Construction workers discuss planSoft skills are just as important as hard or technical skills for getting a job and succeeding at work. Learn how to develop soft skills for workplace success and how the Ticket to Work program can help you in your employment journey.

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Soft Skills: Practicing Early and Often

Jul 10, 2019

Construction workers discussing a planFor young adults with disabilities who are about to enter the workforce, the process of applying for a job can seem mysterious and maybe a little intimidating. But, like any new experience, the better prepared you are, the better your chances of finding and getting that job. And, a big part of being prepared is knowing what employers are looking for.

As it happens, the skills employers want to see in job candidates are the same ones that will lead to your success once you're in the job — Soft Skills. These are the habits and behaviors you exhibit when you meet and interact with other people, which is why you may also hear them called "people" skills. Examples include traits such as a positive attitude, communication, teamwork, networking, problem solving, and professionalism. 

Hard or soft skills? Both!

Soft skills are different from the technical abilities you need to do a job well. Those are called Hard Skills. You can learn these technical skills through education and training programs, like college, apprenticeships, certification programs or on-the-job training. Bookkeeping, computer programming, automobile repair, plumbing, and word processing are all examples of hard skills.

Both hard and soft skill sets are important, but the role soft skills play in getting a job and succeeding in a job or career is often overlooked. For example, a salesperson can know his product inside and out, but if he doesn't have strong interpersonal skills to connect with his customers, he'll likely have difficulty closing deals, keeping clients and meeting his sales goals.   

How do you acquire Soft Skills?

Don't worry, though: There are formal and informal ways to acquire and polish your soft skills.

A lot of times, practice makes perfect, so work or volunteer experience can help you develop the soft skills that employers are looking for. But you can also explore classroom training and online lessons to improve or refresh your skills. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor published Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success, a guide that can help you learn more about soft skills and that provides some activities that can help you improve them.

Your Ticket to Work service provider can also support you as you develop and practice these skills, as they did for Walter and Larry, two individuals featured in Ticket to Work success stories.

People who are new to the workforce, like Walter was, often begin by working on professionalism — learning to dress properly for work, be on time, follow directions, and cooperate and communicate well with supervisors, co-workers and customers. In his first job, Walter learned to follow attendance policies, work as part of a team, increase his adaptability and increase his responsibilities. His success in that position led to yet another job and the options that work and earning an income offer. He now has private health insurance and a retirement plan from his employer and became the first person in his family to buy his own home.

Another young person who took advantage of the Ticket program is Larry. Larry received career counseling, assistance during his job hunt and job coaching to help him succeed on the job. In the beginning, his counselors focused on soft skills such as teamwork, professional appearance and attitude. Through an internship in an office setting, Larry practiced using these soft skills as he learned to complete administrative tasks. After his internship, Larry found full-time work in which the customer service skills he had developed in his earlier job training have paid off. In the words of his supervisor, "Customers enjoy Larry and so do his co-workers." Now Larry is enjoying the sense of achievement he gets from a paycheck and the responsibilities that go with full-time employment. 

In future blog posts, we'll explore soft skills more, including spotlights on different types of soft skills that can help you on your path to work! To find out when new content that could help you is available, subscribe to receive Choose Work! Blog emails! 

Ticket to Work

Are you ready to find out how a Ticket to Work service provider could help you develop soft skills for the workplace? Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

No matter where you are on the path to work — whether you're looking for help developing your skills or you're ready to start applying for jobs — you can learn more about the Ticket program by calling the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn more

No matter where you are on the path to work — whether you're looking for help developing your skills or you're ready to start applying for jobs — you can learn more about the Ticket program by calling the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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