your body to a normal relaxed state.

Adaptability – embracing change, being open to new ideas, adjusting to new situations and challenges, and being flexible.

Self-confidence – believing in your judgment and abilities, projecting a sense of calm, and being free from doubt.

Persistence – enduring difficulties and overcoming challenging situations despite setbacks and obstacles.

Time management – exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on particular tasks and prioritizing activities so that all work is completed on time.

Critical thinking & Problem solving – thinking in a clear, open-minded, rational way so that you can make informed decisions and develop creative solutions.

Professionalism – being motivated to get the job done, doing conscientious work, having a positive attitude, and presenting yourself appropriately.

People skills

Communication – expressing yourself (verbally and nonverbally) to get your ideas across and make connections with other people.

Interpersonal relations – interacting well with other people and listening to them, handling criticism, and accepting coaching that allows you to grow personally and professionally.

Teamwork – working interdependently towards personal and group goals, cooperating and supporting others, and leading when appropriate.

Networking – making connections with other people to form a community that supports one another and shares information.

Negotiation – compromising with another person or party to reach an understanding, resolve a difference, or make an agreement.

Persuasion – influencing others in an atmosphere of free choice to change their minds, attitudes, motivations, or behaviors.

Developing these skills may seem like a tall order, but you need them to in order to truly succeed. People have to work with you, after all – and like it or not, you have to work with them as well. Most of us did not learn soft skills in the classroom. If you did, lucky you – you had stellar teachers.

To starting working on your soft skills, a good strategy is to run down the list and check off the ones you think you already have. Out of the remainder, choose one at a time and work on it for forty days – you can do anything for forty days. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but as Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” You will grow over time and you’ll be amazed at the doors that open up for you once you have the soft skills to match your expert librarian/info pro skills.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll discuss self-awareness, which is the basis for all soft skills. In the meantime, check out these great resources for more information:

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills – Difference and Importance – Lei Han, career coach

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – Five Key Skills for Raising Emotional Intelligence – Jane Segal, Phd.  and Amanda Smith, MA

Ways To Improve Your Soft Skills – Andy Burkhardt, librarian

Soft Skills for Information Architecture – Jeff Lash, user experience designer

Teaching the “soft skills” in library school – Meredith Farkas, librarian


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ has had over 18.5 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website,, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.