Career Column
Solidifying Your Soft Skills

Joanna McCormack

Brianna Devitt


hink back to the last time you viewed a job posting. Do you remember seeing “flexibility,” “patience,” and “communication” listed as requirements for the role? While these skills are necessary in any given role, they are rarely included in a job description. They are also difficult to discern from a candidate’s cover letter or resume. Employers are increasingly seeking these abstract skills when looking for the perfect candidate.

Hard Skills versus Soft Skills

Before you can refine your soft skills, it is important to understand the difference between hard and soft skills. A hard skill is an ability that is tangible, teachable, and specific to a particular job. Hard skills can include data analysis experience or using a pharmacy software system to dispense medications.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are intangible and are difficult to teach but are still essential for any job. Soft skills are the abilities that facilitate building relationships and are not specific to any particular position. Considering that these traits are difficult to quantify, structured interview questions play a key role in recognizing soft skills in a candidate. Possessing the potential to integrate both sets of skills into a given role will make you an excellent colleague and coworker.

Soft Skills in the Workplace

Blending your soft and hard skills is necessary on a daily basis. Transitioning into a pharmaceutical industry role directly from an academic setting requires strengthening both these skill sets. After a didactic PharmD curriculum and clinical rotations, many pharmacy-specific hard skills are not directly relevant to the industry. But our training as post-doctoral fellows has also entailed adapting to new systems and processes; these soft skills have remained just as relevant as we moved from patient care to drug development-centered teams.

Cultivating soft skills is vital to both one’s future professional development and day-to-day work. Strong soft skills allow a professional to effectively communicate with colleagues, regardless of functional area or educational background. Soft skills can be seamlessly transitioned between roles because of their universal applicability.

The soft skills below are useful for any position:


In order to be adaptable, you must be comfortable adjusting to new workplace situations. For instance, being adaptable relates to working in teams or independently. As new fellows in a department, we must work together in teams as well as work independently to achieve goals. Another key component of being adaptable is remaining open to new ideas or solutions. Remaining adaptable is much more difficult than adopting and maintaining a routine at work.

Conflict Management and Resolution

It is understandable that disagreement will arise at some point when working with colleagues from different backgrounds and different points of view. This may mean handling difficult conversations. Feeling comfortable with productive discussions and reaching agreement will ultimately strengthen your team’s group outcomes.


Establishing professional relationships can greatly impact your career development. Good networking skills can help land your next role in a different department or even at another company. Connecting with other professionals and understanding their job responsibilities will expand your knowledge base. Networking links individuals together to allow for greater opportunities for all.

Emotional Intelligence

Everyone’s personality is unique, but do you understand how your personality affects others at work? Emotional intelligence involves considering the effects of your actions and words on others by managing yourself appropriately.


In the pharmaceutical industry, cross-functional teams are an essential part of development workflows. Being a valued team member entails open collaboration with others. From our observations so far, the most successful teams have synergy created by strong communication and mutual respect among team members.

Soft Skills Take Career-Long Development

Although soft skills may not be obvious or easy to identify, with practice and self-awareness you can strengthen your soft skills to become a more outstanding employee. These characteristics serve as a strong foundation for being open to professional learning and growth. Whether you are applying for your first job or finally settling into a more permanent position, implement and continue to develop these skills as often as you can. Whether you are a recent graduate or a trained professional, enhancing your soft skills is crucial to success.