The Chemist: Hard vs. Soft Skills

Hey everyone! We’re officially back to our regularly scheduled program. I hope you all are enjoying the summer. This week we decided to talk about hard and soft skills. Hard skills are ones that are teachable and quantifiable. These are skills you can learn in a tangible way. Soft skills are subjective. These skills relate to how we relate to other people. You need both sets is skills to be successful and it’s important to figure out what your strengths are in each category.

My hard skills.

I‘m a chemist, so a lot of my hard skills are related to things I’ve been learning over the years. I’m proficient in the Microsoft suite, mass spectrometry, and other instrumentation techniques like chromatography (liquid, gas, and gel permeation), infrared spectroscopy, ultraviolet- visible spectroscopy, etc. I’m also proficient in math (through calculus 3 and differential equations). Your hard skills are the ones you immediately think about adding to your resume. Skills you’ve learned that show you have technical knowledge in your field. These aren’t just a list of classes you’ve taken, because we've all had those classes we took but didn’t retain anything from. Your hard skills have to be ones that you’re completely comfortable with relying on in a job setting. Don’t list a hard skill if you can’t back it up.

My soft skills.

Being a scientist isn’t just about what I know, but also how I interact with others. Science is pretty collaborative so it’s imperative to know and understand your soft skills. I have a strong work ethic, a problem-solver, have good leadership skills, good at time management, extremely organized, detail oriented, and I work well in small groups. These skills are important to showcase because at the end of the day you’re going to be around people. You’ll probably join a team or group at work and employers are going to want to have an idea of how you’re going to fit in. Another thing about soft skills is since you can’t “quantify” how well you are at them, they can be hard to add on a resume. To get around that, when you’re writing your summary statement and/or job descriptions add them there, alongside something tangible for your job descriptions. For example, on my resume as a summary statement I put, "Versatile chemist capable of working with different types of chemicals, compounds and materials. Proficient in performing tests, documenting results and writing papers. Well-organized and detail-oriented with good project management and planning abilities developed over undergraduate and graduate school." This statement combines both hard and soft skills upfront so potential employers have a sense of the type of person I am before reading the rest of my resume. My job descriptions are written similarly with the only change that I paired my soft skill(s) with some quantifiable , e.g. number of projects completed or papers written, etc.

What do you think your hard and soft skills are? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram!

See you next week!

- The Chemist