21 Soft Skills You Need to Excel in Your Professional Career in the 21st Century

8 min readNov 5, 2020


For every profession, there are skills required for thriving. These skills can either be hard skills or soft skills.

Hard skills involve the technical know-how or the knowledge associated with using a tool, software or a process.

Soft skills on the other hand are skills that are needed to enhance the hard skills. Hard skills without soft skills can make a professional inhumane while discharging career duties.

Soft skills should never be overlooked or underrated. Having them makes your work smooth and your long term career journey memorable.

These are 21 soft skills you need to consider in your professional career.

  1. Listening

The art of listening is priceless. Can you remember how you felt when you needed someone to speak with and you found someone who had a listening ear to hear you out? That feeling can erase depression and lift heavy burdens off your mind.

Your career will get challenging at some point. You will need a listening ear and you would need a mentor too but more importantly, you would have to do the same for anyone needing someone to listen to them.

Listening makes you approachable. It makes your colleagues confide in you and it will expose you to hidden secrets about your career that you never knew.

Listening can be active or passive. With passive listening, you only do it to pass time; no interest in what you’re being told. Practice the art of active listening and see how understanding others will find you.

2. Communication

Communication is a two-way lane. It’s about giving and receiving messages. Communication is never complete with one part of this lane. The interesting part is that the receiving part of communication requires you to listen.

One element of communication that should not be ignored is the medium of communication.

These days, we communicate through email, messaging apps and social media platforms. That does not neglect communication through word of mouth.

When you fulfil both ends of communication (the giving and the receiving), you make communication complete and not haphazard.

When you’re not understood, you’ve not communicated.

Learn to simplify your language and use the language that the other party can understand. Use gestures to add flavour to your message and listen for a response every time you communicate.

The response can be obvious or subtle — it could be through body language or words. It could even be silence. Silence is a response and you need to understand its meaning.

3. Teamwork

With a team, together everyone achieves more.

To excel in your career as a professional, you have to learn how to work in a team. Most of the tasks or projects you would do will require you to work with others.

With the right team skills, everyone can bring their skills to achieve a goal. It also tends to make work faster because you are not alone on the job but every other person is working for your good and you are doing likewise for them too.

In teams, each team member brings their creativity, ideas, knowledge, skills and experience to the table.

With different views and perspectives, solid creative work output is guaranteed. But if you lack this soft skill of being a team player, you forfeit the opportunity to learn from others.

4. Work ethic

Good work ethic starts with your punctuality. Showing up at the time you should, portrays you as a serious professional who knows the value of time.

Work ethic also requires that you churn out work as at when you should, not delaying or giving excuses.

Excuses do not portray you as a good professional and if there would be a delay, work ethic demands that concerned parties are notified about the new development.

That way, you don’t get to disappoint them and reduce your prestige as a professional.

Work ethic is also doing quality work. It shows that as a professional, you know your onions and won’t trade quality for anything.

5. Problem solving

As a professional, you’re always faced with problems or challenges.

This could be technical problems like your laptop or phone preventing you from being productive.

Problems could also be human, like another colleague being difficult and making life difficult for you.

Problems mostly surface when we are not anticipating them. Knowing how to solve problems or anticipating them well in advance and proffering solutions ahead of time is a hallmark of a true professional.

6. Creativity

Creativity transcends music and art. Creativity can be seen in how organized you are or how you handle things. It’s not just when you draw, sing or engage in artistic endeavours.

Creativity is mixing and merging ideas from different areas to form something new. Your ability to do this will help you come up with superior ideas when ideas are needed.

Creativity is also being able to harness the power of others. Recognizing others’ strengths and knowing where each fit will help you excel in your career as a professional.

7. Time management

How you manage your time will rub off on your day and how well you are able to execute tasks. This soft skill will enable you to allocate the right portion of time to the things you have to do.

Wrong time estimation can throw you off balance when you realize that you still have more work to do but little time to accomplish them.

Time management will help you know what tasks to spend your time on and what to delegate or ignore. If you can succeed in managing your time well, you are already an excellent professional.

8. Interpersonal skills

How you relate to others will determine your peace and happiness in the workplace and in your career as a whole.

You will always be in touch with people. It is either they are your colleagues, your bosses or even your customers.

Treat people how you want them to treat you, this is the golden rule.

Treat others the way they want to be treated, this is the silver rule.

This will make you endeared and will eventually boost your interpersonal skills. You cannot ignore this skill because you cannot ignore people. You will always need people.

9. Adaptability

The ability to adjust to situations and environments different from what you’re used to is one skill that’s not just useful for you as a professional but it’s also a life skill.

This soft skill can help you withstand whatever situations you find yourself and you will be able to adjust and thrive well in any situation.

You are going to change jobs, you will change offices and many other things will change in the course of your career.

Adaptability will help you blend well with people and situations.

10. Leadership

Leadership is taking initiative. Leadership is standing up for the right of others. Leadership is leading.

You don’t have to be the best to lead. You just have to consider those you’re leading and put their needs first before yours.

Being in a high position or rank does not make you a leader.

Leadership also entails that what you say and do are in direct correlation.

That’s how you garner the respect of those you lead.

11. Empathy

Being empathic is putting yourself in the shoes of others, not literally but mentally, emotionally and physically.

You put yourself in these shoes so that you can feel what others feel.

Your ability to do this will make you considerate — you won’t make unnecessary demands from others.

It will birth kindness in you and you won’t be seen as mean.

You will make decisions knowing that people are different and they react to things and situations differently. You need this skill as a professional.

12. Patience

Patience is a soft skill which says you don’t have to react to everything done to you or respond to every word spoken.

It also means you don’t have to jump to conclusions.

Patience helps you get to the root of a matter so you don’t fall into the trap of making hasty decisions that could make you look stupid. Patience will make you attractive.

13. Personability

Personability is understanding your personality and making it shine.

You might need to take a personality test to know and understand your personality and temperament type.

Knowing the personality of others will enable you to know how to relate with them and this will increase your interpersonal skills a great deal.

14. Presentation skills

You don’t want to ignore this skill. Presentation skill is much more than knowing how to use or present PowerPoint slides.

Presentation skill is being able to communicate what you’re presenting in a confident way and in a way that you’re understood.

Communication and presentation go together and these two skills will make you excel as a professional.

15. Teachability

Your teachability determines how much you will learn. Anyone can teach you anything. As a professional, you will learn a lot on the job but you won’t know all before you start the job.

Teachability demands humility.

While you’re being teachable, do not forget to ask questions along the way. This is what makes your learning complete.

Teaching and learning are not exclusive but teachability will make you learn even much more than you think.

16. Collaboration

Partnerships and teamwork require collaboration. Your collaboration skills are important to you as a professional.

Collaborate and work with others. It will increase the speed of your work and you will learn in the process.

Don’t underestimate the power of collaboration. It increases your network and net worth.

17. Conflict resolution

You cannot be productive in the midst of conflict.

It saps your energy and leaves you with no creativity to do productive work.

Your conflict resolution skills will help you resolve conflicts fast so that you have more time to continue doing what you love as a career person.

18. Accountability

Accountability is documentation. It is keeping records. Accountability is giving proper reports of what has been done.

Being accountable doesn’t mean you have to be good with numbers or be an accountant.

Being accountable is having the ability to retrieve information when it is needed.

Having dates in your records makes it trusted and you cannot be cheated. A professional with great accountability skills is a great leader.

19. Dependability

As a professional, are you reliable? Can you be depended on? Can you be trusted with work and prove yourself as someone that doesn’t disappoint?

If you’re dependable, people will vouch for you. This will increase your integrity and integrity is a currency that will stand for you both when you’re present and when you’re absent.

Be dependable. Your career will thank you for it.

20. Confidence

Your dressing and your knowledge are two things that boost confidence.

Dressing well increases your confidence level.

Knowing what to say and knowing that people will listen to you because you are professional in your career will also increase your confidence.

Confidence will help you stand in the face of fear because fear is false appearance appearing real.

The fear is never real. Get some confidence, drop the cold feet and embrace your fears.

21. Life learning

The literates of the 21st century are those that can learn, unlearn and relearn (a paraphrased quoted by Alvin Toffler).

Knowledge goes obsolete. You don’t want to be caught unawares. You need to keep learning to stay relevant.

As a professional, you need to always update your knowledge. You don’t want to be dishing out old knowledge when the world has moved on with new concepts and processes of doing the same things you used to do.

Life learning is a forever soft skill.


Soft skills are complements to hard skills. Hard skills with no soft skills will make you hard and lacking emotional intelligence.

As someone who wants to excel in a professional career, assess yourself.

Find out the soft skills you have missing and learn them because soft skills can be learnt.

With these 21 soft skills, I hope you will embrace them and give your professional career a boost.




Techie. Writer. Mentor. Teacher. Editor. Entrepreneur. Growth Marketing