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11 Essential Soft Skills In 2024 (With Examples)

Monique Danao

Updated: Apr 28, 2024, 8:35pm

11 Essential Soft Skills In 2024 (With Examples)

Table of Contents

What are soft skills, 11 essential soft skills that employers value, frequently asked questions (faqs).

In today’s fast-paced world, success in the workplace requires more than just technical expertise and knowledge. As the nature of work continues to evolve, it is important for individuals to possess attributes and abilities that allow them to collaborate with teams and colleagues—otherwise known as soft skills.

From communication and collaboration to adaptability and problem-solving, soft skills are the foundation of effective teamwork and organizational success. In this article, we will explore 11 critical soft skills examples that are essential to workplace success and why they are becoming more important than ever before.

Soft skills—also known as “people skills” or “interpersonal skills”—are a set of personal attributes and abilities that allow individuals to effectively interact with others in a professional setting. At their core, these include the ability to collaborate effectively, manage time and communicate with clarity, among others.

Soft skills are difficult to measure or quantify; however, they are essential for success in a wide range of industries and professions. Whether you are working with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds or communicating with customers and clients around the world—the ability to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics and build strong relationships is the key to success.

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Here’s a look at the essential soft skills that companies value the most.

1. Communication

Effective communication is essential to build strong relationships with colleagues, clients and stakeholders. Not only does this involve the ability to convey messages in a clear and compelling way, but also the ability to understand the needs of others and respond to feedback. Employers want people who can build professional relationships with colleagues, which is especially important when working with teams.

Communication is often evaluated in the workplace through informal feedback, such as verbal or written comments from colleagues and supervisors. An alternative method is a formal evaluation or assessment. The ability to communicate effectively is often considered a critical component of professional success, and is highly valued by employers in a wide range of industries and professions.

Here are some examples of communication skills:

  • Active listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Presentation skills

2. Leadership

A good leader has the ability to inspire their team to achieve greatness. They are able to set a clear vision, communicate it effectively and create a culture of accountability and excellence. More importantly, they’re able to inspire and influence team members to achieve shared goals and objectives.

The ability to lead effectively is often considered a critical component of professional success, and is highly valued by employers in a wide range of industries and professions. Because most employees work in teams, leadership is widely recognized as a critical attribute for success in the modern workplace.

Here are some examples of leadership skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Strategic thinking

3. Teamwork

Teamwork involves the ability to work with others toward a shared goal. It requires communication, collaboration and a shared commitment to work in a group. Individuals who are able to work collaboratively with others are more likely to achieve their professional goals, and to contribute to the success of their organizations.

In a professional setting, good teamwork can help to foster creativity and innovation because it encourages members to share ideas, brainstorm new solutions and collaborate on new initiatives. Working as part of a collaborative team can also enhance job satisfaction and contribute to a positive work environment.

Here are some examples of teamwork skills:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Accountability
  • Collaboration

4. Creativity

Creativity involves the ability to think outside the box and come up with ideas that challenge assumptions. Needless to say, it requires a mindset of curiosity, risk-taking and a willingness to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty.

On another front, creativity is essential for effective problem-solving, meaning it allows individuals to tackle issues from new and different angles. Creative individuals also give organizations a competitive edge by enabling them to develop new products and systems that set them apart from their competition.

Here are some examples of creative skills:

  • Brainstorming
  • Imagination
  • Experimentation

5. Time management

Time management involves the ability to set priorities, organize tasks and allot time across different activities. It requires discipline and a willingness to avoid distractions and low-priority tasks.

Naturally, good time management skills can help individuals avoid the stress and anxiety that can arise from missed deadlines. But more importantly, those who can manage their time effectively are more likely to be seen as reliable and efficient, which allows them to stand out in the workplace.

Here are some examples of time management skills:

  • Goal-setting
  • Time blocking

6. Adaptability

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, adaptability is a key soft skill that enables individuals to stay ahead of the curve. An employee with this skill can adjust to changing circumstances, for example, and learn new skills and technologies to remain relevant in the workplace.

Because it’s impossible to avoid unexpected challenges, having adaptable employees allows organizations to bounce back from setbacks much faster. Plus, they can also read situations quickly and adjust their approach to adapt based on the situation.

Here are some examples of adaptability skills:

  • Flexibility
  • Growth mindset

7. Problem-solving

Problem-solving involves the ability to come up with alternative solutions. This skill is crucial to identifying and addressing complex challenges and opportunities in a variety of contexts.

Problem-solving also makes it easier to make more informed decisions because employees are able to analyze situations and identify the best course of action. As a result, teams are able to get more done in less time.

Here are some examples of problem-solving skills:

  • Critical thinking

8. Work ethic

Work ethic demonstrates an individual’s commitment to their job. Having a strong work ethic makes you seem more reliable and dependable, which improves your credibility in the workplace.

There are a lot of ways to demonstrate a strong work ethic. Some examples include arriving on time for meetings, meeting deadlines consistently and being accountable for your actions. If you encounter any challenges in the workplace, you should also maintain a positive demeanor and adapt to changing situations.

Here are some examples of work ethic skills:

  • Punctuality
  • Reliability
  • Professionalism

9. Critical thinking

Critical thinking enables individuals to approach problems and challenges with a strategic and analytical mindset. When making informed decisions, this skill allows you to weigh available options and consider potential outcomes.

A critical thinker can evaluate the strength of arguments and identify flaws in reasoning. They consider multiple perspectives, which makes them more likely to pinpoint the short-term and long-term consequences of their decisions. Additionally, they can also identify the root cause of a problem and generate multiple solutions.

Here are some examples of critical thinking skills:

  • Deductive reasoning

10. Conflict management

Not every employee can get along with colleagues every time. As a team tackles obstacles, conflict and opposing ideas could arise every now and then.

Conflict management is the process of addressing disputes or disagreements in a constructive and effective manner. Often, this requires good communication skills, active listening, empathy, negotiation skills and a willingness to collaborate and find common ground.

When managing conflict, it is important to identify common goals and interests for all parties involved. This can help to establish a sense of unity and collaboration, and even lead to better outcomes for everyone involved. Being open to different ideas and perspectives can also make individuals feel motivated to work towards resolution.

Here are some examples of conflict management skills:

  • Negotiation

11. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize and understand one’s own emotions and those of others. In today’s collaborative work environments, this skill enables employees to navigate complex social dynamics and work effectively within teams. It also allows them to provide constructive feedback in a way that is sensitive to the emotions of others, leading to more successful outcomes and stronger relationships.

Effective leaders often have the ability to motivate others and navigate challenging situations with grace and empathy.

  • Self-awareness
  • Social skills

Bottom Line

In the modern workplace, employers seek candidates who possess technical expertise and soft skills that enable them to thrive in a collaborative work environment. Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, creativity, adaptability, problem-solving, work ethic, critical thinking and conflict management can be developed and honed over time. While it is important for individuals to continue to build their technical expertise, developing soft skills can ultimately set you apart in the workplace and lead to long-term success.

What are the 10 soft skills most desired in the industry?

The 10 most desired soft skills in the industry can vary depending on the specific job or industry. However, they generally include communication skills, teamwork, leadership, time management, adaptability, problem-solving, critical thinking, work ethic, creativity and emotional intelligence.

What is the most important soft skill?

Picking a single most important soft skill is difficult, because its importance can vary depending on the job or industry. However, most organizations consider communication skills as one of the most crucial skills essential for success in most workplaces and industries. Strong communication skills can improve relationships with colleagues, clients and customers, facilitate collaboration and teamwork, and enhance overall job performance.

What are employability soft skills?

Employability soft skills are a set of nontechnical skills that are highly valued by employers. Not only can they contribute to an individual’s workplace success, but they can also be applied in a variety of job roles. Some common examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability and initiative.

What are some addition soft skills that can be useful in most workplace situations?

Besides the soft skills already covered, some addition soft skills that can be useful in most or all workplace situations include decision-making, stress management, resourcefulness, being persuasive, being open to criticism and being organized.

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Monique Danao is a highly experienced journalist, editor, and copywriter with an extensive background in B2B SaaS technology. Her work has been published in Forbes Advisor, Decential, Canva, 99Designs, Social Media Today and the South China Morning Post. She has also pursued a Master of Design Research at York University in Toronto, Canada.

What Are Critical Thinking Skills? (Example List Included)

Mike Simpson 0 Comments

critical thinking is soft skills

By Mike Simpson

Ah, critical thinking skills. As a candidate, it’s vital to understand that pretty much all employers are on the hunt for job seekers with critical thinking skills. Why? Because it’s universally helpful on the job.

When employees know how to think critically, they are more effective in their positions. They’ll be more productive and self-sufficient. In the eyes of employers, that matters a ton.

But what are critical thinking skills exactly? And, if you don’t have them, what can you do to improve your ability to think critically?

If you’re asking yourself questions like those, you’re in luck. After all, you’re here, and we’re about to tell you all about the characteristics of critical thinking and how to get better at it. So, if you’re ready to dig in, here’s what you need to know.

What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

If we’re going to talk about critical thinking skills, it’s best to begin by answering a crucial question: what are critical thinking skills?

Well, to figure that out, it’s helpful to know what critical thinking means. According to the Cambridge Dictionary , critical thinking is “the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you.” That’s actually a pretty solid place to start.

In many ways, critical thinking is a two-fold process. First, it focuses on information-gathering and fact-analysis. It’s all about understanding a subject thoroughly.

Second, it’s about setting your feelings aside. With critical thinking, it isn’t about what you want the facts to say; it’s about the reality of the situation. It’s a very Vulcans-from-Star-Trek approach to topics. Emotions and personal preference simply aren’t part of the equation in the vast majority of cases. Instead, objectivity reigns.

Alright, so what are critical thinking skills then? Well, critical thinking skills are the soft skills and hard skills that help you assess situations, collect data, analyze information, identify solutions, determine the viability of solutions, and make decisions without letting your emotions run the show. Any capability or trait that makes it easier to do those things can qualify.

In many cases, thinking critically plays a bigger role in your day-to-day than you’d expect. When you approach any task, you usually spend a moment analyzing it. That way, you can find the best path toward success.

When a task is simple, it doesn’t take much time to do a quick critical thinking once over, so you probably don’t even notice you’re doing it. It’s only when an activity is challenging or when something unexpected occurs that your thought process really stands out. As a result, you probably spend far more time thinking critically than you realize.

How Are Critical Thinking Skills Relevant to a Job Search?

Okay, we’ve given you a solid overview of what critical thinking skills are. Now it’s time to talk about the importance of critical thinking during a job search.

When you’re hunting for new opportunities, critical thinking skills are immensely valuable. For example, they can help you figure out if a job opening is genuinely a good fit for your capabilities and career.

When you find a job ad, do you just apply without seeing if it matches your skills and aligns with your goals? Of course not. Instead, you take a look at the requirements, examine the job ad for potential, and decide whether or not that opportunity really fits. That’s critical thinking.

But that’s not the only way these skills make a difference during your job search. They may also help you identify what points to include in your resume and cover letter to stand out to a hiring manager or what to talk about when you’re answering specific job interview questions.

How can it do all of that? Well, when you decide what to list in your resume or cover letter, or add to an interview answer, you have to do some analysis. You consider the hiring manager’s needs. Next, you find a matching accomplishment that highlights what they are after. Then, you figure out present it in an engaging way. That’s all critical thinking, too.

Plus, thinking critically can also make a difference post-interview. You’ll have an easier time assessing your own performance, allowing you to identify areas for improvement. Good stuff, right?

When it comes to why hiring managers prefer candidates with these skills, there are actually several reasons. The biggest is that employees with strong critical thinking skills tend to be more self-sufficient and productive. They are better equipped to assess situations and find their own solutions, and that matters, particularly in faster-paced environments.

Plus, workers that know how to think critically may have an easier time collaborating. They can separate their emotions from the situation, allowing them to focus on what’s best for the team and company.

So, which critical thinking skills are they after? Well, that can depend on the hiring manager. However, most want to see you possess capabilities in four core areas: information-gathering, analysis , problem-solving, and creativity. If you tap into all of those, you usually have what it takes to think critically.

How to Highlight Critical Thinking Skills for Job Search

Okay, at this point, you probably understand the importance of critical thinking skills. Now onto the next part of the equation: how to show off your capabilities during a job search.

Let’s start with the earliest part of the job search: your resume and cover letter. When you’re writing a resume or creating a cover letter , the best thing you can do is focus on achievements.

Highlighting accomplishments where you put your critical thinking skills to work lets you “show” the hiring manager you have what it takes instead of just telling them. After all, anyone can say, “I’m an excellent critical thinker,” even if they aren’t. By having examples, you prove that you have those capabilities. That matters.

How do you pick the right achievements? By using a winning strategy, like the Tailoring Method . The Tailoring Method focuses on relevancy. It helps you choose accomplishments that showcase the skills the hiring manager wants to see, increasing the odds that they’ll view you as an excellent match for their needs.

Now that your resume and cover letter are squared away, it’s time to talk about the interview. Luckily, you can use the Tailoring Method here, too. It’s a great technique for straightforward job interview questions , as well as behavioral interview questions .

When you’re dealing with behavioral interview questions, couple the Tailoring Method with the STAR Method . That way, your answers are engaging and relevant, making them even more impactful.

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills If You Don’t Have Them

Some people may think that they don’t have any critical thinking skills. In reality, that probably isn’t true.

Nearly everyone develops some critical thinking capabilities over the course of their lives; they just may not realize it. Luckily, that’s a good thing. It means you probably have a solid foundation, even if you don’t know it.

Why does that matter? Well, it means you can focus more on developing what you have. You aren’t actually starting from scratch, which can make it easier.

Ready to take your critical thinking skills to the next level? Great! Here’s how you can.

Understand the Critical Thinking Process

When it comes to how to think critically, there is actually a core process involved. By understanding the steps, you can make sure you approach situations properly.

Usually, the critical thinking process involves:

  • Observation
  • Information-Gathering
  • Brainstorming

Typically, you start by observing the issue at hand. Next, you do some research, helping you gather more information. After that, you focus on brainstorming ideas on how to proceed. Then, you consider each option, identifying the best one. Finally, you decide to proceed, taking actions based on what you’ve learned.

It’s a systematic way to address a range of scenarios. By learning the process, you can put it into use more often, allowing you to increase your skills.

Take Up a Hobby

Many hobbies actually require quite a bit of critical thinking. For example, if you want to have a thriving garden, you need to take several factors into account. Soil condition, water availability, the amount of sunlight, aesthetics… those are just some of the points you need to analyze if you want to succeed.

Arts and crafts can also help you boost critical thinking. When you’re making something, you have to evaluate your options for materials, techniques, and more, ensuring you choose a path that leads to the best final product.

Join a Debate Club

If you’re looking for possibly one of the best critical thinking examples around, debate is probably it. That means, if you want to take your skills up a notch, joining a debate club can be a great option.

You have to support a position – at times one that doesn’t align with your personal beliefs – and try to convince others that your side is correct. You’ll dive into unfamiliar topics, gather data to support the perspective you’re assigned, and choose how to present information in a convincing way.

While you might think that, if you aren’t in high school, that this isn’t an option, that isn’t the case. There are many meetups that focus on debate, giving people of all ages a place to boost their skills.

List of Critical Thinking Skills

There are quite a few characteristics and capabilities that support critical thinking. By knowing which skills fall into that category, you can decide what to showcase during your job search.

So, let’s dig in. Here is a quick list of critical thinking skill examples:

  • Self-Reliance
  • Decision-Making
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Problem-Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Attention to Detail
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Interpretation
  • Active Listening
  • Conceptualization

Now, these aren’t the only skills that can help you think critically. Practically anything that enables you to navigate the process can count.

Additionally, you don’t have to fit all of these skills on your resume to show that you know how to think critically. Instead, you want to highlight a range, demonstrating that you have what it takes to navigate situations effectively and accomplish your goals.

Spend some time reflecting on your work history or educational experiences. Then, identify moments where you used critical thinking to accomplish something noteworthy. Once you have, think about the skills that came into play, and make sure to mention them as you describe what led up to the achievement.

If you’re looking for more skills to put on a resume , we’ve actually taken a deep dive into that topic before. Along with various critical thinking skills, we tap on a ton of other areas, making it easier for you to figure out what you should feature during your job search.

Putting It All Together

In the end, critical thinking skills are essential for nearly every member of the workforce. By elevating yours as much as possible and showcasing them during your job search, you won’t just be a stronger candidate but also a more capable employee. That’s all great stuff. It’ll help you have your ideal career and, ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about?

critical thinking is soft skills

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com.

His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others.

Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

About The Author

Mike simpson.

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Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

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What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

Zoe Kaplan

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Forage puts students first. Our blog articles are written independently by our editorial team. They have not been paid for or sponsored by our partners. See our full  editorial guidelines .

In the workplace, we’re constantly bombarded with new information to sort through and find solutions. Employers want to hire people who are good at analyzing these facts and coming to rational conclusions — otherwise known as critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills are a type of soft skill that describes how you process information and problem-solve . In this guide, we’ll cover critical thinking examples, how to improve your critical thinking skills, and how to include them in a job application.

Critical Thinking Skills Defined

What are critical thinking skills? Critical thinking skills help you process information and make rational decisions. 

“Critical thinking skills allow us to analyze problems from multiple angles, come up with various solutions, and make informed decisions,” says Bayu Prihandito, self-development expert and certified psychology expert. “This not only saves time and resources but also develops innovation and adaptability , skills that employers highly value.”

There’s data to back up Prihandito’s point, too. In top industries like technology and finance, critical thinking skills are even more important than some technical and digital hard skills . According to PwC , 77% of employers in financial services say that critical thinking skills are crucial for their business, compared with digital skills at 70%. Critical thinking is one of the top five skills employers in technology are looking for, too, according to Forage internal data , preceded only by communication skills , data analysis, and Python.

>>MORE: Learn the differences between hard and soft skills .

But why do so many employers want you to have these skills? Critical thinking skills make you a more effective, productive, and efficient employee.

“By questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and exploring alternative perspectives, individuals with strong critical thinking skills can make well-informed decisions and devise creative solutions to complex issues,” says Matthew Warzel, certified professional resume writer and former Fortune 500 recruiter . “This leads to improved problem-solving and decision-making processes, fostering organizational efficiency and productivity. Critical thinking skills also empower individuals to identify and mitigate potential risks and pitfalls, minimizing errors and enhancing overall quality in the workplace.” 

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Critical Thinking Skills Examples

Critical thinking examples include a wide range of skills, from the research you do to understand a problem to the collaboration skills you use to communicate with others about a solution. Other examples include:

critical thinking is soft skills

Critical Thinking Skills Examples at Work

What does critical thinking in the workplace look like? Here are some critical thinking examples for different roles:

  • A software engineer anticipating potential challenges with a new feature and making plans to mitigate them before integration 
  • A marketer evaluating historical user data to identify channels to invest in 
  • An investment banker performing due diligence on a potential merger
  • A product manager making a hypothesis of why a product change will drive more engagement
  • A sales manager considering the risks and outcomes of modifying the company’s pricing model 
  • A consultant gathering initial data and information on current company processes, costs, and organization to synthesize challenges

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Whether you’re in a technical field, creative one, or somewhere in between, critical thinking skills can help you be a better employee — and therefore are highly valuable to all different types of employers.

“Critical thinking is essential to success in both white and blue collar jobs,” says Dr. Nathan Mondragon, chief industrial and organizational psychologist at HireVue. “Consider the school bus driver who must maintain constant vigilance and practice some critical thinking skills in the moment during an ever changing road or traffic situation. No parent will argue against the importance of a bus driver’s ability to quickly and critically analyze a situation to make an informed, albeit, rapid decision.”

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

If critical thinking skills are crucial to being an effective (and hireable!) employee, how can you improve yours? 

Practice Active Reading

OK, maybe you know what active listening is, but what about active reading? Active reading is when you read challenging material and reflect on what you read. It can help you engage with information and build your critical thinking skills.

Pick an article on a topic you’re interested in. While you’re reading, write down thoughts you have about the author’s arguments and follow-up questions you have. Even better, get someone else to read the same material and start a conversation about what you wrote down!

“By reading diverse and challenging material, such as books, articles, or academic papers, students can expose themselves to different perspectives and complex ideas,” Warzel says. “Following this, students can engage in reflective writing, where they articulate their thoughts and opinions on the material, while incorporating logical reasoning and evidence to support their claims. This process helps develop clarity of thought, logical reasoning, and the ability to analyze and synthesize information effectively.”

The exercise might seem a little like homework at first, but that’s why professors have you answer comprehension questions and participate in discussions for school — they want you to think critically about the material. 

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Play With Puzzles …

Building your critical thinking skills doesn’t just have to be reading a bunch of articles. It can be fun, too! Regularly engage with puzzles like logic puzzles, riddles, and word games. These puzzles practice your reasoning skills while keeping you intellectually stimulated.

… and People, Too

Critical thinking isn’t done in a bubble. You’ll need to collaborate with others, especially in the workplace, to understand past projects, roadblocks, what resources they have, and their opinions. Participating in group activities like debates, academic clubs, and academic discussions can help you practice listening to and processing different viewpoints.

Stay Curious

Good critical thinkers are open to a range of answers and ideas. They want to take in all of the evidence to understand why something is (or isn’t) happening.They also know going into a problem with an open mind is the best way to solve it. 

You can practice this open-mindedness by staying curious. 

“Adopt a curiosity mindset, learn how to ask good questions, and practice unraveling something from end to beginning and vice versa,” says Arissan Nicole, resume and career coach and workplace expert. “Critical thinking is about being reflective, not reactive. Put yourself in situations that are uncomfortable and challenge you, be around people that have different viewpoints and life experiences and just listen.”

How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking Skills in a Job Application

We know employers value critical thinking skills, but you don’t just want to add “critical thinking” in the skills section of your resume. Instead, your goal should be to show employers that you have these skills.

On Your Resume

On your resume , highlight experiences where you used critical thinking skills.

“Include relevant experiences or projects that demonstrate your ability to analyze information, solve problems, or make informed decisions,” Warzel says. “For example, you can highlight academic coursework that involved research, critical analysis, or complex problem-solving. Additionally, you can mention extracurricular activities or volunteer work where you had to think critically or exercise your problem-solving abilities.”

In the Interview

In the interview , elaborate on your experiences using the STAR method to frame your answers. The STAR method helps you clearly and concisely describe the situation, what you did, and what results you found.

Beyond speaking to your experience, you can also show your critical thinking skills in how you answer questions. This is especially true for more technical interviews where the interviewer might ask you to solve problems.

For example, let’s say you’re interviewing for a data analyst position. The interviewer might ask you a hypothetical question about how you’d figure out why company sales dipped last quarter. Even if you don’t have an answer right away (or a full one!), speak your thought process out loud. Consider:

  • Where do you start?
  • What resources do you rely on?
  • Who do you collaborate with?
  • What steps do you take to uncover an answer?
  • How do you communicate results?

“Emphasize your ability to think logically, consider multiple perspectives, and draw conclusions based on evidence and reasoning,” Warzel says. 

This is the time to get specific about exactly what steps you’d take to solve a problem. While on a resume you might keep it short, the interview is the time to elaborate and show off your thought process — and hopefully show why you’re the best candidate for the role!

Ready to start building your critical thinking skills? Try a free Forage job simulation .

Zoe Kaplan

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 

Open-mindedness

It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.

Observation

Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 

Communication

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 

Problem-solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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How to develop critical thinking skills

man-thinking-while-holding-pen-and-looking-at-computer-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 

close-up-of-mans-hands-opening-a-dictionary-with-notebook-on-the-side-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 

woman-solving-puzzle-at-home-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 

man-looking-down-to-something-while-thinking-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 

coworkers-at-meeting-looking-together-the-screen-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

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Foster creativity and continuous learning with guidance from our certified Coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

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Can dreams help you solve problems 6 ways to try, how to improve your creative skills and supercharge your resume, how divergent thinking can drive your creativity, what is lateral thinking 7 techniques to encourage creative ideas, how observational learning affects growth and development, 8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems, what’s convergent thinking how to be a better problem-solver, how to be optimistic, member story: career development and shaping my future with intention, why asynchronous learning is the key to successful upskilling, critical thinking is the one skillset you can't afford not to master, thinking outside the box: 8 ways to become a creative problem solver, top-down processing & how to avoid self-limiting behavior, member story: a copilot for the road ahead, how emotions affect learning: the impact of emotions, self directed learning is the key to new skills and knowledge, all about the 3 types of memory and how they form, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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Craig B. Barkacs MBA, JD

Critical Thinking Is All About “Connecting the Dots”

Why memory is the missing piece in teaching critical thinking..

Updated July 17, 2024 | Reviewed by Monica Vilhauer

  • Critical thinking requires us to simultaneously analyze and interpret different pieces of information.
  • To effectively interpret information, one must first be able to remember it.
  • With technology reducing our memory skills, we must work on strengthening them.

I have a couple of questions for my regular (or semi-regular) readers, touching on a topic I’ve discussed many times on this blog. When it comes to power, persuasion , and influence, why is critical thinking so crucial? Alternatively, what are some common traps and pitfalls for those who prioritize critical thinking? It's not necessary that you go in to great detail—just any vague or general information that comes to mind will do.

Great! Regardless of whether you recalled anything specific, the key is you made the effort to remember something. Like many questions I pose here, the real purpose is to illustrate a point. If you aim to be influential and persuasive—i.e., successful—in both work and life, you must be proficient in critical thinking. To achieve this proficiency, you need to cultivate and exercise your memory , a skill that is increasingly at risk in a technology-saturated age.

Remembering Is the Foundation of Knowing

Learning and remembering something are often discussed as if they are two separate processes, but they are inextricably linked . Consider this: Everything you know now is something you once had to learn, from basic facts to complex knowledge and skills. Retaining this information as actual knowledge, rather than fleeting stimuli, depends entirely on memory. Without memory, there is no knowledge. Consequently, there can be no critical thinking, as it relies on prior knowledge, which in turn relies on memory.

Students sometimes tell me that they want to learn how to be good critical thinkers but complain about having to “memorize stuff.” On these occasions I will often say, in a playfully teasing manner, “What I hear you saying is that you're bothered by having to remember stuff.” This usually helps them see how silly and unreasonable it is to complain about memorizing information, as there isn’t a single course in existence that doesn’t require remembering something . The ability to remember is at the core of critical thinking, and I often use the simple visual demonstration that follows to illustrate this point.

Collecting Dots and Connecting the Dots

Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, developed a model known as the “Taxonomy of Learning.” Originally intended for educational psychology, this model also highlights why memory is the foundation of critical thinking—or any kind of thinking at all.

Humans are creatures of interpretation, constantly processing the information we perceive. This ability has made us the scientists, inventors, and artists that we are today. To interpret information, however, we must first remember it—not all information, obviously, as that’s impossible. Thanks to technology (which we’ll get to momentarily) we have vast amounts of information potentially at our fingertips. But how do you know what information to look up in a given situation? To know where to start and avoid endlessly searching irrelevant data, you need to remember enough of the right kind of information.

Think of a crime movie where an investigator, while reviewing evidence, suddenly has an epiphany and rushes off to confirm their hunch. These scenes illustrate that while the investigator needs more information, they remember enough to know what to search for.

Here’s a visual demonstration I use in class to help my students understand. Imagine you have pieces of information represented as five dots:

Craig Barkacs

Now let’s say that any coherent shape or picture you can draw using these dots is an interpretation of the information. When examined together, what might these five dots mean? Here’s one way to connect the dots.

Craig Barkacs

What does this shape represent? Many people will quickly say it’s a house, a common and reasonable interpretation. But not everyone sees it as a house. Some might say it’s the home plate used in baseball. Even when people connect the dots (i.e., interpret a cluster of information) the same way using the same lines, they don’t necessarily interpret the picture the same way. The situation becomes more complex when people connect the dots differently, creating a completely different shape or picture.

Craig Barkacs

Now, having connected the dots differently, instead of a house, we have a star. Or at least some would consider it a star; others might say it’s an occult or magic symbol—these are all very different interpretations. This shows that with the same pieces of information, people can “connect the dots” differently, and even when they connect them the same way, they see different things.

Now what happens when additional information is added or an alleged “missing dot” is perceived by others?

Craig Barkacs

With just one additional dot, what could have previously been interpreted as a 5-pointed star can now be reasonably interpreted as the Star of David.

Finally, sometimes the additional information can lead to a completely different shape or image, resulting in a “eureka” moment of insight. What previously appeared as different types of stars now looks like a circle.

critical thinking is soft skills

I use this classroom demonstration to illustrate how people can interpret the same objective information in highly subjective ways, creating different narratives for themselves and others. This is a crucial point to remember when aiming to influence or persuade others—i.e., the need to see things from their perspective. Additionally, this activity powerfully underscores the importance of “collecting dots”—that is, the importance of remembering crucial bits of information. Without enough such dots, you lack the basic information needed to form meaningful ideas. Without meaningful ideas, you can’t think critically, influence, or persuade. It’s as straightforward as that.

Memory in the Age of Omnipresent Technology

Why is it so crucial to recognize that memory is foundational to critical thinking, power, influence, and persuasion? Partly because this fact isn’t widely acknowledged—and it needs to be. Additionally, we live in an era where memory is under unprecedented assault. While technology allows us to achieve remarkable feats unimaginable to previous generations, it comes at a cost. One such cost is “digital-induced amnesia,” where our memory capabilities atrophy due to information overload and technology taking over many of the cognitive tasks we used to perform ourselves.

Memory doesn’t exist in isolation. It’s closely tied to traits like the ability to focus and pay attention . If you’re not paying attention, you can’t absorb the information that you want or need to remember. Unfortunately, technology also impacts our ability to focus , and this doesn’t even touch on the dramatic ways AI ’s explosive development might undermine our thinking skills .

This article won’t delve into specifics on improving focus and memory in an age of tech ubiquity. Fortunately, resources from Psychology Today can help with that. My goal here is to convince you why memory is so vital for anyone who wishes to be a critical thinker and a persuasive, influential person. Now you know. Whether you’ll remember or not...only time will tell.

Craig B. Barkacs MBA, JD

Craig Barkacs, MBA, JD, is a professor of business law at the University of San Diego School of Business and a trial lawyer with three decades of experience as an attorney in high-profile cases.

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

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Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process.

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

Definitions of critical thinking

Various scholars have provided definitions of critical thinking, each emphasizing different aspects of this complex cognitive process:

Michael Scriven , an American philosopher, defines critical thinking as "the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication as a guide to belief and action."

Robert Ennis , professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, describes critical thinking as "reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do."

Diane Halpern , a cognitive psychologist and former president of the American Psychological Association, defines it as "the use of cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome."

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Critical thinking is essential for success in everyday life, higher education, and professional settings. The handbook "Foundation for Critical Thinking" defines it as a process of conceptualization, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of information.

In no particular order, here are eight key critical thinking abilities that can help you excel in any situation:

1. Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking involves evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject cognitive biases and strive to gather and analyze intricate subject matter while solving complex problems. Analytical thinkers who thrive at critical thinking can:

Identify patterns and trends in the data

Break down complex issues into manageable components

Recognize cause-and-effect relationships

Evaluate the strength of arguments and evidence

Example: A data analyst breaks down complex sales figures to identify trends and patterns that inform the company's marketing strategy.

2. Open-mindedness

Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider new ideas, arguments, and information without prejudice. This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go, taking information at face value and coming to a conclusion based on multiple points of view .

Open-minded critical thinkers demonstrate:

Willingness to consider alternative viewpoints

Ability to suspend judgment until sufficient evidence is gathered

Receptiveness to constructive criticism and feedback

Flexibility in updating beliefs based on new information

Example: During a product development meeting, a team leader actively considers unconventional ideas from junior members, leading to an innovative solution.

3. Problem-solving

Effective problem solving is a cornerstone of critical thinking. It requires the ability to identify issues, generate possible solutions, evaluate alternatives, and implement the best course of action. This critical thinking skill is particularly valuable in fields like project management and entrepreneurship.

Key aspects of problem-solving include:

Clearly defining the problem

Gathering relevant information

Brainstorming potential solutions

Evaluating the pros and cons of each option

Implementing and monitoring the chosen solution

Reflecting on the outcome and adjusting as necessary

Example: A high school principal uses problem-solving skills to address declining student engagement by surveying learners, consulting with higher education experts, and implementing a new curriculum that balances academic rigor with practical, real-world applications.

4. Reasoned judgment

Reasoned judgment is a key component of higher order thinking that involves making thoughtful decisions based on logical analysis of evidence and thorough consideration of alternatives. This critical thinking skill is important in both academic and professional settings. Key aspects reasoned judgment include:

Objectively gathering and analyzing information

Evaluating the credibility and relevance of evidence

Considering multiple perspectives before drawing conclusions

Making decisions based on logical inference and sound reasoning

Example: A high school science teacher uses reasoned judgment to design an experiment, carefully observing and analyzing results before drawing conclusions about the hypothesis.

5. Reflective thinking

Reflective thinking is the process of analyzing one's own thought processes, actions, and outcomes to gain deeper understanding and improve future performance. Good critical thinking requires analyzing and synthesizing information to form a coherent understanding of a problem. It's an essential critical thinking skill for continuous learning and improvement.

Key aspects of reflective thinking include:

Critically examining one's own assumptions and cognitive biases

Considering diverse viewpoints and perspectives

Synthesizing information from various experiences and sources

Applying insights to improve future decision-making and actions

Continuously evaluating and adjusting one's thinking processes

Example: A community organizer reflects on the outcomes of a recent public event, considering what worked well and what could be improved for future initiatives.

6. Communication

Strong communication skills help critical thinkers articulate ideas clearly and persuasively. Communication in the workplace is crucial for effective teamwork, leadership, and knowledge dissemination. Key aspects of communication in critical thinking include:

Clearly expressing complex ideas

Active listening and comprehension

Adapting communication styles to different audiences

Constructing and delivering persuasive arguments

Example: A manager effectively explains a new company policy to her team, addressing their concerns and ensuring everyone understands its implications.

7. Research

Critical thinkers with strong research skills gather, evaluate, and synthesize information from various sources of information. This is particularly important in academic settings and in professional fields that require continuous learning. Effective research involves:

Identifying reliable and relevant sources of information

Evaluating the credibility and bias of sources

Synthesizing information from multiple sources

Recognizing gaps in existing knowledge

Example: A journalist verifies information from multiple credible sources before publishing an article on a controversial topic.

8. Decision-making

Effective decision making is the culmination of various critical thinking skills that allow an individual to draw logical conclusions and generalizations. It involves weighing options, considering consequences, and choosing the best course of action. Key aspects of decision-making include:

Defining clear criteria for evaluation

Gathering and analyzing relevant information

Considering short-term and long-term consequences

Managing uncertainty and risk

Balancing logic and intuition

Example: A homeowner weighs the costs, benefits, and long-term implications before deciding to invest in solar panels for their house.

7 steps to improve critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem or question

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Gather relevant information

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Analyze and evaluate data

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Consider alternative points of view

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed?

5. Draw logical conclusions

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Develop and communication solutions

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

This process of communicating and sharing ideas is key in promoting critical thinking within a team or organization. By encouraging open dialogue and collaborative problem-solving, you create an environment that fosters the development of critical thinking skills in others.

7. Reflect and learn from the process

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

By engaging in this metacognitive reflective thinking process, you're essentially teaching critical thinking to yourself, refining your methodology with each iteration. This reflective practice is fundamental in developing a more robust and adaptable approach to problem-solving.

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was.

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Step 1: Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Step 2: Then gather information and research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Step 3: Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Step 4: Consider alternative viewpoints to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Step 5: Determine the most logical solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Step 6: Communicate your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Step 7: Reflect on the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Tools and techniques to improve critical thinking skills

As the importance of critical thinking continues to grow in academic and professional settings, numerous tools and resources have been developed to help individuals enhance their critical thinking skills. Here are some notable contributions from experts and institutions in the field:

Mind mapping for better analysis

Mind mapping is a visual technique that helps organize and structure information. It's particularly useful for synthesizing complex ideas and identifying connections between different concepts. The benefits of mind mapping include:

Enhancing creativity by encouraging non-linear thinking

Improving memory and retention of information

Facilitating brainstorming and idea generation

Providing a clear overview of complex topics

To create a mind map:

Start with a central idea or concept.

Branch out with related sub topics or ideas.

Use colors, symbols, and images to enhance visual appeal and memorability.

Draw connections between related ideas across different branches.

Mind mapping can be particularly effective in project planning , content creation, and studying complex subjects.

The Socratic Method for deeper understanding

The Socratic Method, named after the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, involves asking probing questions to stimulate critical thinking and illuminate ideas. This technique is widely used in higher education to teach critical thinking. Key aspects of the Socratic Method include:

Asking open-ended questions that encourage deeper reflection

Challenging assumptions and preconceived notions

Exploring the implications and consequences of ideas

Fostering intellectual curiosity and continuous inquiry

The Socratic Method can be applied in various settings:

In education, to encourage students to think deeply about subject matter

In business, it is important to challenge team members to consider multiple points of view.

In personal development, to examine one's own beliefs and decisions

Example: A high school teacher might use the Socratic Method to guide students through a complex ethical dilemma, asking questions like "What principles are at stake here?" and "How might this decision affect different stakeholders?"

SWOT analysis for comprehensive evaluation

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a strategic planning tool that can be applied to critical thinking. It helps in evaluating situations from multiple angles, promoting a more thorough understanding of complex issues. The components of SWOT analysis are:

Strengths: internal positive attributes or assets

Weaknesses: internal negative attributes or limitations

Opportunities: External factors that could be beneficial

Threats: External factors that could be harmful

To conduct a SWOT analysis:

Clearly define the subject of analysis (e.g., a project, organization, or decision).

Brainstorm and list items for each category.

Analyze the interactions between different factors.

Use the analysis to inform strategy or decision-making.

Example: A startup might use SWOT analysis to evaluate its position before seeking investment, identifying its innovative technology as a strength, limited capital as a weakness, growing market demand as an opportunity, and established competitors as a threat.

Critical thinking resources

The Foundation for Critical Thinking : Based in California, this organization offers a wide range of resources, including books, articles, and workshops on critical thinking.

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking : This council provides guidelines and standards for critical thinking instruction and assessment.

University of Louisville : Their Critical Thinking Initiative offers various resources and tools for developing critical thinking skills.

The New York Times Learning Network provides lesson plans and activities to help develop critical thinking skills through current events and news analysis.

Critical thinking frameworks and tools

Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework : Developed by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, this framework provides a comprehensive approach to developing critical thinking skills.

Bloom's Taxonomy : While not exclusively for critical thinking, this classification system is widely used in education to promote higher-order thinking skills.

The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) : This assessment tool measures the disposition to engage in problems and make decisions using critical thinking.

The Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test : Developed by Robert Ennis, this test assesses a person's ability to appraise an argument and to formulate a written argument.

By incorporating these tools and techniques into regular practice, individuals can significantly enhance their critical thinking capabilities, leading to more effective problem-solving, decision-making, and overall cognitive performance.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed .

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A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

  • Matt Plummer

critical thinking is soft skills

Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.

Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.

With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.

critical thinking is soft skills

  • Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. These skills are especially helpful at school and in the workplace, where employers prioritize the ability to think critically. Find out why and see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews the evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter and during your interview.

How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking in a Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history, include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand skills in mind as you refine your critical thinking practice —whether for work or school.

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns

Communication

Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of classmates or colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing

Open-Mindedness

To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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Professional Skills

  • Oct 19, 2021

Soft Skills 101: Definition, Importance and Examples

Soft skills are an essential asset for every professional. Our guide will walk you through everything you need to know about soft skills, and how they can benefit your career.

Mike Dalley

Mike Dalley

HR and Learning & Development Expert

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

A group of people building their soft skills

The term ‘soft skills’ is commonly used, but what they are or why they are essential isn’t widely discussed.  

Soft skills are more important for  job success  than ever before. While many employees focus on hard skills and aligning these to jobs and applications, soft skills are put to one side or assumed to be learned passively as people go about their day-to-day jobs. Despite this, a  recent study  suggests that 89% leave their positions in the first eighteen months because they do not have the right soft skills. 

But before you can develop soft skills, you must first understand what they are. Here, we will walk you through the meaning of soft skills, why they are essential and six different types to focus on in the workplace. 

What are soft skills?

Soft skills often refer to a suite of non-technical skills frequently transferrable across most industries, jobs, and workplaces. They are as crucial for entry-level roles as they are for senior or C-suite positions. 

Because of their transferability, soft skills are  highly sought-after  by recruiters and employers and are often included in job descriptions or competency frameworks. Soft skills are focused on abilities such as productivity, initiative, creativity, communication, or organisation. Consequently, they can be part of someone’s working style, personal brand, or attitude.  

Hard skills are different from soft skills in that they are more specific to a particular role and often a lot more tangible in nature. Examples of hard skills could be using a specific human resources system such as Workday, coding skills, sales ability , or even foreign languages. 

Why are soft skills important?

Aside from their transferability, soft skills are valued by employers because, in many cases, they facilitate the development of hard skills. In 2019 LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends  report concluded that soft skills are as necessary as hard skills, if not more critical to career success .

For instance, say you have the necessary technical and professional skills to work in coding. It is all very well to have exceptional coding ability, but if you lack communication skills or can’t work in teams, this will cause many issues for employers and probably wouldn’t be as productive as someone with a more refined set of soft skills.

Specific soft skills also illustrate how willing or able someone is to learn, grow, and develop. Other soft skills, especially those directly connected to attitude, will help employers understand if the person is a right fit for a particular  organisational culture . 

Soft skills can also become the deciding factor when it comes to candidate selection. With the job market becoming increasingly competitive, many candidates focus on acquiring hard skills, as these are often the easiest to develop, either by taking courses or gaining specific experience . On the other hand, soft skills are commonly honed over time through coaching, feedback, and learning from successes and mistakes.  

Recruiters will initially select candidates based on their hard skills by reviewing their CVs and résumés and then narrow this selection down by assessing soft skills through interviews - which allow for a more accurate understanding of soft skills competence. 

Finally, soft skills particularly matter if an employee is making the transition from employee to leader. As you make your way up the career ladder, you tend to leave behind the reliance on hard skills and rely more on soft skills, many of which are directly connected to  effective leadership , such as negotiation skills, communication, or conflict management. Understanding systems and techniques is often the role of line staff; leaders without a strong soft skills portfolio will find this transition very challenging. 

Types of soft skills

There are many different types of soft skills, covering all manners of abilities and competencies. All of these are valuable inside and outside of work, and none should be ignored or neglected.  

Because there are many soft skills, it helps to categorise them into a few main areas of expertise. The six main types of soft skills are as follow:  

Communication

Collaboration, critical thinking.

  • Positive attitude

Commonly regarded as a top skill, communication concerns your ability to  convey meaning  to a person or persons. Communication skills also include your ability to understand and receive messages relayed by someone else to you. Communicating a message also comprises transmitting the meaning or purpose behind it. Therefore, an essential part of communicating is not just what you are communicating but also how you communicate it.  

Here are some types of communication skills:

  • Active listening
  • Body language
  • Clarity/pace
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Friendliness
  • Giving or receiving feedback
  • Open-mindedness
  • Public speaking
  • Telephone etiquette
  • Tone/intonation
  • Understanding the audience
  • Writing skills

Collaboration skills are all about bringing people together and fostering  teamwork  to accomplish common goals. This differs from leadership skills (in the sense that anyone in an organisation can collaborate, not just managers); collaboration skills increase the effectiveness in bringing together people, departments, resources, and ideas, ensuring that everything works in harmony to produce exceptional results. 

Some common collaboration abilities are listed below: 

  • Building trust
  • Change management/ adaptability
  • Communication skills
  • Conflict management skills
  • Goal setting  
  • Negotiation
  • Problem-solving
  • Strategic thinking
  • Win-win mentality

Work ethic 

Work ethic concerns the focus and drive one has on completing their tasks. Those who work hard, drive for great results and motivate others to do the same at work display excellent work ethic. The soft skill of work ethic is also about being dependable and trustworthy at work . 

Finally, work ethic is very closely connected to working fairly. Ensuring that corners are not cut, and honesty and fairness are considered in all that is done at work. Some examples of work ethic skills are: 

  • Goalsetting
  • Productivity
  • Professionalism
  • Organisation
  • Reliability

Critical thinking allows you to deeply  analyse  and understand your job, its tasks, and its input and outputs. This is an important soft skill to possess, as those who are good at it can drive the business forward, coming up with newer and more innovative ways of working. Critical thinkers are adept at picking apart problems and coming up with solutions. They are also logical, methodical workers who are able to spot patterns and meanings in data which can be beneficial for organisations and their reports. As such, people with refined critical thinking skills are highly prized. Some critical thinking skills include:

  • Conflict management 
  • Observation
  • Persuasion/negotiation skills
  • Reflective practice
  • Reporting skills
  • Researching ability
  • Self-evaluation skills

Having great leadership skills means that not only can you effectively lead teams in terms of getting the job done, you can also inspire them to achieve great things, motivate them to contribute to short- and long term goals, and coach them to develop their careers. 

People with strong leadership skills are also highly effective at leading processes as well as people, understanding how to bring together human resources as well as systems to drive the organisation forward. Here are some key leadership skills: 

  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Conflict management
  • Engagement and motivation
  • Presentation skills
  • Storytelling 
  • Written and spoken communication

Positive attitude 

A positive attitude is a great soft skill to have because it is so infectious. Those who are optimistic by nature will inspire others to do the same. They bring a workplace to life and motivate both themselves and others to achieve more. 

When times are tough, those with positive attitudes can be a saving grace, keeping people focused on what needs to get done. Some skills and abilities related to having a positive attitude are as follows: 

  • Remaining calm under pressure
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Recognition skills

Soft skills are often developed over time and form part of who we are, both at work and in our personal lives. As such, it is easy to not focus on these skills, believing that they will grow and be nurtured gradually by simply becoming ‘older and wiser’. 

Focusing on your soft skills will ensure that you are consistently performing at your best and will also set you up for a successful career progression. Take some time to regularly reflect on your soft skills. Keep a journal or  find a mentor  and track progress on these skills. Asking for feedback is also crucial: seek advice from your manager and consider your main tasks or duties, in terms of which soft skills are more closely aligned to what you do. 

Finally, set action plans and targets to develop your soft skills, perhaps through a  personal development plan .

By maintaining a focused approach to improving your soft skills, you will ensure that you will be ready to tackle every workplace challenge, meaning that results and rewards will follow.

Which of these soft skills do you this are the most important? Let us know in the comments section below! 

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 1 February 2018.

Interpersonal Skills

Employability

Soft Skills

critical thinking is soft skills

Critical Thinking

Why This Is an Essential Skill

Dawn Rosenberg McKay is a certified Career Development Facilitator.

Critical thinking is the process of carefully and systematically analyzing problems to find ways to solve them. It involves identifying several possible solutions and then logically evaluating each one, comparing them to one another on their merits, and then selecting the one that you conclude is the most promising.

Why Should You Become a Critical Thinker?

The ability to think logically about a problem in order to solve it is a valuable soft skill. Employers prefer job candidates who can demonstrate a history of using critical thinking skills. They want to have employees who can solve problems quickly, but more importantly, they want ones who can solve them effectively.

Tips to Help You Develop Critical Thinking

You may think there isn't enough time to take a slow and measured approach to problem solving. After all, time is scarce, and quick and easy answers are appealing. However, rushing to make a decision is less productive than using critical thinking.

Critical thinking is one of several life skills you should try to develop while still in school. Sign up for science classes, for example. Your assignments will require you to generate hypotheses and then test them before coming to conclusions.

Students taking art classes also use critical thinking. To complete projects, you will have to select media and techniques that will best allow you to achieve your artistic vision. 

Join a debate club. Examining issues, adopting stances on them, and then arguing your point will force you to think critically.

Graduates aren't out of luck. Practice your critical thinking while performing everyday activities. Before voting, for instance, learn about each of the candidates. When deciding where to have dinner, weigh your alternatives regarding the type of food, healthfulness, and cost. If making a purchase, do your research and read reviews of different brands.

Careers That Require Strong Critical Thinking Skills

While you can expect to use critical thinking in most occupations, there are some in which they are a primary part of the job. These occupations involve regularly making decisions and solving problems:

  • Judge :  Judges preside over criminal and civil legal cases, making sure they are handled fairly. 
  • Attorneys :  Attorneys represent people who are involved in civil and criminal legal cases.
  • Actuary :  Actuaries estimate the probability of certain events occurring and assess how much it will cost their employers or clients if they do.
  • Doctors :  Doctors examine patients in order to diagnose and then treat illnesses and injuries.
  • Operations Research Analyst :  Operation research analysts solve problems for companies and organizations using their knowledge of mathematics.
  • Principal :  Principals manage everything that goes on inside school buildings. They establish educational goals and make sure their faculty meets them.
  • Biomedical Engineer :  Biomedical engineers first analyze and then solve problems having to do with biology and medicine.
  • Biochemist or Biophysicist :  Biochemists study the chemical composition of living things. Biophysicists investigate how electrical and mechanical energy relates to living cells and organisms.
  • Medical Scientist :  Medical scientists research the causes of diseases and find ways to treat and prevent them.
  • Financial Examiner :  Financial examiners make sure banks and other financial institutions adhere to government laws and regulations.
  • Engineer :  Engineers use their scientific and mathematical expertise to solve problems.
  • Physician Assistant :  Physician assistants, under doctors' supervision, examine and treat patients.
  • Dentist :  Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients' teeth and mouth tissue.
  • Special Agent :  Special agents collect information in order to determine if people or organizations have violated any laws.
  • Geoscientist :  Geoscientists study physical aspects of the earth and may search for natural resources.
  • Clinical or Counseling Psychologist : Before developing a treatment plan, clinical and counseling psychologists assess patients for mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.
  • Anthropologist :  Anthropologists study the origin, development, and behavior of human beings.
  • Optometrist : Optometrists diagnose and treat eye diseases and disorders.
  • Audiologist :  Audiologists diagnose hearing difficulties and balance disorders.
  • Archaeologist :  Archaeologists excavate and analyze artifacts left behind by earlier civilizations.
  • Chemist :  Chemists use knowledge about chemicals to create products that improve our lives. 
  • Occupational Therapist :  Occupational therapists help patients recover their ability to perform daily living and work activities.
  • Pilot :  Pilots fly planes and helicopters for airlines that transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule or companies that offer charter flights, rescue operations, or aerial photography.
  • Dietitian or Nutritionist:  Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, supervise the preparation and serving of meals, and promote healthy eating habits.
  • EMT or Paramedic :  EMTs and paramedics treat ill or injured people who need immediate care.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist :  Marriage and family therapists provide therapy to families, couples, and individuals. They work from the perspective that those with whom we live have an impact on our mental health.
  • Health Educator :  Health educators teach individuals and communities how to live healthy lifestyles.
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager :  Computer and information systems managers coordinate companies' and other organizations' computer-related activities.
  • Financial Advisor :  Financial advisors help clients plan for their financial goals.
  • Physical Therapist :  Physical therapists help rehabilitate people who received injuries in accidents or who have disabling conditions.
  • Fashion Designer :  Fashion designers create clothing and accessories.
  • Marketing Manager :  Marketing managers formulate companies' marketing strategies.
  • Pharmacist :  Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and provide them with information about how to use them.
  • Human Resources Specialist :  Human resources specialists select job candidates who are most likely to meet their employers' needs.
  • Urban or Regional Planner :  Urban and regional planners help communities figure out how to best use their land and resources.
  • Survey Researcher :  Survey researchers design questionnaires and other tools that are used to collect data about people.
  • Assessor :  Assessors determine the values of multiple properties for cities, counties, and other municipalities.
  • Forensic Scientist :  Forensic scientists gather and analyze physical evidence from crime scenes.
  • Desktop Publisher :  Desktop publishers produce publication-ready materials using computer software.
  • Event Planner :  Event planners coordinate conventions, business meetings, trade shows, and private parties for organizations, businesses, and individuals.
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  • Definitions |

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are general traits not specific to any job, helping employees excel in any workplace. They include communication, teamwork, and adaptability, often termed as transferable or interpersonal skills. They’re essential for professional success.

Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

At a minimum, employees need role-specific knowledge and abilities to perform their job duties. But, those who usually stand out as high performers need some additional qualities, such as the ability to communicate clearly, the ability to work well with others and the ability to manage their time effectively. These abilities are examples of soft skills.

Neil Carberry , Director for Employment and Skills at CBI , talks about the balance between attitude and technical skills: “Business is clear that developing the right attitudes and attributes in people – such as resilience, respect, enthusiasm, and creativity – is just as important as academic or technical skills. In an ever more competitive jobs market it is such qualities that will give our young talent a head start and also allow existing employees to progress to higher skilled, better-paid roles”​​.

According to research conducted by Harvard University, 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills , with only 15% attributed to technical skills. This underlines the substantial impact soft skills have on professional success​​.

In addition, Deloitte’s research indicates that jobs requiring intensive soft skills are expected to grow 2.5 times faster than other job types. By 2030, it is predicted that 63% of all jobs will be comprised of soft skills roles, showcasing the growing demand for these competencies in the labor market​​.

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  • 15 soft skills examples that are essential traits among employees

Why are soft skills important?

How do you assess soft skills in candidates, here are 15 soft skills examples that are essential traits among employees:.

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Organizational
  • Stress management
  • Adaptability
  • Conflict management
  • Resourcefulness
  • Openness to criticism

Forbes adds to the above Emotional Intelligence and Work Ethic, which are as important as the others mentioned.

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In job ads, it’s common to include requirements such as “communication skills” or “a problem-solving attitude”. That’s because soft skills help you:

  • Example: An employee with good time management skills knows how to prioritize tasks to meet deadlines.
  • Example: When two candidates have a similar academic and professional background, you’re more likely to hire the one who’s more collaborative and flexible.
  • Example: For a junior position, it makes sense to look for candidates with a “willingness to learn” and an “adaptive personality”, as opposed to hiring an expert.
  • Example: When hiring a salesperson, you want to find a candidate who’s familiar with the industry and has experience in sales, but is also resilient, knows how to negotiate and has excellent verbal communication abilities.
  • Example: If you value accountability and you want to have employees who can take initiative, it’s important to look for candidates who are not afraid to take ownership of their job, who are decisive and have a problem-solving aptitude.

How to evaluate soft skills in the workplace

Identifying and assessing soft skills in candidates is no easy feat: those qualities are often intangible and can’t be measured by simply looking at what soft skills each candidate includes in their resume. Besides, candidates will try to present themselves as positively as possible during interviews, so it’s your job to dig deeper to uncover what they can really bring to the table in terms of soft skills.

1. Know what you’re looking for in potential hires beforehand and ask all candidates the same questions.

Before starting your interview process for an open role, consider what kind of soft skills are important in this role and prepare specific questions to assess those skills. This step is important for you to evaluate all candidates objectively. For example, in a sales role, good communication is key. By preparing specific questions that evaluate how candidates use their communication skills on the job, you’re more likely to find someone who can actually communicate with clients effectively, instead of hiring someone who only appears so (e.g. because they’re extroverted).

To help you out, we gathered examples of soft skills questions that test specific skills:

  • Adaptability interview questions
  • Analytical interview questions
  • Change management interview questions
  • Communication interview questions
  • Critical-thinking interview questions
  • Decision-making interview questions
  • Leadership interview questions
  • Presentation interview questions
  • Problem-solving interview questions
  • Team player interview questions

2. Ask behavioral questions to learn how they’ve used soft skills in previous jobs.

Past behaviors indicate how candidates behave in business settings, so they can be used as a soft skill assessment, too. For example, you can ask targeted questions to learn how candidates have resolved conflicts, how they’ve managed time-sensitive tasks or how they’ve worked in group projects.

Here are some ideas:

  • How do you prioritize work when there are multiple projects going on at the same time?
  • What happened when you disagreed with a colleague about how you should approach a project or deal with a problem at work?

Check our list of behavioral interview questions for more examples.

3. Use hypothetical scenarios, games and activities that test specific abilities.

Often, it’s useful to simulate job duties to test how candidates would approach regular tasks and challenges. That’s because each job, team and company is different, so you want to find a candidate who fits your unique environment. For example, a role-playing activity can help you assess whether salespeople have the negotiation skills you’re specifically looking for. Or, you can use a game-based exercise to identify candidates who solve problems creatively.

Here are some examples:

  • If you had two important deadlines coming up, how would you prioritize your tasks?
  • If one of your team members was underperforming, how would you give them feedback?

For more ideas on using hypothetical scenarios to evaluate candidates, take a look at our situational interview questions .

4. Pay attention to candidates’ answers and reactions during interviews

You can learn a lot about candidates’ soft skills through job-specific questions and assignments. Even if you want to primarily test candidates’ knowledge and hard skills, you can still notice strong and weak points in soft skills, too. For example, one candidate might claim to have excellent attention to detail, but if their written assignment has many typos and errors, then that’s a red flag. Likewise, when a candidate gives you clear, well-structured answers, it’s a hint they’re good communicators.

To form an objective opinion on candidates’ soft skills and abilities, make sure you take everything into consideration: from the way they interact with you during interviews to their performance on job-related tasks. This way, you’ll be more confident you select the most competent employees, but also those who fit well to your work environment.

Want more definitions? See our complete library of HR Terms .

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  • Getting Ahead
  • How to Advance Your Career...

How to Advance Your Career (plus 10 Insightful Tips)

11 min read · Updated on November 09, 2023

Ken Chase

Having the right career advancement strategy can help you achieve your career goals

Does it ever seem like you're making little progress toward your career goals? Have you ever felt as though you're running in place, unable to achieve any level of real career advancement? If so, then you're not alone. In fact, most career-minded people experience those feelings at one point or another. There is good news, however, since there are affirmative steps that you can take to get your career moving in the right direction.

In this post, we'll explore the meaning of career advancement and explain why you should prioritize it in your own life. We'll also provide a step-by-step strategy that you can use to move toward your goals and look at ten insightful tips that can help you in your career efforts.

What is career advancement?

Career advancement is a critical component for any successful professional journey. But what does career advancement mean? Put in its simplest terms, the term describes the process of using your skills and experiences to achieve professional goals that move your career forward. Obviously, that type of advancement can come in the form of promotions that provide greater levels of responsibility and compensation within your existing company. But advancement can also involve:

Developing the skills and experiences needed to earn a place at a more prestigious firm

Earning status as an expert in your industry

Building the skills needed to start your own company

For example, career advancement might be as simple as moving from an entry-level position to a lower-level supervisory role. Further advancement might involve a promotion to a managerial position and eventual placement as a department head. It could even take the form of lateral movement to a job at a different company.

Why does career advancement matter?

If you have broad goals that you want to achieve in your work life - and you should - then you'll need a career advancement strategy to make steady progress toward those objectives. Otherwise, your ability to reach those goals will be subject to the whims of chance. Still, you may wonder why you even need career progression at all. As it turns out, there are some clear benefits that can be enjoyed by those who pursue steady career advancement:

Improved job satisfaction

Steady financial growth

The opportunity to experience new challenges

The ability to future-proof your career

Greater confidence and sense of self-worth

More control over your life

5 steps to advance your career

Like anything else worth pursuing in life, effective career advancement usually requires a well-conceived strategic plan. Sure, there's always the chance that you'll find yourself in the right place at the right time and receive a promotion that you never even considered pursuing, but that's unlikely at best. Instead, you need to take a more strategic approach to advancing your career by affirmatively pursuing your career goals. The following five-step approach can help you learn how to do that.

1. Define your professional goals

Before you do anything else, sit down and take stock of your goals. You need to figure out what success means to you and identify the short and long-term objectives you'll need to pursue to make that success a reality in your life. What motivates you? Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years, or twenty years down the road? What's your dream job?

Once you've answered those types of questions, you need to define clear objectives that you can meet to move your career forward. Do you want to earn a promotion? Then figure out which skills and experiences you'll need to qualify for that role, identify the steps you need to take to acquire those qualifications, and create an action plan to make it happen.

Try to use the SMART strategy as you create these goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed. For more information on how you can use this technique to create reasonable and achievable professional goals for your career advancement, read our post What is Professional Development and Why is it Important?

2. Communicate your needs

Of course, the process of creating goals and plans won't be enough to ensure that career advancement opportunities come your way. You'll also need to communicate your needs and desires to others, especially in the workplace. Once you identify where you want your career to go, it's important to discuss those objectives with superiors, human resources, and others who can help you along your journey. This is especially important if you're seeking advancement through promotion with your present employer.

By communicating your goals to potential gatekeepers, you can ensure that they are aware of your desire for more responsibility and challenges. You may even find mentors or others who will effectively become sponsors for your career growth. If nothing else, broadcasting your goals can be a great way to provide you with the visibility you need to be considered for advancement within any company.

3. Proactively seek out opportunities

You should also develop the habit of looking for career advancement opportunities. Obviously, you could just wait for opportunities to fall into your lap, but that passive approach to reaching your goals is unlikely to produce the type of results you want. The better approach is to proactively pursue advancement opportunities, both within your own company and elsewhere in your industry.

As you follow your plan and develop the skills you need for advancement, you should get into the habit of checking job postings on a regular basis. That includes open positions at your current employer, of course, but also opportunities at other firms. You may even want to consider the potential benefits of lateral moves within your company, especially if that move can provide additional experience you may need to earn a promotion.

4. Network, network, network

Few people achieve their career goals without outside help. In fact, having a strong network can be one of the most important steps you can take to advance your career. Your network should include professionals within your company, experts from various industry groups, and like-minded professionals you can connect with online. And don't just contact those people. Instead, focus on developing relationships that can provide mutual career advancement benefits to everyone involved.

Attend company events and introduce yourself to others. Proactively seek out and join professional groups, including trade organizations and online groups. Use social media like LinkedIn to make connections with potential mentors, share your experiences and insights, and participate in discussions about your profession and industry trends. Check out our post LinkedIn Networking: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections Online for more tips on how to use social media to effectively expand your network.

5. Never stop learning

You also need to commit to lifelong learning if you want to enjoy steady advancement in your career. Continuing education can take many forms, including learning new skills, developing existing abilities, and staying informed about changes and new trends in your industry. If you ever reach a point at which you begin to believe that you know everything you need to know to reach your career goals, think again. Your ability to continue to learn throughout your life and career will ultimately determine your success.

As you continue to learn, you should take steps to ensure that your supervisors are aware of your expanded capabilities. Ask for more responsibility and volunteer for tasks and projects that will allow you to make use of those new skills. That can provide you with the experience, achievements, and on-the-job skill enhancement that you need to push your continuing education efforts to their limits.

10 insightful tips for career advancement

In addition to that five-step strategy, there are a whole host of valuable tips that you can incorporate into your career advancement efforts. We've identified ten insightful suggestions that may help you to maximize the benefits you receive from your own personal advancement strategy.

1.     Never stop proving your worth

The worst thing you can do in any job is to overestimate your worth. Sure, you want to understand your value as an employee, but not to the extent that it causes you to become complacent or think that you're indispensable. You should always be focused on demonstrating your worth by giving your best effort each day.

2.     Create a personal brand

To succeed in any career advancement effort, you need to create a strong personal brand that defines you as an employee. Figure out your unique value proposition and decide how you want others to see you, then focus your efforts on making that ideal your brand. Align your social media and real-world brands to ensure that you present a consistent image to the world.

3.     Get a mentor

Mentorship is an invaluable tool for career progression. If possible, find someone who has more experience, superior skills, or just greater longevity in your field and seek their guidance and assistance in your own career. A great mentor can provide insights that can help you to avoid missteps and even speed up the pace of your own advancement.

4.     Stay abreast of technology

As you're developing skills, make sure that they include the latest technological trends. The last thing you want to do is slow your career progress by failing to learn about key technologies as they are reshaping the workforce.

5.     Refine your mindset

Ultimately, your own mindset can be your greatest asset - or your biggest obstacle to success. Focus on cultivating a personal growth mindset that can fuel your desire for self-improvement. Learn to think of yourself as a change agent committed to adding value wherever you go. This will drive you to proactively expand your knowledge base, vision, and overall business acumen .

6.     Find work-life balance

If your efforts to advance your career are not aligned with a healthy personal life, it can create stress that will impede your progress. To avoid that, make sure that you allocate sufficient time and energy to your home life and loved ones. That balanced approach can ensure that they'll provide a powerful support network as you advance your career.

7.     Take risks

By this, we don't mean that you should take unreasonable risks. Instead, learn how to embrace risk so that you don't settle into an unproductive comfort zone that inhibits your career journey. Learn how to take advantage of the lessons that failure sometimes provides. And remember, if you never take risks, you'll never achieve anything.

8.     Trust your instincts

Don't be afraid to trust your gut. While you should always approach decisions with a logical mindset, you should also recognize that your instincts can help to protect you from making bad choices. If an opportunity or a situation seems to be too good to be true, take the time to examine those instincts to see if they have any merit.

9.     Resist imposter syndrome

As you climb your career ladder, you may find yourself sometimes feeling as though you haven't earned your spot. If you ever start feeling as though you're an imposter - unqualified, inexperienced, or simply out of place - focus on your strengths and remind yourself that everyone feels like that at some point in their life.

10.  Learn to prioritize

Always remember to prioritize the right things as you move through your career. Learn skills as you need them, be patient, and try to focus on one goal at a time to keep your career advancement on schedule. If your priorities are in order and you stick to your plan, success is almost certain.

Make your own career advancement opportunities, one step at a time

The clearest path to career success is rarely the straightest. Instead, your career path is likely to be a winding trail filled with a host of unknown and unexpected obstacles. With the right career advancement strategy, however, you can successfully navigate that path and reach your ultimate career destination with a minimum of roadblocks and detours.

Want to make sure that your resume is ready to boost your career advancement efforts? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!

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critical thinking is soft skills

Professors say they teach critical thinking. But is that what students are learning?

Suzanne Cooper. " Do we teach critical thinking? A mixed methods study of faculty and student perceptions of teaching and learning critical thinking at three professional schools . February 21, 2024

Faculty Authors

Suzanne Cooper Photo

Suzanne Cooper

What’s the issue.

The ability to think critically is an essential skill for professionals, including doctors, government officials, and educators. But are instructors at professional schools teaching it, or do they just think they are? Approaches to teaching and assessing critical thinking skills vary substantially across academic disciplines and are not standardized. And little data exists on how much students are learning—or even whether they know their instructors are trying to teach them critical thinking. 

What does the research say? 

The researchers, including Suzanne Cooper, the Edith M. Stokey Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at HKS, compared instructors’ approaches to teaching critical thinking with students’ perceptions of what they were being taught. They surveyed instructors and conducted focus groups with students at three professional schools (Harvard Medical School, Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education). 

The researchers found that more than half (54%) of faculty surveyed said they explicitly taught critical thinking in their courses (27% said they did not and 19% were unsure). When the researchers talked to students, however, the consensus was that critical thinking was primarily being taught implicitly. One student said discussions, debates, and case study analyses were viewed as opportunities “for critical thinking to emerge” but that methods and techniques were not a specific focus. The students were also generally unable to recall or define key terms, such as “metacognition” (an understanding of one’s own thought process) and “cognitive biases” (systematic deviations from norms or rationality in which individuals create their own subjective reality). 

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that faculty should be required to teach critical thinking explicitly and be given specific approaches and definitions that are appropriate to their academic discipline. They also recommend that professional schools consider teaching core critical thinking skills, as well as skills specific to their area of study.   

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Letters to the Editor | Letters for July 17: Gov. Youngkin, state…

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Letters to the Editor

Subscriber only, letters to the editor | letters for july 17: gov. youngkin, state lawmakers and education officials should rethink sols, letter writers oppose teaching to the standards of learning; argue while republicans are restricting liberties, they should restrict assault weapons; and say that god protected former president donald trump..

critical thinking is soft skills

Education testing

Standardized tests have been part of public education as far back as any of us can remember. In the olden days of standardized tests, we picked up our No. 2 pencils, filled in little circles on whatever day(s) the tests showed up with no preparation (aka teaching for the test). At the end of the testing time, we dutifully put down our No. 2 pencils and never really knew nor cared what the tests tested. The teachers the next day went on about the business of educating us far beyond any tests we took.

Since the inception of Standards of Learning exams, students know the onus is on them to pass the tests so their schools can be accredited. These students go through the stress or simply no longer care whether they pass or fail. Teachers are stressed and feel the burden of making sure their students get the schools accredited. No more need for critical thinking, which the tests most definitely do not measure.

The time has come for our lawmakers and officials to do critical thinking about the usefulness of these tests.

Having retired two decades ago, I can say with no recriminations that I never taught to the SOLs. I didn’t believe in them; I wanted my students to expand their minds through essays, group discussions and understanding why pieces of literature were indeed classic and universal.

Parents, teachers and administrators need to question how much longer SOLs are going to be the machine that drives teaching but not necessarily education. Let teachers do what they signed up to do, what they pledged to do for the students.

Sharon M. Haring, Virginia Beach

Republican restrictions

Re “ Statewide ban on cellphones in Virginia classrooms to take effect next year ” (July 9): Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed an executive order that will ban the use of cellphones in schools. I actually agree with this directive, however, things have taken a strange turn in Republican politics lately.

During the pandemic, far-right individuals and Republican politicians protested the wearing of masks and recommendations for receiving vaccinations because it infringed on their personal liberties. The party that has traditionally railed against government interference has recently been implementing laws that do just that.

Republicans have pushed legislation to ban books in school libraries, restrict what is taught in history classes, restrict the rights of women to control their reproductive health and restrict health care for transgender individuals, gay rights, etc.

So what is next for the Republican Party? Let me offer a suggestion: a ban on the manufacture, sale and ownership of assault weapons. Think of the lives that have been taken and injuries that have been received by people using these weapons that have no other purpose but to destroy life. If the Republicans are looking to further infringe on our rights as citizens, I can think of no better cause than this.

Realistically, I am not holding my breath on this one. It would take too much initiative and backbone to do what the majority of Americans think is reasonable; and that is beyond the scope of the current Republican Party.

Ronnie Ciampoli, Norfolk

God intervenes

Please realize that God intervened Saturday to save former President Donald Trump’s life for the purpose and plans he has for him. God’s plans always prevail.

Robert Morrison, Virginia Beach

Saturday we saw former President Donald Trump get shot. Saturday we saw a leader with great instincts get down afterward. Saturday we saw a true leader realize that the world was watching and let it know he would be OK.

Saturday we saw a fighter encouraging his supporters to continue their efforts. Saturday we saw a strong leader with great courage. Saturday we saw the man who should be the next president.

L.B. Reavis, Virginia Beach

A registered Republican quasi-sharpshooter almost killed former President Donald Trump, and now I hear about Republicans vowing vengeance against President Joe Biden. That’s the kind of logic we can expect from the GOP.

Gary Ollila, Chesapeake

Could it be?

Is it possible that the people who have been lying to us about President Joe Biden’s accomplishments, frailties and mental fog are also lying to us about former President Donald Trump’s past actions and his future intentions?

Don Lovett, Smithfield

With President Joe Biden standing on shaky ground as a nominee, several “usual suspect” political alternatives have been getting some press. Not receiving press are some well-known names with gravitas and admiration.

Tom Hanks is one of those. Although there is no doubt in my mind that he doesn’t want the office — he has called it “one of the crappiest jobs” — given the choice of him or former President Donald Trump, I would hope he would be considered.

William H. Miller, Virginia Beach

I have been taught the U.S. Constitution is a living document. It looks like the Supreme Court just killed it.

Richard Jeffers, Virginia Beach

More in Letters to the Editor

Letter writers urge the city of Norfolk to put up more cameras to help law enforcement keep residents safe, encourage people to vote for President Joe Biden, and warn of a dire future if former President Donald Trump wins.

Letters to the Editor | Letters for July 20: Let’s put cameras all over Norfolk so we are safe

Letter writers push for a fishing pier at First Landing State Park, point out that America has a history of assassinations, and argue "thoughts and prayers" should be given to former President Donald Trump and then we should move on per usual.

Letters to the Editor | Letters for July 19: Fishing pier needed in Virginia Beach to replace the former Lynnhaven Fishing Pier

Letter writers argue Peninsula residents need commercial air service, blame the media for the shooting of former President Donald Trump, and showcase how much the IRS has obtained in back taxes from the rich.

Letters to the Editor | Letters for July 18: Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport must keep commercial air service

Letter writers urge the Democrats to have California Gov. Gavin Newsom run for president, tell Democrats they should just accept former President Donald Trump is winning, and encourage the public to ask lawmakers if they will accept the election results.

Letters to the Editor | Letters for July 16: Democrats should put California Gov. Gavin Newsom at the top of the ticket

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  • DOI: 10.52352/jbh.v13i1.1376
  • Corpus ID: 271127170

DIMENSI SOFT SKILL GENERASI Z DI DUNIA HOSPITALITI: MEMBANGUN KEUNGGULAN KOMPETITIF DENGAN CRITICAL THINKING, CREATIVITY, DAN PROBLEM SOLVING

  • Pemasaran Politeknik , Pariwisata Bali , +10 authors Jurusan Hospitaliti
  • Published in Jurnal Bisnis Hospitaliti 25 June 2024
  • Business, Psychology

16 References

Pengembangan critical thinking dalam peningkatan mutu pendidikan di indonesia, proactive vitality management, work engagement, and creativity: the role of goal orientation, “we aren't your reincarnation” workplace motivation across x, y and z generations, the changing face of the employees – generation z and their perceptions of work (a study applied to university students), employee engagement and job performance in lebanon: the mediating role of creativity, soft skills and their importance in the labour market under the conditions of industry 5.0, improving english soft skills through integrated task-based learning methods in vocational high schools, pengaruh artificial intelligence terhadap customer experience (studi pada pengguna gojek bandung, jawa barat), the influence of perceived organizational support on employee creativity: the mediating role of work engagement, are you ready for gen z in the workplace, related papers.

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  1. Is Critical Thinking a Soft Skill?

    Soft skills, on the other hand, refer to things like leadership, time management, personality, and, apparently, critical thinking. *Here are links to some infographic examples, and a basic summary: Indeed.com, Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills : "Hard skills are technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience ...

  2. 5 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How To Improve Them)

    While the five skills listed above are essential to successful critical thinking, there are several soft skills that relate to thoughtful analysis. Here are five more skills to consider when developing your critical thinking: Metacognitive skills. Inductive reasoning skills. Creativity skills.

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    Well, critical thinking skills are the soft skills and hard skills that help you assess situations, collect data, analyze information, identify solutions, determine the viability of solutions, and make decisions without letting your emotions run the show. Any capability or trait that makes it easier to do those things can qualify.

  5. What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

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  6. 6 important critical thinking skills you should master

    The critical thinking skills definition is: soft skills that help you in the critical thinking process. Developing these skills can improve your ability to think critically. Critical thinking skills are considered one of many durable skills in the workplace. Many of these are soft skills that are also useful in other situations.

  7. Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It's Important

    Because of this, employers value critical thinking—especially in roles where preparing strategy is an essential part of the job. Critical thinking is considered a soft skill, which means it's a skill inherent in a person's personality. That said, it is possible to develop this skill. Related: 5 Examples of Critical Thinking Skills

  8. How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

    It's a challenge, but it's well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems. 7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper. Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you'll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions).

  9. How to develop critical thinking skills

    Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 1. Be cautious. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information.

  10. Here's How to Improve Critical Thinking And Why It's Important

    Zarvana has published a Critical Thinking Roadmap to help employers guide their employees. It says the way to be a better critical thinker comes through these four phases: execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate. The first phase or the execute phase to improve your critical thinking is when people are converting instructions into action.

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    Key points. Critical thinking requires us to simultaneously analyze and interpret different pieces of information. To effectively interpret information, one must first be able to remember it.

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    Example: A journalist verifies information from multiple credible sources before publishing an article on a controversial topic. 8. Decision-making. Effective decision making is the culmination of various critical thinking skills that allow an individual to draw logical conclusions and generalizations.

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    Summary. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don't know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming ...

  14. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful ...

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    Critical thinkers are adept at picking apart problems and coming up with solutions. They are also logical, methodical workers who are able to spot patterns and meanings in data which can be beneficial for organisations and their reports. As such, people with refined critical thinking skills are highly prized. Some critical thinking skills include:

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    Critical thinking skills examples. There are six main skills you can develop to successfully analyze facts and situations and come up with logical conclusions: 1. Analytical thinking. Being able to properly analyze information is the most important aspect of critical thinking. This implies gathering information and interpreting it, but also ...

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  24. Professors say they teach critical thinking. But is that what students

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