Linda Forshaw

Great info for smarter students.

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Graduated Top Of Your Class? That Might Not Be Enough

Imagine this. You’ve walked away with a good degree from a good university (it might even be great on both counts). You’re ready to get to work in the career of your dreams. You’ve had your eye on one or two roles that you just know would be perfect for you and you’re feeling pretty confident that you’ll be in the running. What if you weren’t in the running though? Whether the potential employer didn’t even bother to get back to you or whether you got to the interview stage, for whatever reason you didn’t get the job. Could it be a lack of soft skills that’s the problem?

What are soft skills anyway?

Investopedia defines soft skills as “the character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person's knowledge and occupational skills.”

Soft skills might refer to your ability to communicate effectively with colleagues and clients, your ability to be positive and to handle conflict. It might refer to your ability to show respect and win trust from others that you come into contact with. It also might refer to how you accept criticism and whether or not you can demonstrate good manners. On an even more simple level, it might refer to whether or not you are likable. Whatever it refers to, it stands in stark contrast to hard skills which Little Things Matter defines as “specific, trainable abilities necessary to carry out the professional or technical requirements of a job or education.”

Why are they so important?

Put simply, given sufficient attention, a significant proportion of people would be able to grasp the hard skills required to do a diverse range of jobs to a decent if not excellent standard. What’s not so easy to learn is how to handle yourself in the face of harsh criticism or indeed how to be likeable. Emotions can often take on a life of their own and a person’s emotional state can be extremely difficult to change. Thankfully, though, it’s not impossible. It’s not easy; but by no means impossible. It’s about putting yourself in the kind of situation where you will learn to control your emotions, where you will learn to listen actively to others, and where you might just learn to be likeable.

Reading between the lines: Five soft skills that should support your academic credentials

- Positivity. You’re an optimistic person. You’re an upbeat person. You’re the kind of person that will bring good energy to your working environment.

- Time Management. You’re the kind of person who can work on multiple projects, while still managing to prioritize the really important ones.

- Communication. You're a great communicator that can get your point across to a diverse audience. People understand you. People relate to you.

- Role Play. You know when to take the reins and lead a project and you know when to take a step back and be a great team player.

- Under Pressure. You laugh in the face of pressure and come back with your best work. You live for deadlines and manage crises like a pro. Desk rage is not an option. 

That’s It?

Well no, but it’s a great start and it’s going to put you in a better position than you were. Check out this list of the top ten soft skills to master.

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