Sunday, July 8, 2012

What are some "soft skills" employers seek?

THE UNEMPLOYED GRAD AND WHAT PARENTS CAN DO ABOUT IT is a book that is hot off the press toward the end of June. The author, Don Philabaum, has a lot of recommendations on how parents can help their college students become more prepared for the job search with the goal of having a job in the right field upon college graduation.

A previous blog has recommended this book to job seekers, parents of job seekers and anyone interested in knowing more about being competitive in today's TIGHT job market. This book is about planning and it does not have quick fixes or magic but it is replete with good information.

One of the lists that Philabaum provides is that of soft skills that managers and supervisors feel are lacking in new hires.  He encourages students to get these skills and has a lot of advice for how to develop the skills. One of the things I like about the list is that at Coker College we have programs in place for students to develop these skills. We do, however, probably have to a better job of telling students that the reason for some of the requirements is to help them become more job competitive even while tell them that learning for the sake of learning is also a valid strategy.

So what are these soft skills that are identified in the book. On pages 197 and 198 the author identifies 15:
1 -- Good communication skills        2 -- Interpersonal Skills           3 -- Creative problem solving
4 -- Working within a team               5 -- Integrity and ethics           6 -- Self-confidence
7 -- Motivated and committed          8 -- Leadership skills              9 -- Adaptability to change
10 - Good listening skills                  11 - Commitment to lifetime learning
12 - Commitment to excellence        13 - Willingness to take risks
14 - Willingness to face assessment   15 - Commitment to run in reports

So, it doesn't take too much critical thinking to understand that many of the skills listed here are highly valued in the "The Academy." Our students get practice in many if not most of these areas. Some on campus remind them all the time these are skills valued in the job market, maybe we just have to be aware that it does taking pretty constant reminding.

In my public speaking classes, for example, I stress in our very first class and through the semester that getting better at speaking in groups will be one of the skills that will have a direct impact on the student's personal bottom line. That also gives me the opportunity to talk with students about jargon, because few of them have any idea what the business term 'bottom line' means. It is not something that has been part of their environment to this point in their lives but they learn and most learn quickly.


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