“Soft Skills”

We hear them called a lot of things: Soft Skills, 21st Century Skills, Work-Ready Skills…Life Skills! No matter how you refer to them, there is general agreement that they’re skills we ALL need to perform well in our jobs. Today, our guest blogger is Heather McClanahan. Heather is a NaviGo Coach and she’s the Apprenticeship Project Manager at Gateway Community and Technical College. She has a ton of experience connecting students to careers and has some great advice on honing those soft skills, even while we are “social distancing” from others.

WHY YOU NEED THEM AND WHY EMPLOYERS APPRECIATE THEM

Well, here you are today, attending high school from home (thank you, world pandemic) and graduating high school in a couple months. Believe it or not, although you are attending school virtually, you are still learning a lot of valuable work qualities, a.k.a. soft skills. Many employers seek the soft skills your generation can provide, and this blog explores a few.

INDEPENDENCE & ABILITY TO WORK AS A PART OF A TEAM

The ability to work independently and in a team are qualities valued by employers. When an employee can receive a task or assignment and complete it with minimal direction, it frees up managers to work on their own tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, though. Managers appreciate when you ask the “right” questions, as this is a great way to get confirmation of project requirements.  Ultimately, if you can work independently, you’ll recognize how your skills produce better outcomes, which allows you to see your part in the business “as a whole.”

Employers form teams when goals are multi-departmental. As an online student, you have a unique opportunity to develop and refine your virtual capabilities to collaborate effectively with fellow students and teachers.  Being able to share work responsibilities with others in a cooperative manner will increase morale in the group.

ADAPTABILITY

The way you handle adversity, accept challenges, and embrace change is reviewed by employers. Having a positive mindset goes a long way. Use this time with your teachers online to show them you are on board with their Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI). Be engaged and express your educated opinions because when you demonstrate these qualities to employers, they are compelled to invest in your success. Companies are constantly making changes based on market and budget changes. In the workforce, they will see how you respond to those shifts.

ENGAGEMENT

This engagement does not involve wedding rings, but it is the same concept.  Being engaged means you have a sincere interest in someone/something with same goals. You are actively listening to each other, as well as setting boundaries for outside noise distracting you from the shared goal. This concept also shows up when you have a hobby, sport, club, art or something else.  Being able to exhibit passion in a job setting sends a message to employers that you care.

TIME MANAGEMENT

How do you organize your day, week, month, and year?  Time management can mean a few things: being on time for work, completing projects by deadlines, prioritizing task list by importance.  Proactively managing your calendar reduces procrastination and hesitation. By meeting commitments as frequently as possible, you will find it easier to react to unexpected calls and emergencies.

ORGANIZATION

Having your details in order, knowing where things are and tracking deadlines is key to successfully accomplishing tasks in the world of employment.  Any haphazard attributes essentially lead to a waste of time.  And a waste of time leads to lost productivity and that equates to lost dollars. Organize your calendar, your time, your documents and files. It all adds up and keeps productivity running smoothly.

There are many, many more areas of soft skills we could explore.  The ones detailed above seem to always find their way to the top of the list when employers are hiring.  How do you rank in these areas?   If you think you are lacking in any of them, you can always reach out to me to have a one-on-one conversation about ways you can improve!  Here at Navigo, your success is one of our priorities!  We are always here to help!

NaviGo is a division of Learning Grove, providing college and career coaching services and support to middle and high school students. Contact us: SLayton@learning-grove.org

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