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Top 10 Soft Skills to Help Your Teen Succeed Later in Life

What employers and senior executives value in their workforce, may come as a surprise to many people.

Emotionally intelligent traits like empathy, self-awareness, and relationship building are highly prized.

In fact, emotional intelligence is the most significant determining factor for career success. 90% of all top performers have a high emotional intelligence quotient.

EQ isn’t only in play at the top. It determines who gets in the door.

  • Over 70% of hiring managers value EQ over pure IQ.

  • 75% of hiring managers are more likely to promote an employee with higher EQ.

  • 59% wouldn’t hire someone with high IQ and low EQ.

Emotional intelligence isn’t usually credited as the key to success. Conversations around soft skills in the workplace, aren’t given serious weight and focus more on how to stay out of trouble.

It’s easier to understand the value of EQ, when considering it simply as the ability to be self-aware, socially aware, manage yourself, and manage relationships with other people.

The link between EQ, soft skills, and career success is clear. Every EQ point increase adds an average $1,300 in yearly income.

Parents can help teenagers develop these skills early, so they’re well prepared to thrive in the workplace. Their future earning power depends on it.

Here are the top ten soft skills teens need to succeed later in life.


Communication is about more than getting heard.

Essential skills include active listening, body language, clarity, open-mindedness, respect, tact, and the ability to give and receive appropriate feedback.

Teenagers should understand how to convey respect and openness with their tone of voice and mannerisms.

Time Management

Top performers understand the value of time and manage it well.

Advancing within the workplace requires solid time management skills, such as prioritization, multi-tasking, scheduling, managing meetings, and hitting deadlines.

It’s important to learn how to organize time, while managing stress. Calm, efficient work signals competence.

Time management can be improved by using SMART goals, time tracking software, and concentration methods like the Pomodoro technique.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence consists of personal and social competence.

Personal competence is understanding one’s own emotions and positively managing personal behavior, moods, and tendencies.

Social competence is understanding behavior, moods, and motives of other people, then using this insight to positively manage interpersonal relationships.

Networking, building strong relationships, and maintaining healthy emotions create socioeconomic resilience.

Teenagers need to learn how to handle stress, pressure, impulsive feelings, and negative emotions.

Mindfulness techniques help deal with challenging emotions while staying present, alert, and calm.


Adaptability in the workplace means flexibility, rapid learning skills, and willingness to adjust. Employers need people capable of handling unexpected issues, changed plans, or failures. Responding to difficult situations with poise, engenders confidence.

Persistence, reasoning, determination, and intellectual resourcefulness are built through experience. Traditional extra-curricular activities like sports, debate teams, and community service help develop these skills over time.

Creative Thinking

Creative thinkers are innovators and creators of intellectual capital.

Teenagers need to learn how to shift perspectives, consider new possibilities, and generate fresh ideas. Analyzing information, synthesizing, and forming new solutions are core skills in today’s economy.

Minds need to be enriched and saturated with stimulating information. After a restful incubation period, innovative thinking kicks in. Emotional resilience boosts creativity and gives confidence in pursuing ideas.


Social success depends on intuiting other people’s motives, feelings, and point of view. Connecting with others through empathy, diffuses conflict. Workplace morale, confidence, and team collaboration improve when empathy is part of the culture.

Empathy requires sharing perspectives with another person.

Cognitive empathy focuses on the thinking of other people. Emotional empathy is sharing feelings on a deep level. Compassionate empathy is sharing emotional pain, having concern, and taking action.

Teenagers need to learn how to have empathy with people they may not like. Empathy doesn’t require agreement or approval of another person.

It’s important to learn what level of empathy is appropriate. Cognitive empathy may be appropriate in a competition, where compassionate empathy would be detrimental. A degree of compassionate empathy would be appropriate when working within a team.


Some people are naturally more organized than others. Teens who have problems with clutter, can benefit from taking on a system.

It’s important to keep this process fun, judgment free, and shame free. Finding an organization system that works is an individual process. Mistakes will be made along the way and it’s normal to course correct.

Bullet journals are a popular planning tool for the overwhelmed. They’re also simple to use, inexpensive, and have a cult following.

Marie Kondo’s KonMari system helps keep the physical environment clear.

One way to keep things light, is to try viral methods like Bullet journaling or KonMari, then share progress on social media.

Collaboration and Teamwork

“Works well with people” might be the one phrase found on just about everyone’s resume. It’s mandatory in almost every environment.

Teamwork begins by respecting the value of people’s time, opinions, ideas, and point of view.

It’s important for teens to learn how to work with others who have different views and backgrounds, without being judgmental or lacking a backbone. True collaboration requires we respect others and ourselves.

Problem Solving

Issue identification skills, expansive thinking, analysis, and risk taking are best developed through STEM enrichment.

STEM books, games, and projects provide a safe place for teens to build scientific thinking and problem-solving skills.


Leadership begins with self-ownership and responsibility. Discipline, goal setting, and accountability can be done at any age.

Finding passion that can inspire others may come later. In early years, teens are still learning who they are and how they fit into the world. Pursuing interests helps build confidence they will lean on in later years.

Teaching executive functioning, mindfulness, and compassion provide the foundation for soft skills. Parents must create an environment that’s safe for growth and learning. One that’s nonjudgmental, supportive, and encouraging.

Thriving in the workplace depends on how well people interact with others and manage themselves. Challenging careers need people who can stay calm, resolve conflicts, lead by example, and treat others well.

It’s rare to find a top performer with poor emotional intelligence. Teens given a foundation that builds EQ, have an advantage over those with poor self-regulation. Finding mentors, securing internships, getting good recommendations, landing a job, and moving up all depend on how well they socially navigate. These advances add up.

Parents who want their teens to be competitive, need to focus on soft skills. These skills tend to be underdeveloped and employers notice.

Fortunately, the brain is resilient. It’s never too late to nurture new ways of thinking and responding to the world.



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