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What are Personal Skills? - Definition, Development & Examples

What are Personal Skills? - Definition, Development & Examples
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  • 0:01 Personal Skills Defined
  • 0:40 Soft & Hard Skills
  • 2:28 Examples
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gretchen Hendricks

Gretchen has taught at the college level for the past eight years and has a master's degree in psychology.

Personal skills are things we are good at - our strengths, abilities, and attributes. This lesson gives an in-depth definition and examples that will help you better understand your own selling points.

Personal Skills Defined

Are you the first person your friends come to when they need advice? Do you tend to speak up in groups and easily share your ideas? If you answered yes, then you can count interpersonal skills and leadership as two of your personal skills. These types of skills can be abilities we are born with, our natural talents, or things we develop through our experiences and deliberate practice. Whether an innate aptitude or a developed capability, knowing what our own personal skills are is very useful in both our personal and professional lives.

Soft & Hard Skills

Before we can truly answer what a personal skill is, we must first define what a skill is in general. A skill is the ability to do something well, a certain competence or proficiency. Skills are typically acquired or developed through direct experiences and training, and they can require sustained effort. Therefore, personal skills are simply those skills that you possess and consider your strengths. But how do we know what these are?

To answer this question, you can categorize personal skills in two ways: soft and hard skills. Soft skills are more general, intangible qualities or attributes we possess that enhance our interactions with others. They can be related to our attitude, personality, emotions, habits, communication style, and social manners. Successful development of soft skills happens during our interactions with others (family, friends, and co-workers) and are fundamental to how well we build and manage our relationships.

In contrast, hard skills are more specific and are often associated with a task or activity, most times job-related. They include certain abilities and knowledge about an area of focus and can be easily quantified and evaluated. Mostly learned through education, training, and on-the-job experience, hard skills can include computer literacy, project management, editing, or proficiency in a foreign language. These types of skills make us employable and allow us to tackle our job responsibilities. Soft and hard skills complement each other and make up our arsenal of personal skills that demonstrate our capabilities.

Examples

If you have ever played a sport, you have used both soft and hard skills to perform well. Let's assume you play soccer for a community league. Perhaps the most obvious skill necessary is being a team player or the ability to work with others towards a common goal. In this case, a big win. However, we can't achieve a big win without also tapping on our hard skills. In this scenario, hard skills are considered those we use to actually play the sport, such as the ability to kick the ball or score a goal. While hard skills require a certain precision that is repeatable, soft skills rely heavily on recognition and flexibility.

Another example we can learn from is how hard and soft skills play a role on the job. We would all agree that problem-solving is an essential life skill, and employers would tell you it is also a necessary skill to have for any job. The ability to deal quickly and effectively with a problem and offer a solution is a desirable soft skill. However, saying you are a great problem-solver and actually demonstrating this are two different things requiring different skills.

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