Components of Soft Skills for University Students in the 21st Century: An Overview of Literature Review

Document Type : Review Article


1 Basic Science Department, College of Nursing, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.

2 MSN, Technical Affairs Department, Baghdad Medical City, Baghdad, Iraq.

3 MSN, Al-Shaheed Al-Sader General Hospital, Baghdad, Iraq.

4 Associate Professor, Chair of Adult Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.



Background: Soft skills are of pivotal importance in the education and employment of the 21st century and are sought after by many employers. The present study aimed to provide a brief description of the “soft skills” needed for 21st-century students as well as a brief literatures review on various aspects of soft skills in graduate employability.
Materials and Methods: In this overview, online databases Medline, ERIC, PyscINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science, Scopus, and Google search engine were searched for peer-reviewed studies on the soft skills elements for workplace success up to December 2022. Two independent authors undertook the screening, selection, and quality assessment (using the SANRA scale).
Results: A total of 12 reviews were selected. The results showed that soft skills consisted of 20 components in two categories: Personal (including self-awareness, self-management, positive attitude, time management, critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving, strategic thinking, lifelong learning, adaptability and flexibility, creativity, ethics and professionalism, and entrepreneurship skills), and social (including leadership, communication skills, etiquette, negotiation skills, and cultural compatibility, teamwork skills, customer orientation and respect for clients, conflict management, and networking). Soft skills are of critical importance for successful academic and professional performance. Therefore, embedding soft skills into the university curriculum through innovative teaching approaches is necessary to equip students with soft workplace skills.
Conclusion: In addition to hard skills, there are soft skills that are crucial to employability. Hard skills aid in acquiring employment, whereas soft skills aid in retaining it. It is critical to integrate soft skills into university curricula to accelerate the progress in the professional performance of young graduates.