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Which Soft Skills are Important in 2020?

Article by Australian Careers Service.

With competition in the workforce fiercer than ever, the importance of softs skills has never been higher. In contrast to a formal qualification, soft skills — things you don’t typically learn at uni — can be what sets a person apart in the workplace.

Soft skills are considered to have more nuance, take longer to develop and are harder to acquire, making the key for customer or client retention. But which soft skills are the most important? A good place to start is to look at what others are learning.

Udemy hosts over 150,000 courses hosted by experts that can be taken anywhere, any time. A recent report looked at consumption of their courses between 2016 and 2019, to determine the top skills that have had the highest rank change. 

Along with the skills listed below, the report also includes storytelling, culture awareness, critical thinking, leadership and emotional intelligence in the top 10 soft skills. 

Growth Mindset 

A growth mindset promotes the idea that we can get better at or improve our ability in anything we put the effort into. Harvard Business Review says that ‘individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.’  

A growth mindset goes hand-in-hand with ambitious goal setting and achievement, so it’s no surprise that it’s the number one soft skill for career progression in all industries and at all levels. Udemy currently has over 4,00 courses in the topic! 


What was once considered an innate skill of those in artistic professions, creativity has shown to be a key factor in all industries. The world needs innovative leaders with new ideas, and creativity is a crucial element in problem-solving. Creativity courses specialise in areas like innovation and business, idea generation, coding, lateral thinking and harnessing your imagination. 

Focus Mastery 

In a world full of distractions and technology at our fingertips, staying focused has never been more of a challenge — but while many of us are now working from home, it’s never been more important. Courses are available to help power through your to-do list and increase your productivity. 


As many businesses and individuals need to adapt their products and business models, there is an increasing need for innovation. According to Forbes, ‘innovation isn’t solely represented by new devices, ideas or methods, but also by the process of uncovering new ways to do things’. You can take courses in innovation that tie in with themes such as creativity, design thinking and leadership. 


Encompassing many elements of work life, communication is a skill that can refer to public speaking, emails, one-to-one discussions, meetings and presentations. Good communication can build trust, propel projects forward and improve morale. At a management level, it’s essential for delegation, conflict resolution, and project management in general. You can improve your communication skills to improve your assertiveness, sharpen your business acumen or increase your confidence. 

Careers England Newsletter: 153
August 3, 2020
DfE engagement
Two meetings have been held in July with Deputy Director of Careers at DfE, Richard Simper, and the new Head of the Careers Policy Unit, Jane Hubbuck. The discussions centred on the recent Plan for Jobs and Youth Offer as unveiled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the FE White Paper which is due in the autumn. In welcoming the additional £32m for the National Careers Service (NCS), Careers England asked for the NCS offer to be reviewed in light of the challenges faced by customers in a changing labour market. The changes proposed focused on changing the Priority Group status and the Payment by Results mechanism to enable providers to manage the risks as the NCS faces increased demand for its services. DfE indicated that there are no immediate plans to make any changes, but would keep the Priority Groups under review. A further meeting is being sought with DfE to investigate how specific changes to the NCS offer can enable the best response to the crisis and to get the best return for the increased NCS budget in the face of the pressure to perform.

DfE’s response to the question of access to careers guidance featured the growth of Careers Hubs and the development of Personal Guidance in response to Gatsby Benchmark 8. The entitlement gap still remains and it is unlikely that there will be any new money in the Spending Review to ensure that this gap is plugged. The FE White Paper is likely to include reference to the new Careers Strategy and DfE officials have agreed to meet again with Careers England in September to discuss proposals.

Career Development Policy Group
The CDPG has been meeting on a weekly basis and has been active in producing an emergency career development plan post Covid-19, which received overwhelming support across the sector and amongst key political leaders. It pre-dated the Chancellor’s announcement of the Plan for Jobs, which we welcome, but we still need support to achieve the Career Guidance Guarantee. Find out how you can get involved.

Youth Employment Group (YEG)
Careers England has recently joined the YEG, which coordinates activity to influence policy on jobs and training for young people. The YEG represents a wide range of bodies, from large networks and service providers to smaller community organisations. It has been effective in engaging Government officials and has lobbied on a range of youth employment issues and initiatives. 

The YEG will produce a Recommendations Paper by September and will seek support and signatures from across the sector for as many of the recommendations as possible; Careers England will seek to align the CDPG recommendations with YEG’s and have them included.

Parliamentary Questions
Recent lobbying of MPs has led to a number of Parliamentary Questions being asked. The most recent questions in the House of Lords shows support for young people to have access to independent and professional careers guidance. Government responses default to the work of the National Careers Service and the Careers and Enterprise Company, but much more is needed and Careers England will continue to work with partners to identify how Government can respond to address the fragmented nature of services for young people and adults.
Task group information
Our position paper on employer and community engagement is now available on our website. Please share with your networks in support of of the strong partnerships that take place to enable high quality careers education. Thank you to our task group members for developing the paper.
News from across the sector
Am I still needed? Making careers guidance better for everyone – Deirdre Hughes OBE has written an article on economic recovery post-Covid and considers those most affected by the pandemic.

Stepping up to support choice for our next generation – John Yarham sets out the need for careers support post-Covid.
‘Looming mass unemployment’ – Stephen Evans, Learning & Work Institute – FE News

Coronavirus lost school time will hurt economy for 65 years – BBC

Revealed: The twenty colleges sharing the £5.4m college collaboration fund – FE Week

Sixth formers able to haggle for top UK universities under new grading system – Guardian

A-level and GCSE results to be higher this summer – BBC

Major overhaul of higher technical education announced – Gov.uk

Trainee trainer applications surge by 65% in England – The Guardian
Information, consultations and resources

National Careers Service resources
The Department for Education has developed two new papers on post-16 and post-18 options for young people.

APPG apprenticeship report
The APPG on apprenticeships has published its annual report to government. The recommendations include developing a cross-departmental apprenticeship strategy to respond to Covid-19, and setting up an apprenticeship working group with employers, training providers and professional bodies to develop innovative ways to retain apprentices and ensure the continuing talent pipeline.

ERSA is continuing to shape the work around influencing the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). They are asking organisations to contribute to a survey on UKSPF and what follows for employment and skills. You can contribute here. 
Conferences, events and training

Careers Summit 2020
Our Careers Summit was due to take place on 5th November. We have decided to postpone it to March 2021 so that we can safely run a physical event, to coincide with National Careers Week. Watch this space for more information.  

Evolving Education and Careers – DMH Associates, 20th – 22nd October 2020 
This three-day virtual conference sponsored by the Edge Foundation will offer policymakers, practitioners, employers and researchers from around the globe the opportunity to come together and exchange ideas, learn from each other and transform education and careers policies and practices. Register here.