Essential Soft Skills: What Today’s Highest Paying Employers are Really Looking For

Mastering soft skills has become just as crucial as technical skills in today's competitive workplaces.

They are now an essential part of the vetting process for new employees applying for the best-paying jobs across the US.

The big question is, which of these soft skills are in the most demand?

That's the question inspiring this latest study from CashNetUSA. Its researchers spent hours analyzing thousands of listings for high-paying jobs on Indeed, then translated all that data into several charts and tables highlighting what soft skills you need to land one of them.

Let's get into the results.

But first, let’s take a close look at what it means to have soft skills.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are all about how we work, communicate, and interact with others. They include important skills and attributes like communication, teamwork, and empathy, as well as personality traits such as adaptability, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence.

Unlike hard skills, which relate to the ability to perform specific tasks, soft skills are more about the way we do things, rather than just doing things.

Why are soft skills so important in the workplace?

Employers value soft skills because they contribute to a positive work environment, driving inclusion and productivity. Soft skills make our working environments better places to work, especially when it comes to important things like mental health and employee well-being.

Soft skills aren't some nice, fluffy ideas for HR meetings. They are very real and have a very real impact on the workplace. Soft skills play a central role in workplace success, influencing collaboration, creativity, and overall performance.

What business leaders say about soft skills

But don't take our word for it.

Here's a look at what some of today's best business leaders, CEOs, communication experts, and psychologists have to say about soft skills:

"I really can't put enough emphasis on the importance of communication," says Walmart founder Sam Walton. "The more people know, the more they care, which creates unstoppable momentum throughout an organization."

"In a high IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, empathy, and drive mark those who have the potential to be truly outstanding," Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

"Soft skills will make or break a career," said Peggy Klaus, a leadership, communication, and political consultant.

"Soft skills provide the foundation on which to keep building other skills, which is why they're so in-demand now," Rohan Rajiv, Director of Product Management at LinkedIn.

Most valuable soft skills in the US job market

So, which of these soft skills will put you on the path to earning big bucks?

According to the study by CashNetUSA, it's strategic thinking. The ability to formulate and implement a successful strategy appeared in 64% of high-paying jobs advertised on Indeed.

Other in-demand soft skills include negotiation, which appears in 58% of adverts, and persuasion, featured in 57% of job descriptions listed on Indeed.

Unique soft skill demands in every US state

Next up, the CashNetUSA researchers looked for the most disproportionately popular soft skill in every US state. This simply means the soft skills that are in demand at a higher rate than the national average.

This approach threw up some interesting results. For example, there's a disproportionate demand for active listeners in New York state, while companies in Massachusetts are seeking candidates who can make big things happen and stay humble about it.

Companies in four states believe that patience is not just a virtue; it's also a super important soft skill. Patience is the most disproportionately sought-after soft skill in Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Missouri.

Most in-demand soft skills in US states

Resilience is one of the most underrated soft skills. It's also one that all the best business leaders and founders have. Did you know that Bill Gates' first business ventures were an absolute failure? Or how everyone called Jeff Bezos' plans to sell books online a passing fad?

Resilience is key to long-term success, which is why it's now the most in-demand soft skill in Iowa, Louisiana, and Florida. On average, it appears in around half of all Indeed job adverts for jobs with a high starting salary in these states.

Big tech companies are always pushing the boundaries, and the need for constant innovation in Silicon Valley makes it the most sought-after soft skill in California.

How to land a high-paying job in New York City

Knowing how to think strategically is the key to landing a high-paying job in New York. This super-valuable soft skill is now in the required skill section of almost 7 out of 10 high-paying jobs in New York advertised on Indeed.

Soft skill requirements in Los Angeles

Strategic thinking is also the number one sought-after skill for exclusive jobs in Los Angeles.

Employers in the City of Angels are also looking for people with the power to persuade and the skills to negotiate a deal that keeps everybody at the table happy.

Goal setting in Chicago

Chicago is the only city where goal-setting features in the list of the most sought-after soft skills. It appears in just under half of the job adverts included in this part of the study.

Most in-demand soft skills in San Francisco

Want to earn a high salary in San Francisco? Then it's time to start developing your strategic thinking and presentation skills.

Innovation is also in the top three most important soft skills. So you'll need to start thinking outside the box, which means never using the phrase "outside the box" during your interview.

Raising the EQ in Austin

Texas is big, bold, and brash. And this unique state character is on full display in the city of Austin.

However, employers in the city are putting more emphasis on the soft and understated approach - emotional intelligence (EQ) and conflict management are now prerequisites to land an interview for the most desired jobs in Austin.

Can I learn soft skills?

Yes, you can definitely 'learn' soft skills.

Soft skills focus on interpersonal interactions, personal habits, and emotional intelligence, which can all be developed and refined over time.

Learning soft skills requires practice, feedback, and a willingness to be honest with yourself and then change.

Start by engaging in active listening and participating in team projects. Find a mentor to help you. Practice empathy and understanding in all your daily interactions. The key is to try to see yourself from the other person's point of view.

Online courses and workshops are also an effective way to build up your soft skills. They offer structured learning pathways to improving communication, leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities.

Read next: New Study Unveils the Major Companies Behind the Great US Employment Boom
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