One of the privileges of my job is having the opportunity to talk and work with students and those just launching their careers in experiential entertainment. When I’m asked for career advice, a subject I come back to a lot is the importance of cultivating your soft skills. It’s an aspect of a career in the industry that tends to get lost in the shuffle.
Intentional or not, there is a kind of judgement in labelling workplace attributes like social and communication skills, emotional intelligence and the like as “soft”. By contrast, technical skills are called “hard”. The implication is hard skills are the serious and difficult side of work while soft skills are the frivolous, easy, and less useful side.
This is misguided on multiple levels. First, it’s misleading to contrast technical and human competencies as opposite sides of a coin. A better way to look at it: if hard skills are what you do, then soft skills are really how you do it. Second, there is nothing easy about all the human capabilities that get lumped into soft skills. Hard skills are generally far more easy to master. Finally, soft skills are essential lifetime skills for everybody. They go with you wherever you do. More often than not, they make up the bulk of what you do in the workplace.
I’m not downplaying the importance or value of technical and occupational skills. Not at all. Given the changeability of modern employment and technology, though, most of us will be constantly learning new technical skills over our lifetimes. Soft skills are never obsolete. And yes, they can and should be developed.
I wrote recently for Themed Attraction about 7 soft skills you need to succeed in experiential entertainment. While my list isn’t exhaustive, it does highlight some of the abilities I think are most valuable–and universally applicable to any job in the industry.
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