It has been 100 years since the 85% soft skills, 15 % hard skills concept has been identified for job success. However, the importance of soft skills training is not being heard. Here’s what Stephanie Miller (MS Environmental Science & Research Trainee at US EPA) states about her experience with graduate students and soft skills: Many graduate students are so focused on developing expertise in their field that they may neglect to realize how important it is to actively work on skills like communication, time management, or conflict resolution. These skills are critical in the workplace, and being able to demonstrate them can really help a student stand out in today’s competitive job market.
Obviously, this claim that graduate students often put soft skills on the back burner does not only apply to graduate students, as it can be extended to most students in educational and training programs today. However, no interviewers will ask students if they have a soft skill. Instead, they’ll ask for proof of the skill based on concrete examples. What they are looking for are well-rounded and skilled employees ready to contribute to an organization–not particularly the ones with the most experience.
The Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati has compiled a list of soft skills that employers seek. Here are the top ten soft skills that, when cultivated, will set you apart from the rest:
Dependability – Being dependable means that you do what you say you will, when you say you will. You can be trusted to complete any task, and you will do it well.
Motivation – You should be able to motivate yourself to get tasks done, and take the initiative to find new ways to improve upon not only yourself and your work, but also your organization.
Communication – This is one of those skills you hear about all the time, and that’s for a reason. Communication is the key to any human interaction, especially in the workplace.
Commitment – Employers want to know that you’re not only committed to the company and your job, but to turning out the best work you can, every time.
Creativity – Can you think about problems in a new and interesting way? Show your employer how.
Problem Solving – If you’re confronted with a problem, employers want to know that you will do everything you can to fix it. Your creative skills will come in handy here.
Flexibility – Sometimes, your job is going to be a little like a roller coaster. Can you adjust to the chaos?
Teamwork – You’re not done with group work after graduate school. Working in a team is an essential part of almost every job.
Leadership – You may not be a natural born leader, but can you step up and guide either a group of people or a process if necessary?
Time Management – Life gets busy, both in and out of the workplace. You need to be able to balance your workload and prioritize what gets done.
The “hard skills” learned in class are only a part of what’s necessary to be a successful employee. Business leaders are becoming more and more concerned with what they call the “skills gap” in today’s graduates. They’re concerned that today’s generation doesn’t have all of the necessary “soft skills” to succeed in today’s workplace. It’s time to ask yourself: Are you doing everything you can right now to develop the skills that will sell you as the best choice for a job? If not, it’s time to get started.