Jargon often gets in the way when we’re seeking clarity. The language and terminology used in the workplace can be a minefield. This post is about digging under the surface of some common personal development and workplace words and labels. What are mindsets? How do they differ from skills? What is the difference between soft skills and hard skills? What are talents and strengths? Let’s dive in.


Your mindset or attitude is your angle on things, your unique lens on the world through which you see and navigate life, a state of mind based on what you see, think and believe.

It’s internal and gets shaped by yourself (personality), your circumstances (education, economic, social, political) and other people’s perceptions and expectations (family, friends, teachers, employers). You can shape how you see the world and how the world sees you – to be more employable.

For example, Reed Recruitment CEO, James Reed, says having a global mindset is about

how far you see, reach and go to understand the everyday challenges and issues.

Carol Dweck talks about the difference between fixed mindsets and growth mindsets: 

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.



A skill is an ability or activity you learn. The workplace jargon is a competence, often to an accepted standard. It differs from an innate talent which is something that comes naturally to you. Strengths are skills and talents you have grown to a higher level through lots of practice. 

Soft skills tend to refer to behaviours – for example, the ability to work in a team or to influence. Hard skills tend to be about a functional or technical ability – for example, the ability to use a spreadsheet. An example of a talent is picking up an instrument and playing by ear without being able to read music.

mindsetsYour ability is a mix of what you can do (and how well you do it), what you know and the mindsets you bring which influence how you behave.

Take parapenting (yes, that’s me). Skills include taking off, turning and landing; knowledge involves emergency procedures, wind speed, technical equipment; mindsets and behaviours include responsible,  courageous, calm in a crisis and prepared.

Mindsets trump skills

Mindsets are more important than skills, say employers. In a global survey of employers by Recruitment company, Reed, 96% picked mindset over skillset as the key element in those they seek and retain. You are three times more likely to get or keep a job because of your mindsets rather than skills alone.

Employers are hiring for attitude and training for skill. For example, when Sky Digital hires graduates, they do not fuss if you haven’t learned Java. Their interest lies in how you will fit into their agile, autonomous project teams. Graduates update their technical skills through Boot Camps once employed.

You can teach a bubbly person to repair shoes but you can’t put the personality into a grumpy cobbler. John Timpson, Chairman of Timpson’s Shoes

The global research by Reed found the top six mindsets employers want are:

  1. Commitment = effort, energy, aligned sense of purpose
  2. Honesty = open not closed, genuine, authentic, no agenda
  3. Trustworthiness = integrity, doing what you say you will, good intent, reliable
  4. Adaptability = fitting into the culture
  5. Accountability = the buck stops with you, deliver results on time
  6. Flexibility = willing to change your mindset, stepping in to support colleagues, give and take about your role and responsibilities, doing something new

Check out your mindset with Reed’s free assessment.

What mindsets do you bring to work? What might you need to develop or change?