Résumé building can be a daunting task. From noting down honors to chronicling a myriad of activities, there is a lot of pressure on college students to showcase their accomplishments to future employers. Technical skills, such as working with software and being fluent in a foreign language, are also encouraged as skills to be had by the time of graduation.
While colleges push students to obtain these must-have skills, what goes beyond the well-written résumé may be actually more important. This is where soft skills come in.
It is important to first differentiate between the two types of skills one may possess. Hard skills are technical skills that are often taught in schools, such as math, physics and computer science. Soft skills are the opposite. They are not associated with traditional learning environments. Instead, these are the skills that include coping, motivation, stress management and effectively communicating with people, and are often learned outside of the classroom.
Despite both hard and soft skills being important to have in the job market, colleges still have yet to place an emphasis on soft skills. However, many employers are moving toward hiring potential candidates that possess strong soft skills rather than hard skills.
What can explain the shift? In an era of texting and Donald Trump Twitter rants, talking in-person has slowly become a rare occurrence. Work projects can be sent online, interviews can be done over Skype and group chats can replace meetings in the office. A majority of careers, however, will still require some form of human interaction.
Soft skills are significant because they can translate to the real world. Solely knowing a field of study may not be as impressive as knowing how to share and communicate expertise to a team or consumers.
A college student entering the workforce will probably be judged not initially on substance, but rather on his or her personality and fresh, creative ideas for the company. Professional platform LinkedIn notes that those sitting in “senior level positions” have likely excelled too because of their remarkable soft skills in leadership and stress-management. Further advancement in an industry, however, also calls for taking initiatives outside the workplace, such as networking and communicating with a trusted mentor.
Soft skills can give greater meaning to what the student learned in his or her major as well. Theories can appear abstract until critical thinking is established. Solving pitfalls in a company opens management and passion indicates a student’s purpose. At the same time, empathy is crucial in social interactions.
Overall, colleges need to emphasize both hard and soft skills in a competitive market. Soft skills are taught through experiences, but there are simple ways of incorporating them into lectures.
Discuss them, highlight them in the syllabus and actively encourage students to use them. In the end, they can prove to be beneficial in an ever-changing job market.