Develop Your Soft Skills
by Trying Out New Activities

See also: Social Skills

Soft skills are currently in high demand. In fact, research shows that recruiters are emphasizing their importance more than ever before and that they are one of the strongest determinants for success.

While automation and online technologies continue to revolutionize our society, one of the best ways for job seekers to stand out from the crowd is by demonstrating valuable soft skills. Nowadays, as most job postings ask for some degree of hard skills, it can be difficult to get hired solely on the basis of technical ability when dozens of other candidates hold similar qualifications.

On the other hand, applicants that add sought-after soft skills when building their resume often have a higher chance of succeeding. It’s no surprise then that the demand for soft skills in the job market has been steadily increasing since at least 1980. When the rest of the applicant pool already meets the bare minimum of technical knowledge, including relevant soft skills can help you get a step-up on the competition.

Let’s dive into how to develop your soft skills by engaging in activities that will help you evolve both on a professional and personal level, while having some fun in the process.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are typically defined as skills that are not technical or job-related. This might include interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities, or leadership skills. In comparison, hard skills refer to professional skills such as programming, digital marketing, or accounting. While soft skills are personal qualities that are difficult to accurately measure and are developed through a variety of activities, hard skills are quantifiable and can be learnt with specific courses and work experiences.

While soft skills are generally more abstract than hard skills, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be learned in concrete ways. As a matter of fact, one of the best ways to foster them is through extracurricular activities and side interests that take place outside of the classroom or the office. By trying out new activities, you will not only be able to learn new soft skills, but you will also add depth to your resume through the inclusion of additional interests.

Some common examples of soft skills include:

What Activities Can Help Me Develop My Soft Skills?

There are a variety of activities that can help you acquire new soft skills or upgrade those you already have. Below, we have compiled some of the best options to consider trying out.

Improve your teamwork abilities through sports

Sports can help you learn a breadth of crucial interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution, leadership, and communication.

The social and academic benefits of team sports have already been well-documented by various studies. While the focus of most research has been on the benefits they bring for children and teenagers, that doesn’t mean that they don’t bring similar advantages for adults.

Below are some examples of team sports that are excellent for soft skill development:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • American football
  • Volleyball
  • Baseball
  • Water polo
  • Handball

Sports and soft skill development

While the correlation between team sports and soft skill development is more widely reported, individual sports such as tennis, swimming, or martial arts can also be highly beneficial. These activities can help with self-motivation, confidence, and other valuable personal skills for adults.

Expand your creativity with a new art hobby

Taking up an art-related hobby can be effective to foster attention to detail, creativity, and patience.

Creativity is increasingly valued by employers. As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, an increasing amount of human labour is being carried out by comparatively more efficient machines. This means that people are starting to focus on strategic, creative, or people-focused roles which can’t be as easily replaced by automation. Trying out a new art-related hobby can be one of the best ways to improve skills that are valuable in these types of positions, such as creativity or strategic vision.

Here are some of the most popular artistic hobbies worth exploring:

  • Photography
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Pottery and other crafts
  • Collaging
  • Singing
  • Learning a new instrument
  • Drama and theatre
  • Making furniture

Boost your sociability by joining a club

Joining a club related to an interest you have can help make you more sociable while improving other relevant learning skills.

It’s hard to deny that people prefer to work with people they actually like being around. This is partly why company culture fit is such an important metric for recruiters, and why interviews are still a crucial part of the hiring process. To give off a good impression when talking to your prospective employer, it’s essential to have good social skills. This can be effectively cultivated by joining a club related to a topic that interests you, while also enhancing your listening, persuasion, or relationship skills.

  • Book club
  • Community service
  • Art or museum club
  • Language exchange
  • Political association
  • Activist group
  • Knitting club

Become a better leader by starting a side project

Starting your own side business or project can make you better at leading other people as well as solving problems.

With the advent of the internet, the possibilities for starting side projects and businesses have multiplied tenfold. As of today, almost anyone can start their own website, e-commerce store, or online initiative if they are willing to put in the time and effort. This can help you acquire a score of valuable soft skills, especially when managing other team members or dealing with complex challenges if your idea moves forward.

Here are some side project possibilities worth considering, both for the online and physical world:

Grow your self-confidence by travelling more

Travelling is one of the best ways to go out of your comfort zone, which in turn can increase your self-confidence and other valuable personal skills.

Almost everyone loves to travel, but not everyone does it in a way that promotes personal growth. While taking a group trip with friends and family can be very enjoyable, it can sometimes lack activities that nurture personal evolution. However, other types of travel, such as backpacking or volunteering trips, can be excellent ways to build skills like self-awareness, stress management, and mindfulness.

The list below covers some of the types of travel that fasten your soft skills progress:

  • Visiting a new country alone
  • Volunteer travel
  • Gap year
  • Yoga retreat
  • Extreme-sport travel
  • Wilderness adventures
  • Creative trip
  • Backpacking

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

A Final Word

While this list includes many of the best activities to generate new soft skills, there are many other ones that can be excellent choices as well. Take a further look at the rest of the SkillsYouNeed website to find additional ways to develop your soft skills, and to learn about other areas of self-development.

Not only will soft skills increase your chances of success in a job search, but they’ll help you in almost all areas of your life.

About the Author

Sean Adesanya is an experienced writer with a varied background in personal development, career building, and resume writing. He is also an avid martial arts practitioner, hobbyist artist, and loves to travel.