Go hard on ‘Soft Skills’

October 29, 2016

I was recently invited to give an “inspirational talk” on Intern Development Day in my office. As the speech was part of the interns’ professional development programme, I requested the organizers to get me responses from the interns to the following question:

What could possibly stop you from achieving your career goals?

The question was put up to interns before the event. Around 50 responses were received. The analysis of responses brought out some interesting points, besides helping me finalize my short 15 minutes talk.

40% mentioned issues related to their personality (laziness, lack of determination, self-doubt etc.); health and illnesses; and skills (language and communication skills, time management etc.) that may affect their career goals.

40% highlighted external factors such as growing unemployment; short-term jobs with no or less possibility of extension, issues of work permits and policies that affect job prospects of youths.

20% were the bold and confident responses mentioning ‘nothing can stop us’.

These responses came from young persons of at least 15 nationalities, representing all regions of the world. Hence, I feel like writing on the issue and sharing some thoughts.

Growing youth unemployment is certainly a concern but at the same time, according to McKinsey reports, only 43% of employers can find enough skilled entry-level workers.

I would offer the following three suggestions:

Soft skills shouldn’t be taken softly any more: Only academic and professional education are not enough. Young persons need to focus hard on soft skills: communication, inter-personal skills, positive thinking and creativity. There are very good courses available, including online, that can be taken to strengthen soft skills.

Employers want multi-taskers : Apart from requisite educational and technical qualifications, employers are looking for people who are multi-taskers; solution-oriented; and demonstrate willing to willingness to learn new skills.

Use short-term jobs as an opportunity: The world of work is changing fast. Globalization and technical innovation has changed the business practices and work patterns. Short-term contracts are likely to stay. The future of work is where people will work for different employers at the same time. In this context, it is important to use the short-terms job opportunities to learn new skills and expand your professional network.

Having said that, It was good to note that 20% young persons were very positive, mentioning ‘nothing can stop us’. This positive attitude and determination will be important in finding your niche and being successful in a rapidly changing world of work.