5 Soft Skills to Master Before You Move Out

5 Soft Skills to Master Before You Move Out
by Lindsey Turnbull

What is a soft skill anyway? Soft skills are interpersonal skills, the kind that help you get along with others, solve problems, and relate to people. Hard skills, on the other hand, are measurable things, like solving a math problem, knowing how to change a flat tire, or speaking multiple languages.

While you may hear a lot about hard skills in school, soft skills are equally important and in some ways, harder to practice. (How do you practice public speaking without the opportunity?) Although STEM and other hard skills professions get a lot of hype, soft skills are still crucial. Without soft skills, it’s much harder to regulate your emotions, be on a team, and solve problems.

Having a strong base of soft skills will help you move through the transition from high school to college, a job, a gap year, or whatever comes next, much easier. Hard skills are super important- and soft skills will truly make you stand out and shine!

Here are five soft skills to practice before moving out so you’re ready for your next steps in life:

How to Introduce Yourself

Have you ever wanted to meet someone at an event, but had no idea where to start? Perhaps you wanted to meet the speaker at a presentation, but she was talking to someone else, so you gave up. Or you just didn’t know what to say.

Meeting new people can be anxiety-producing! You don’t want to be a bother, but you really want to say hello. You’re not sure how to start, but you know you’ll think of a great question later!

It’s much easier when you are prepared with a proper handshake, a polite greeting, and few key phrases (like “I really liked what you said about X!” and “I’d love to connect, may I have your card?”). Remember, a handshake should be firm and only last a few seconds- no need to hold on! Practice when you can and you’ll have it mastered in no time!

Stress Management & Emotional Regulation

Every single one of us will experience stress. Balancing school, work, sleep, a social life, family, etc., can be incredibly stressful and very emotional. Stress management doesn’t mean you will never experience stress or challenging emotions, it means you know how to handle it when it arises.

Just think of it: you have a big project due in school, a part-time job, and a roommate you don’t get along with- plus all of your other classes and responsibilities. How can you handle this situation without blowing up, melting down, working yourself into the ground, or drinking 10 cups of coffee a day? (I speak from experience, the 10 cups a day solution doesn’t work!)

Try some different coping techniques, like deep breathing and meditation. Attempt to get ahead of your workload by creating a schedule. Know how to make peace with a roommate without screaming or throwing all of her clothes out the window. Learning how to manage difficult emotions and stressful times is going to make your life SO. MUCH. BETTER. Stress is inevitable, but a meltdown doesn’t have to be!

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Public Speaking

People are supposedly more afraid of public speaking than of dying. 75% of people are afraid of public speaking, so simply being able to pull it off will automatically set you apart from others.

Public speaking is a great skill to have and it is one that can make you stand out in group presentations, job interviews, conferences, networking events, etc. And, when you’re good at it, it’s downright impressive.

I’m an introvert and I LOVE public speaking. Maybe it was all those drama/acting/improv classes? Who knows. I love it, and I constantly seek out events that will have me speaking to a large audience.

I always hear that one should imagine people in their underwear, but personally, I think of myself as stepping into the role I was born to play before stepping on-stage. And the butterflies/nerves/jitters? Totally normal.


Being assertive means asking for what you want and standing up for your rights (and others). Without being aggressive or a doormat. It sounds easy, but it can be really difficult!

How do you ask a professor to review your grade? How do you tell someone you like that they are making you uncomfortable? It can be nerve wracking!

Being assertive is a combination of believing in your worth and value, exuding confidence with your voice and body language, remaining calm, and being able to accept the answer- no matter what it is.  This can be a challenging skill to practice, and you should practice whenever you find opportunities- getting your hair done can be a great place to clearly articulate what you’d like.

Stand your ground, feel your value, and speak calmly. And remember, sometimes the answer is no, and that’s OK too.


Each of these skills includes communication. Communication is a HUGE soft skill that is so, so important in school, at a job, with friends and partners. When we communicate effectively, people can hear us better. We can be assertive and get what we need. We feel heard and understood- or at least, we know that we have clearly stated our point.

Communication includes verbal AND written. Face-to-face communication is just as important as being able to express yourself clearly in writing (and that can include texts).

Can you articulate your ideas verbally and in writing? Actively listen to others and take in new information? Respond to the person speaking- not simply plan what you’re going to say? Hear criticism and new ideas without shutting down?

Living in a world with instant 24/7 connection, it makes sense that communication is a massively important soft skill to practice. Make it a priority at least once a week to practice communicating with confidence, clarity, and calm.

To Recap:

Introductions, stress management, public speaking, assertiveness, and communication are incredibly valuable soft skills that will help you stand out in a crowded college classroom, at a job, and in the real world. You can find times in your daily life to practice and improve all of these skills!

Are you looking for a welcoming, encouraging space to practice your soft skills? I am so excited to offer a Life Skills Crash Course, where we will practice all of these soft skills, and more, to help you feel more confident and ready to move out into the world!

At the event, you’ll practice all of these skills and more so that you can feel ready to Adult in the Real World. You’ll leave with more confidence, feeling prepared and ready to take on the next stage in your life.


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