Description: If you are currently in high school, college or university, or any other post-secondary educational/training setting you undoubtably regularly spend time wondering what the job market will look like when you complete your education and wonder what potential employers will want to see in you when you engage with them in search of employment. Well, in relation to those questions there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is that the nature of work is shifting as things like globalization and automation change what will be available in the way of work when you graduate. In addition, employers and recruiters are saying that they are looking for more that what you are currently learning through the curricula in the courses you are taking. So, this bad news may be a bit chilling, but it need not be. The good news is that while automation and globalization are changing work options, they are not eliminating them and second, there has really never been a simple one-to-one relationship between college/university curricula and desired job skills and even when there is it is short-lived with what you learn in school becoming outdated in only a few years. Ok well that does not sound like good news really does it but what IS good about it is that it will help you get focused upon what you can be doing NOW to prepare yourself for getting a good job when you graduate. A good place to start is with what recruiters ARE looking for. Read through the article linked below (there are other ‘takes’ on the same theme at the second link below) and then think a bit about how you might go about acquiring the skills recruiters say they are looking for.
Source: Employers Want ‘Uniquely Human Skills’, Dian Schaffhauser, Research, Campus Technology.
Date: January 17, 2019
Photo Credit: Campus Technology.com
Article Link: https://campustechnology.com/articles/2019/01/17/employers-want-uniquely-human-skills.aspx Alternative versions can be reviewed here: http://simplysuccess.com/soft-skills-evidence/
So, what do you think about the list of skills hiring managers are looking for these days? Are there opportunities in your current educational setting and experiences for you to acquire some or all of the things on that list? Well if you just think about the contents of your courses as listed on your course outlines and in your textbooks, you are likely not seeing many or any connections (unless you are taking a course in Industrial/Organizational Psychology). However, there ARE ways to turn that bad news into good news. First, consider the parts of the list that reflect what are generally referred to as ‘soft skills’ and including “the ability to listen, attention to detail and attentiveness, effective communication, and strong interpersonal abilities.” We call them soft skills because they are typically thought of as things that people are either inherently good at or that they pick up along the way. There is some truth to this characterization as soft skills or social/emotional understanding, insight and competence are built up developmentally as we grow and as we are socialized by our parents, teachers, peers, and other sociocultural involvements. Now that might sound like you either have soft skills or you do not have social skills and if you do not it is someone else’s fault, BUT, another aspect of development that is important for you to know about is that through adolescence (teenaged years) and emerging adulthood (18 to 25 or 29 years of age) you have been developing general higher order thinking skills that, if you notice them and work on them, help you to see some of the bigger picture of how the world around you works what and your possible places in it and pathways through it might involve. This higher order thinking can help you to understand that you are not simply finding things like knowledge, abilities or career prospects in the world but, rather, that you are creating them. Another way to say this is that you are beginning to see ways in which you can move beyond living reactively by taking up what comes by, and instead live with conscious purpose and chart your own way forward.
What does all that have to do with soft skills? Well, if you dig in and see what psychology has to say about emotional intelligence or EQ you will see that soft skills can be seen, understood, and learned. You can take advantage, for example, of any group projects you are assigned in your courses to hone your own soft skills and to see them (or their lack) in others. If you do that you will gain some insights and acquire some examples of your own soft skill that you can use in your future job interviews because teamwork skills are at the very top of most recruiters’ lists (and they are made up entirely of EQ/soft skills that you can develop).
As to the other things in the list, well, critical thinking is much more than just being crusty and negative. Critical thinking is a strong manifestation of the higher order thinking you are developing. It involves going beyond the obvious facts of a situation looking at how the facts are put together and at whether looking at them from other perspective might suggest other courses of action. “Being able to keep learning” or what is typically referred to as lifelong learning does not mean that you should stay in school forever. What is means, and why it is in the list with the soft skills, is that it too reflects the development of higher order thinking which allows you to understand that the facts and understandings of today may not apply to the situations of tomorrow or next year or may not be the facts we once though they were and if you can get your head around a corner of THAT then you can start to see that you should not simply keep on learning but SHOULD keep on thinking, reflecting, and living on purpose. “How to” manuals for these sorts of DIY (Do It Yourself) projects are hard to find but if you read a bit about the developmental stage of emerging adulthood (search the term and its developer JJ. Arnett) you can start to see that there is nothing soft about all of these developmental skills they are important parts of life these days. If you do you will begin to see the huge number of opportunities you have around you to develop and practice the higher order thinking and the soft skills that will give you lots to talk about with recruiters when you head out looking for work.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are ‘soft skills’ and why are they called ‘soft’?
- Why do employers want to have solid soft skills?
- How are soft skills and development through the teenage and emerging adulthood years related?
References (Read Further):
Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive perceptions of the top 10 soft skills needed in today’s workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453-465. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marcel_Robles/publication/258126575_Executive_Perceptions_of_the_Top_10_Soft_Skills_Needed_in_Today’s_Workplace/links/56095e8908ae4d86bb11d036/Executive-Perceptions-of-the-Top-10-Soft-Skills-Needed-in-Todays-Workplace.pdf
Schulz, B. (2008). The importance of soft skills: Education beyond academic knowledge. http://ir.nust.na/bitstream/handle/10628/39/The%20Importance%20of%20Soft%20%20Skills-Education%20beyond%20academic%20knowledge.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American psychologist, 55(5), 469. http://jeffreyarnett.com/ARNETT_Emerging_Adulthood_theory.pdf
Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for?. Child development perspectives, 1(2), 68-73. http://www.jeffreyarnett.com/Arnett%20new%20website/Articles/EAsecondedition.pdf
Miri, B., David, B. C., & Uri, Z. (2007). Purposely teaching for the promotion of higher-order thinking skills: A case of critical thinking. Research in science education, 37(4), 353-369. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Miri_Barak2/publication/225399805_Purposely_Teaching_for_the_Promotion_of_Higher-order_Thinking_Skills_A_Case_of_Critical_Thinking/links/543c186a0cf24a6ddb97f970.pdf