3 Soft Skills You Need to Be Career Ready

Your college degree isn’t enough

soft skills
(Image: iStock.com/laflor)

Lots of employers are talking about soft skills these days. Having a college degree simply opens the door; it’s soft skills that open the door wide.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, or NACE, recently identified seven competencies that college graduates should develop to be considered career ready. They are:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving ability
  2. Oral and written communications skills
  3. Teamwork and collaboration skills
  4. The ability to select and use information technology
  5. Leadership skills
  6. Work ethic
  7. Career management, or the ability to articulate your skills, strengths, and knowledge

The associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania, Joseph Barber, wrote an elaboration and extension of NACE’s career competencies which was published on Inside Higher Ed. Barber’s whole post is worth reading.

I selected a few of his points to spotlight here:

Self-Management and Personal Wellness


At the second job I ever had in publishing, one of the editors once burst into the office of the editor-in-chief, who was busy working at the time, slammed his door shut, and burst into loud, passionate tears, because she was experiencing a romantic breakup.

Barber writes that being able to keep your emotions in perspective is an aspect of self-management, as is seeking help and being aware of wellness resources.

Active Listening and Effective Communication


There’s a lot included in this competency, such as clear, coherent writing and oral expression of your thoughts and ideas. But Barber includes another aspect of communication not often mentioned; the accurate interpretation of the verbal and non-verbal messages of others.

More times than I care to remember, I’ve seen people overreact to the slightest slights, or imagine slights where none were intended, or simply misinterpret what was going on around them and take umbrage.

Before you fly off the handle, make sure you’re interpreting the situation accurately. Even if a slight was intended, learn how to deftly handle such encounters.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving


Under this competency, Barber writes, “Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, overcome problems, address ambiguity, and find relevant information. Obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data to resolve problems.”

You should be able to back up your decisions with real facts or data—you don’t want to fly by the seat of your pants or make important decisions based on a hunch. That means acquiring problem solving skills and developing technology skills.

To read more, go to Inside Higher Ed.

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