Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills in the Biotech Industry

two scientists working in lab setting

Job skills typically fall into two different categories: hard skills and soft skills. The former are the skills employees need to do their job – things like operating machinery and knowing how to extract tissue samples. These skills are typically taught in school and are gained through hours of class time and lab work. These skills are measurable.

The latter, soft skills, are much different. They are called soft skills because many of them are gleaned through experience on the job or, in some cases, college collaboration. In addition, some people naturally possess some of these valued skills. Soft skills aren’t measurable, but many employers can tell whether or not you have them during the interview process. So, before you start applying for jobs in one of the many biotech Hotbeds in the U.S., you need to first evaluate your skill levels in both categories.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are a necessity for getting the job done. While these skills can vary based on the specific area of biotech you work in, there are some that are simply universal. For example, knowing how to use various pieces of lab equipment, from mass spectrometers to electron microscopes, is a measurable hard skill. Others, such as completing a Western blot test or running a cell-based assay are also learned in school and fall into this category.

Why do these hard skills matter? The most obvious reason is that biotech workers need to know how to do perform these tasks in order to do their jobs. People who don’t know how to do the necessities are much less likely to be able to function efficiently in a professional laboratory setting.

When you’re applying for a job in the biotech field, it’s important to emphasize your mastery of hard skills. These usually represent the main questions employers will ask, and they may even want examples of the work you’ve done previously. Remember, they know the field – and the job – better than anyone else, so they’ll know if you’re bluffing. Therefore, hard skills must be mastered before your job search begins.

Soft Skills

Soft skills, on the other hand, vary widely. Some, like communication and the ability to give speeches in front of peers and colleagues, are actually taught in the classroom. However, others, like leadership and creativity, are skills individuals naturally possess. Other examples of soft skills, which aren’t measurable at all, include organization, time management and even the ability to work cooperatively with a team.

Despite their name, soft skills are just as important as hard skills. The ones required for the job may vary based on the company or the exact position, but nevertheless, you must demonstrate and prove to potential employers that you possess them. You can list these skills on a resume and should also be prepared to give examples of situations when asked about them during an interview. Someone who can operate the equipment but not communicate effectively or work together with their co-workers will more than likely struggle in the workplace.

Which Is More Important?

Although it may seem as though hard skills trump soft ones, seeing as how they’re crucial to getting the job done, in today’s workplace, many employers would argue that both are of equal importance. Being able to function in the workplace is about more than simply being able to run tests and program machinery. It also encompasses working as a team, being a good leader, and communicating effectively.

People working in the biotech industry need to have a good, healthy balance of both hard and soft skills in order to succeed and achieve their career goals. Employers will certainly ask about both hard and soft skills in an interview and look for resumes that show a valuable, well-rounded applicant. Therefore, those trying to break into the competitive field of biotech must possess and demonstrate both types of skills.

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