What do you need to succeed in the modern world? Many would say - education and practice. That’s true, but that is also only a part of the success story. Even if you have great experience and studied in Harvard or MIT, there are plenty of other things your potential employer or co-workers might expect from you: self-organisation, ability to deal with your time schedule and present your ideas in a very clear and convincing manner. Such things are called soft skills - and here is why they are important for the youth.
The term “Soft skills” comes - surprisingly - from the US Army, wheт in 1972 it was used for the first time in the official document. Now, we use this term everywhere, and to understand it - we have to draw the line between “soft” and “hard” skills. Hard skills are the practical abilities of you, such as knowledge of programming languages, ability to work with design software or your knowledge of how you can fix a car’s engine. Those are a set of specific, knowledge-based abilities, which allow you to do very precise practical tasks.
Soft skills are something different - there is some theoretical knowledge behind them too, however, they can be described more like a set of personality traits and characteristics. They can be united into 3 groups - people skills, social skills and personal career attributes. Those can be your abilities to work in a team, management and leadership skills, ability to solve the conflicts or prevent their escalation, emotional empathy, time management and many, many others.
Aren’t those just the things people whether have from birth or not? Well, no - like any other skill, soft skills can be learned and improved with some theoretical inputs and exercise. And don’t you think those are some funny stuff created by managers who have nothing specific to do. Studies show, that in the 21st century 80% of career success is determined by soft skills, and only 20% comes from hard skills. Just think of Steve Jobs, for example - he became one of the most successful businessmen in the world not because he was good in math, but because he was creative, confident and a hell of a speaker.
Why are those soft skills important for the employer? Well, no matter how good you are as a professional, you are not a one-man-army. Good level of soft skills means that professionals can find a way to unite in a team, to organise themselves, to follow the leadership but also have a sense of entrepreneurship, to come up with new ideas and strategies, etc. And vice versa - no matter how skilled you are, even if you are the best lawyer in the world - you are probably not gonna go far if you are rude, unpleasant, can’t handle your own schedule and can’t put a good speech.
And to show how important those are for the working environment - here are some numbers, taken by different surveys on the topic:
- 97% of employers agreed on the fact that soft skills affect job performance
- 90% of employers see value in soft skills training for their workers
- Only 31% of employers said that their job candidates have satisfactory soft skills
- 46% of managers said that young job candidates lack the communication skill for the position they seek
- 44% of managers said their job candidates lack leadership qualities
- Candidates who are self-organised and can manage multiple tasks are the top-priority for 57% of managers
- 60% of new employees don’t have enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for their jobs
- 55% of CFO’s said the biggest challenge in recruiting accountant professionals were to find candidates with needed soft skills.
- Soft skills contribute 88 billion pounds to the British economics every year
So where do we find opportunities to learn those? It’s pretty close, in our every-day life. The internet is full of materials and articles on how to raise your productivity and social competences. While some of them are very basic, you can definitely find some really good advice.
If you don’t trust random websites and want to study from professionals - look for the seminars and training, funded by Erasmus+. Within the frame of the program, thousands of the topic-related activities, training and youth exchanges take place every year, and they give you an opportunity to not only listen to the trainer but also to learn from other participants from all the Europe. Finally, just get out of the room, and opportunities to sharpen your time-management, communication and interaction will arise instantly. Especially, if you are in the middle of your ESC project in a foreign country, where many things are different from what you used to know.