In my position as a Campus Registrar, meetings with students typically include a discussion regarding transfer credit, estimated graduation dates, and course availability. This past week, however, I had a conversation with a student regarding concerns related to a professional development course required in his degree program. The class, which focuses on building a professional portfolio and developing soft skills, he felt was nothing more than “busy work.” But, how important are soft skills when seeking a career now-a-days?
What are “soft skills?”
Soft skills are personal qualities, habits, attitudes, and social graces that make someone a good employee.
What are some examples of “soft skills?”
- Having a good resume
- Interviewing well
- Writing emails with correct grammar
- Effective communication skills
- The ability to interact with customers
- Getting along well with co-workers
- Being a team player
- A firm handshake
- Positive work ethic
- A positive attitude
- Time management skills
- Problem-solving skills
- The ability to accept and learn from criticism
- Working well under pressure
Why are “soft skills” important if I have a degree?
While a college degree teaches students how to accomplish a task (for example, medicine or engineering) it does not always teach students how to act around others in a professional environment. Without the ability to interview well or present a positive attitude towards starting a career, how will you ever come across a job offer from a company? For example, have you ever taken a class that discusses what to do when a conflict arises at work between yourself and a co-worker? Or how to negotiate your salary? These are all examples of soft skills that students should know before applying for career positions!
Soft skills and Social Networking
Soft skills can also assist in one’s ability to network with others in order to generate leads for sales, future employment, and advertising. One example of this could include the ability to make friends (or acquaintances) in the professional community that will allow for the transfer of information and opportunities. One’s professionalism and problem solving skills are also both contributing factors to success in social networking.
Susie James is the Public Relations Director for the local minor league baseball team, the Oakridge Rickets. Two months ago Susie arranged for a local band to play the national anthem at tonight’s game and throw out the first pitch, but they canceled last minute. In a panic, Susie contacts you, a PR assistant at a local radio station she met months ago at a networking event, and states she needs help; the game starts in five hours. What do you do?
A: You would like to help Susie, but you have a lot of work at the station to complete
B: State you can contact employees at the station for ideas
C: Offer Susie a solution: pick a seat section and number and tell the stadium guest they have won the first pitch contest and will be throwing out tonight’s first pitch.
Okay, you convinced me. Where can I learn “soft skills?”
The United State Department of Labor offers an entire page and discussion board dedicated solely to soft skills and how youth can develop them. Complete with printable material and activity guides, these documents allow students to practice developing soft skills as well as connecting them to previous experience. For example, an employer may ask how you handled a difficult customer while working at XYZ Company; by connecting your resolution to the problem with one of your soft skills (like, the ability to interact with customers) you can show the potential employer your value and worth as an employee.