What Exactly Are Soft Skills and Why Do They Matter?


Getting the soft-skills right

It is said that manners ‘maketh a man’. At the surface, each jobseeker is equipped with the professional pedigree that her chosen industry desires. But for an industry like travel and tourism which is predominantly client-facing and involves people management, at both macro and micro levels, good marks are seldom the ticket to success. And while success is measured by different people with different yardsticks, blessed is the lady who has the oft-neglected soft skills to give her career the edge academic degrees routinely underemphasise.

So, what exactly are these soft skills? For starters, they are ‘soft’ in the sense that they are not tangible in the literal sense and don’t feature in mark sheets. They are a heady mix of good grooming, exceptional communication skills, a pleasant personality and the ability to get things done. And for a high-octane industry that travel and tourism is, just ‘doing’ never suffices. Because, there are doers and there are movers and shakers.

So, when do these soft skills come into play? While many have operated subconsciously which made you ace the interview and land the plush job at a suburban five star hotel, it is while you are on the job when they will be really tested. It is these soft skills that will make the client look for you on their next visit, or tip better, rave about your services on social media, or even write you a recommendation.

But, such is the nature of the game that the operative word here is ‘elusive’. Nothing is writ in stone and the world is constantly evolving. It is a continuous process of learning and unlearning. Most people in hospitality, travel and tourism would however agree on some of the below cardinal rules. In no particular order,

  1. Be well-groomed – while we do not endorse Botox or plastic surgery to enhance your looks, make it a thumb rule to never be shabby at work. Since your appearance repels or attracts a stranger, be immaculate in your presentation. Get a spa session once in a while. At some hotel chains, these are complimentary for the staff.
  2. Follow the cardinal rules of dressing – Match your belt and shoes, never wear ties that do not match your shirt, never ever wear open footwear to work for men and no chapped lips or chipped nail paint for the ladies. If it’s raining, have a change of clothes at the office.
  3. Never report to work drunk or hungover – It’s all very well to party and let your hair down. Only, follow the golden rules of drinking – never drink on an empty stomach, for every drink, have two glasses of water and keep nibbling. And most importantly, never mix spirits and go overboard. The morning after, brush like there’s no tomorrow, use copious amounts of mouthwash, mouth fresheners and chewing gum. Nothing repels like bad breath and rheumy red eyes.
  4. Master your languages – And we don’t mean literally earning a degree in language. Just watch good TV, read good magazines and newspapers and work on your ‘scope-for- improvement’ areas. It’s OK to make mistakes but never OK to repeat them.
  5. Communicate well and never miscommunicate. If you haven’t understood, it’s OK to ask again. Repeat orders rather than see frayed nerves when the squid meant for table 2 reaches the Jain family on table 1.
  6. Be nimble-footed and always smile – Notwithstanding how things stand in your life. If they are paying you for the job, better do it to the best of your abilities. Half-hearted work is never good work and one dislike on Facebook (yes, it’s coming soon!) can cost you potential customers.
  7. Mingle with the staff – Work is where you spend most of your waking hours and you cannot remain strangers to your colleagues. Share lunches, extend a helping hand and travel home together – seemingly little gestures that will get you a support system when boss cracks the whip. But never bitch. And if you find love, switch jobs – no one wants to talk shop at home and it unconsciously becomes so when we work at the same office.
  8. Remember names – Nothing sounds sweeter to us than our names. And this applies to others too. This is indispensable in hospitality.
  9. Always be on call – Given the volatile job market, the ‘I switch off my phone after work’ attitude never works. Be at the beck and call of your bosses 24×7. If you don’t, they’ll find one who will.
  10. Never stack up or take more than you can swallow. It’s all very well to try to impress but don’t behave like a wannabe. Everyone can tell when you’re faking it.

The aforementioned are just the tip of the iceberg and every organisation has its own best practices. So, one has to constantly adapt, adapt and adjust in order to truly fit into his organisation and shine at work. Clients, bosses and schedules are demanding and will always be. But as the famous Hindi proverb goes, ‘Problems life mein kabhi kam nahi hogi. Yaa to usme bhaag lo, or usse bhaag lo!’ Go ahead, shine at work.

Soft Skills Improvement Tips | Blue Whale Academy | Mumbai, India

Hope you enjoyed reading our blog post. Did we miss something? What is your take on soft skills? Tell us your stories in the comments.