You graduated… so what?
Employers are identifying a trend in their newly graduated employees— lack of soft skills. In particular, personal attributes that allow an individual to interact effectively with other people (i.e. transitional, transferable and foundational skills). Experts have also found that individuals change careers five to seven times in their lifetime. Regardless of what degree, career, field, job, or industry you go into, employers value soft skills.
Throughout my research, I have circled and come back to the soft skills employers, professional business bloggers, and labor analysts say are valued the most:
- Team work skills
- Critical thinking
- Social skills
- Interpersonal communication/ cultural sensitivity
- Problem solving
- Conflict resolution
- Work ethic
Employers have been reporting a decline in the overall level of soft job skills in the state’s workforce, particularly among those in their teens and 20s. The Idaho Department of Labor office recently held a seminar on soft skills at its Pocatello office in response.
“The goal was for those currently working and job seekers to gain a better understanding of what soft skills are and what they could do to improve their own marketability,” workforce consultant Beth Larson said.
Often referred to as an employee’s work ethic, soft skills refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with according to Kate Lorenz of careerbuilder.com.
It’s becoming more common for employers to favor job candidates who have soft skills over those with only technical skills. While technical, job-related skills can usually be taught, soft skills are more difficult to learn.
In a recent soft skills workshop at the Idaho Department of Labor’s Meridian office, a panel of four employers was asked the following question: If you had two job candidates, one who had eight out of 10 technical skills and was equipped with noticeable soft skills, and the other had 10 out of 10 technical skills but exhibited poor soft skills, who would you hire?
The panel members, made up of human resource professionals, hiring managers and business owners, unanimously agreed: They would hire the candidate with stronger soft skills despite the fact the other candidate had more technical skills.
So what are soft skills and why are they so important when searching for and maintaining employment? According to the panelists, the most desirable soft skills for employees to exhibit include: ability to stay on task, solve problems and show up to work on time; a positive attitude, dependability, effort and an aptitude to work with others and handle stress.
You’ve probably heard of “soft skills” – abilities employers look for in all workers. But did you know you probably already possess a lot of solid, job-related skills you’ll rely on when you’re working for a living?
For example, if you’ve ever figured out the price of a CD at 15 percent off, then you have math skills that can help you understand payroll deductions like state and federal taxes. Math skills are helpful for understanding your own paycheck and investments as well as for jobs in personnel, finance and management.
Have you ever taught a friend the rules of a sport or game they’ve never played? If you have, you might have the makings of a good trainer – someone who teaches employees company rules and policies, as well as new skills that will help them advance in the company.
Employers have been increasingly voicing concerns about job applicants – especially young ones – having basic job skills – what’s called soft skills.
The Idaho Department of Labor took up their cause recently with a workshop in Pocatello to help young people, typically first-time job seekers, find work. And a major focus was on the following soft skills:
- Showing up for work on time
- Proper dress and grooming
- Working well with others
- Showing initiative
- The ability to follow directions
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Being polite
Stacy Miller, Mary Johnson and Kim Smith discuss why soft skills are important to employers.
“Soft skills are one of the key factors which can move a young person from being a job seeker to an employee,” department Regional Economist Dan Cravens told the 30 people who took part in the workshop. “We had many employers and parents in the area request that we do a workshop like this so that local youth can better understand how they need to act in order to find a job, and do well at it.”
Many of the 16-to-24-year-olds face the same challenges young people across the country face – unemployment rates over 16 percent. Unemployment rates would probably be higher for this age group, but too many young job seekers have just given up hope of finding work.
Soft skills – including managing your time wisely and coming to work on time – are important to employers. This slideshow from our Career Information System provides a list of important soft skills.
Need more career advice? You can learn about careers, paying for school and more on our website.
Employers are looking for more than just technical skills in potential employees. They also want people with a good attitude and good listening skills. They want people who work well with others. This article from aol.com shares the skills that make a difference in hiring decisions.