A new analysis identifies the ten best fields for remote work—and their most in-demand skills. Mark’s article, “The Top 25 Soft Skills Remote Workers Need In 2021—And 3 Ways To Get Them,” published at Forbes.com on January 12, 2021.
Soft skills aren’t as soft as they sound. In fact, they can make or break your career—especially when it comes to remote work.
As the professional world settles into a new norm of working from home, soft skills—defined by Workable as “general characteristics that help employees thrive in the workplace, no matter their seniority level, role or industry”—have come to the forefront in hiring and recruitment decisions.
There are more remote jobs than ever before—but there are also more remote job-seekers. Between a steady unemployment rate and the geographic flexibility of remote work, the market is saturated with candidates, many of whom are equally qualified from a technical standpoint. In a flooded hiring pool, hard skills matter—but soft skills can help you rise to the top.
FlexJobs and PAIRIN recently put together a list of the top ten remote-work fields between March 1 and November 30 of last year, along with each field’s top five soft skills. Whether you’re looking to break into a new field or move up in your current career, it helps to know which relational and interpersonal skills can best complement your technical abilities in the career arena.
As defined in the FlexJobs-PAIRIN analysis, here are the top 25 soft skills and traits for success in remote work.
- Accountability: “To be answerable. To take responsibility for outcomes through the appropriate use of resources, personal integrity, and self-monitoring.” This skill is especially important in the Medical & Health remote-work field.
- Assertiveness: “Global tendencies to express and interact with boldness, enthusiasm, and confidence.” Assertiveness is critical for remote workers in Sales, Customer Service and Marketing.
- Collaboration & Teamwork: “To combine efforts and resources with others toward a common goal. To work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams.” Candidates for remote positions in the Project Management field will want to emphasize this skill.
- Compliance: “Global tendencies to maintain self-discipline and conform to another’s plan, rules, will, or direction.” This skill is particularly crucial for remote work in the Medical & Health and Accounting & Finance fields.
- Conflict Management: “The ability to effectively negotiate and resolve disagreements.” Being able to effectively resolve disagreements is important in every field, but especially in those of Sales, Accounting & Finance and Customer Service.
- Cooperative-Practical: “The moderation of reason and feeling, resulting in calm, commonsense thinking—upbeat, attentive, and realistic.” This character trait is in demand in the Education & Training and Business Development remote-work fields.
- Creativity: “The desire to think, do, and express in ways that are different from the norm. This includes personal elaborations or variations on known or existing techniques.” Professionals working from home in the Computer & IT and Education & Training fields should display this trait.
- Critical Thinking: “To gather and objectively assess key information as a guide to belief or action. An intellectual process that uses analysis, conceptualization, synthesis, and evaluation.” Computer & IT, Accounting & Finance, and Business Development are all remote-work fields where this skill is especially needed.
- Dynamism: “Global tendencies to generate results through intentional, resourceful, energetic mindsets and behaviors.” This trait is critical for professionals working remotely in Project Management.
- Enriching Others: “Perceiving and reacting to others with acceptance and respect while supporting their development toward full potential.” Business Development professionals in particular should cultivate this attitude as they work remotely.
- Flamboyance: “The drive to impress or excite—to stir others through words or actions.” Flamboyance is a sought-after trait in the Marketing and Administrative fields—and being able to express it remotely is even more critical.
- Influential Leadership: “The ability to positively persuade others’ choices by focusing on what is important to them and building consensus.” Sales and Marketing professionals can advance their remote careers by focusing on this skill.
- Inspirational Leadership: “The ability to uplift, enliven, fill, and empower people with a compelling vision.” Marketing professionals especially should develop this skill in their remote work relationships.
- Objective-Analytical: “The emphasis of logic and fact-based evaluating over feelings, resulting in clarity, thoroughness, and productivity.” This skill is essential in the Computer & IT field.
- Originality: “The ability to invent or independently conceive of brand-new ideas, methods, or products, regardless of their usefulness.” The ability to think originally is important in the fields of Computer & IT and Education & Training, especially in light of the many new challenges presented by remote work.
- Perspective: “The ability to understand broadly, to coordinate knowledge and experience, and to provide clear-sighted and meaningful counsel to others. An aspect of wisdom.” This is another trait that is helpful in every field, and especially in that of Education & Training.
- Problem Solving: “To discover, analyze, and solve a range of unfamiliar problems in both conventional and creative ways.” Computer & IT professionals working remotely should demonstrate strong problem-solving abilities.
- Productivity: “To set and meet goals, even in the face of obstacles and competing pressures. To prioritize, plan, and manage work to achieve the intended results.” Project Management professionals who display productivity can enhance the value of their remote work.
- Relationship Management: “To use awareness of one’s own emotions and those of others to navigate interactions successfully.” In the era of remote work, this interpersonal skill is especially important in the Project Management field.
- Relationship: “The drive to draw close and remain loyal to another person or people—to truly connect and enjoyably engage with them.” This soft skill has wide application for remote work, particularly in the Accounting & Finance, Marketing, Business Development and Administrative fields.
- Self Assessment: “To engage in self-reflection so as to determine strengths and limitations in one’s values, abilities, and resources.” This ability is most needed in Business Development professionals.
- Service Orientation: “The ability to anticipate, identify, and meet people’s often unspoken needs through assistance, products, or services and the drive to generate customer satisfaction and loyalty.” This is another trait that is critical to multiple industries that are transitioning to a remote workforce, including Medical & Health, Sales, Customer Service and Administrative.
- Social Awareness: “To relate and respond to the feelings, needs, and concerns of individuals or broader societal groups.” Professionals in such diverse remote fields as Medical & Health, Sales, Accounting & Finance and Education & Training can benefit from cultivating this skill.
- Stress Tolerance: “To endure pressure and uncertainty without becoming negative (e.g., hopeless, bitter, or hostile) toward self or others.” Stress tolerance is vital for every remote worker, especially those in the fast-paced fields of Customer Service, Administrative and Project Management.
- Supportiveness: “The drive to assist, protect, and provide for others in emotional or physical need.” Medical & Health, Customer Service and Administrative professionals can advance their remote-work careers through this empathetic trait.
3 steps to cultivate soft skills
As you read that list, did any skills stick out to you as opportunities for improvement? Maybe you already know the skills you could grow in. So how do you get started? FlexJobs career coach Brie Reynolds has some advice.
- Identify the soft skills you already possess. Starting with a positive assessment will encourage you in the growth you’ve already experienced and motivate you to attain more soft skills. “PAIRIN offers soft skills testing so people can identify their areas of strength and where they can improve,” says Reynolds. “FlexJobs also recommends doing a self-audit to determine which soft skills you feel strongest with and which ones you lack confidence in.” Asking people close to you, such as friends, family and coworkers, can also give you insights on where to go from here.
- Take a class. “There are plenty of free, online short and longer courses to help you strengthen your skills,” says Reynolds. Here’s one place to get started. Then, once you’ve got a course under your belt, it’s time to practice—at work and in your personal life. “You might also seek out new tasks or projects at work, in volunteering, in your community or at home where you can put these newer skills to use.”
- Interview someone who has the skill you want. “Informational interviews are also a great way to learn from other people who are already strong in the skills you want to build,” says Reynolds. “For example, if your sister-in-law has excellent stress tolerance and you’ve witnessed her staying calm in stressful situations, ask her how she approaches stress and what her advice would be for you to get better in this area.”
It all comes down to communication
According to the analysis, the top soft skills across most industries include Critical Thinking, Service Orientation, Social Awareness, Relationship Management and Stress Tolerance. “Interestingly, the ability to communicate effectively is foundational to many of these skills,” says Reynolds. “Communication is the number-one skill we see employers of remote teams looking for.”
Why is communication so important in the virtual workplace? Positive rapport is essential to a team’s success, but it can be harder to build through a screen. “Most remote employers want to hire professionals who can both do the job they’re being hired for AND build excellent working relationships with their colleagues,” says Reynolds.
“The bottom line is that employers place a high value on people who have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.”
In today’s extremely competitive remote job marketplace, many candidates will possess similar technical competencies. These not-so-soft skills are what can set you apart—and put you in the best position possible to land the job.
Read at Forbes.com