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.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Coker Career Center is place for Good Career Advice For Students

In several of my Coker College Communication classes we discuss the types of jobs students might do with the knowledge we are developing in the course. Sometimes we even start the class by finding jobs the students might want some day and seeing how the skills required might relate to course content. While I am a believer in the value of learning for the sake of learning, I do understand that a very real reason for a college degree is a job and a life style that is satisfying. In the Communication classes, we try to emphasize both sides of this education coin.

Don Philabaum, an entrepreneur, writer, thinker and father, just published a new book called THE UNEMPLOYED GRAD AND WHAT PARENTS CAN DO ABOUT IT. 2012. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, you might try the web site: The author is targeting parents whose vested interest in their child's education is acute. He is also targeting parents because he knows students are not at the mindset to be focusing on a career or job that is, at best, four years away -- though parents want students earning their own just as quickly as possible. While he continues to refer to parents as you in this book, the material about the changing job market and the tools that job seekers should employ appear to be relevant to anyone looking for a job or a new job.

The major rule that Philabaum provides for parents is to URGE your student to utilize the services of the college's career center from the time they set feet on the campus. He provides detailed strategies for this use and that checklist is one of the coaching tools available from the book. Deanne Tyner  Frye, who heads up Coker's Career Center, would be ecstatic if students took this advice -- it would mean she could spend more time doing career thinking with students and less time making students aware of the services offered.

Philabaum makes a good case for starting the job and career search early. His first major statement is that every year graduating students join about two million other graduating students in the USA entering the work force -- and, by the way, that does not include the rest of the world.

The book, which is more than 250 pages, is replete with lists and checklists, etc. For this blog I am going to highlight the author's Seven Building Blocks of a career or job-search strategy:

1 -- Use the career center to explore career options
2 -- Explore options that are compatible with interests
3 -- Create a personal career profile
4 -- Develop a written job-search strategy
5 -- Create a written career plan  (my least favorite of the building blocks)
6 -- Develop fundamental job search skills
7 -- Build a professional network

Now, a lot of those terms may be abstract for many people but the author does do a good job of making them much more concrete for the reader. The book provided me with additional material that I will be sharing with students and could be of interest if you are wondering about career planning for yourself or for a new college student.