Flexing your soft skills

soldier on top of a mountain using binoculars

Knowing your job and performing it to the best of your ability is important. It’s vital to ensuring you remain employed and a valuable member of a team.

But these days knowing your job will only get you so far. You need more than that. In a workforce, and a military, that is constantly changing and adapting to new technology and demands, we must do the same as employees, soldiers, and leaders.

This is where your soft skills come in

What does that mean exactly? Soft skills are those capabilities you possess to work in a team environment, to adapt to change, to communicate effectively and to solve problems and conflicts as they arise. As employers or military leaders look to fill vacancies on their team, they are looking for someone who knows how to do the work, but also, someone who can bring these soft skills to the table.

In an article on why soft skills matter, Forbes referenced Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report that states these skills are important to employee retention, fostering leadership and building a meaningful workplace culture.

So what are some soft skills that you as an Army NCO may already have and don’t even realize it?

Let’s start with an observation. Whether checking work in the motor pool, poring oversupply room inventory lists, or on an overnight patrol, observation is critical to what soldiers and noncommissioned officers do on a daily basis. You have a built-in ability to look for problems and solutions, to see what’s out of place and investigate. This transfers easily into observing data sets to look for trends, provide analysis or interpret what you find.

Soldiers also know how to adapt to a changing environment. Field problems are nothing if not one curveball surprise after another, so how can you take that ability to reassess and adjust your tactics to a leadership role or the civilian workforce? You’d be surprised how many workers face an obstacle and just stop working. They report the problem to their boss and give up. soldiers can’t do that.

Two skills that truly go hand-in-hand are teamwork and communication. For a team to be successful they have to communicate clearly and effectively. You’ve done this throughout your entire military career, so don’t give up these skills just because you’ve moved into leadership or the civilian world. When you integrate yourself into a team, you become an important member of the workplace and can really showcase your value.

If you feel you are lacking in any of these soft skills, don’t worry, they can be learned. One of the best ways to get experience in a soft skill is through volunteering—not to mention you get promotion points or another line on your resume! Decide on the skills you want to improve then find an organization in your area that will provide you the space to learn and practice soft skills.

To read more about the importance of soft skills, check out’s list of six soft skills everyone needs.