Ms. Kaitlyn's Class, Ms. Rachael's Class, Uncategorized

Soft Skills: What are They & Why Do I Need Them?


At the beginning of each year, I survey my high school classes to determine what they would like to learn about during our weekly social thinking lessons. I am always delighted to find that teenagers, without fail, are interested in learning how to be successful at a job.

They expect me to teach them skills like how to file papers, cooking, typing, janitorial duties, and stocking. They are shocked when I tell them that I’m going to teach them the soft skills needed to get and maintain a job.  Inevitably I heard the question “What?” accompanied by a puzzled look.

What exactly are soft skills and why do they matter? Soft skills are those skills which an employer expects you to have when you come through the door. They are the skills that no one teaches you directly but you are expected to have gained simply from life experiences. Employers expect to teach you the technical knowledge that is specific to their industry but doesn’t have the time or desire to teach you the soft skills needed to succeed.

An example of Soft Skills include:

  • Empathy
  • Organization
  • Enthusiasm
  • Attitude
  • Networking
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Effective Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Dependability

In preparing my lesson plans, I found an amazing resource called Skills To Pay the Bills developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor to help teachers and parents teach these important work readiness skills. Topics covered include communication, attitude & enthusiasm, teamwork, networking, problem-solving/critical thinking, and professionalism.  Each topic includes a             video clip that shows the correct or incorrect way to demonstrate these skills.

There are so many amazing opportunities to teach these core skills within these pages and plenty of topics that “spin-off” of learning each one. For example, we always talk about the top ten interview questions most frequently asked while in or attitude and enthusiasm lesson.

If you’re looking for a systematic way to teach soft skills to your students, check out Skills to Pay the Bills you won’t regret it!

Until next time,