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Soft skills graduates need to master in a job market
by Eugene Clark
There are evidences that a range of soft skills can help a graduate win a job and improve his or her career. Soft skills are not formally taught, but must be learned and mastered by graduates in their own time and continually improved. Yet, it is clear that employers prefer graduates who have the kind of skills that can provide results since Day 1.
Here is my list of ten valuable soft skills that students need to develop.
1. Attitude: hard work, enthusiasm, and optimism
Your attitude matters as much as your aptitude at work and in daily life. An attitude that makes you take pride in your work, a willingness to "go the extra mile," an enthusiasm for everything that you take on, even when doing the most menial of tasks, and a sense of gratitude are all among the important values that make employers want to hire you and keep you around. It is also helpful to be confident, optimistic about the future of the company, and look for the best in fellow employees.
2. Communication skills
Communication skills are required for every job and yet many graduates are often lacking when it comes to communication. The ability to read, write and speak clearly and effectively never go out of favour. One of the most important communication skills is the ability to listen. We spend most of our time listening, and yet students receive very little training on how to be a better listener and how to improve one's listening habits. Unfortunately, one detrimental impact of our 24/7 always "on" existence is that students are constantly distracted and deep thinking and active listening skills are often sub-optimum.
3. Collaboration/teamwork and ability to work independently
People increasingly work in teams. It is essential to be a good team player, which means learning how to be effective in different roles, helping the team meet its goals, staying together, and achieving the project on time and hopefully under budget. It is easy for graduates to remain isolated in their areas of expertise and group around individuals who share the same discipline. But individuals, who can work with a wide spectrum of people, will be valued for their skills, collegiality and ability to see the big picture.
Effective teamwork must be accompanied by the ability to work independently. Employers want people that are self-motivated and proactive.
4. Meeting skills
An important correlative of effective collaboration and teamwork are good meeting skills. Valuable employees can take the initiative and call a meeting, set an agenda, lead the discussion and keep it on track, move the group toward a consensus, reach a decision, and then execute and follow-up on the decision, while focusing on results and holding themselves and their teammates accountable.
5. Problem solving, project management, creativity
Employers want people, who have sound problem solving skills, can manage a project, and have the entrepreneurial spirit to think outside the box and search for creative solutions.
6. Negotiation, deal making, politically savvy
Negotiation and group politics are inherent aspects of all workplaces. Disagreements will also occur in every work place. People, who can work with others, resolve disagreements, and transcend obstacles so that common ground can be found, are highly valued.
Outside the organization too, employers value employees, who have or who can develop and nurture networks of relationships that both enable the employee to grow and advance the goals of the organization.
7. Emotional intelligence as well as IQ
To be an effective communicator, listener, and negotiator requires a person with a high degree of what Daniel Goleman calls "emotional intelligence" or EQ. EQ is the ability to understand, assess and productively control one's own emotions as well as those of others. We've all known very bright people who just could not get along with others, and seemed impervious to the point that it impacted other people. Being in touch with one's own emotions and being aware of the emotions of others will enable an employee to do the right thing.
8. Learning, teaching, mentoring, and knowledge sharing
Graduating is not the end of learning, but only the beginning of what must be a lifelong journey. Given the rapid changes that are occurring in society and the explosion of knowledge, the most valuable thing you will gain from your degree is the ability to learn. The ability and willingness to mentor and your knowledge is also important.
Some graduates can be painful "know-it-all" especially when they are dealing with co-workers, who may not have a degree, but who have significant experience. Employers value graduates who are humble and know they still have a lot to learn. Humble employees are also quick to share the merits, and know how to swallow their pride and accept responsibility when they make a mistake.
10. Resilience, ability to change
Employers need employees who are willing to fail, who learn from their mistakes, and continue to grow and learn. Continuous change is a reality of the 21st century. Therefore, employers value employees who embrace change and are able to grow to be leaders while transforming the organization.