The 7 Soft Skills You Need to Advance in Your Career
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

The other day I wrote about programs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that have successfully helped students to learn the so-called soft or non-cognitive skills that employers globally are clamoring for.

Yes, hard skills—specific knowledge and ability, especially technological skill—are still important. But on their own they are not enough. Employers want to hire people who can communicate well orally and in writing, who can think on their feet, who are curious, flexible, and imaginative.

7 Soft Skills

According to the website of the World Economic Forum, a recently published book cites the seven soft skills every young person needs in order to survive the tumultuous global workplace:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Ability to collaborate and to lead
  • Adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Superior verbal skills
  • Ability to access and analyze information
  • Curiosity and imagination

Written by Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group, The Global Achievement Gap argues that even the best schools aren’t teaching students what they’ll need to survive the rapidly evolving world of work, hence the “achievement gap.”

“This [gap] has been exacerbated by two colliding trends: first, the global shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy; and second, the way in which today’s schoolchildren—brought up with the internet—are motivated to learn,” WEF says.

Here’s an excerpt from the WEF website that describes the core skills in greater detail:

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving

Companies need to be able to continuously improve products, processes, and services in order to compete. And to do this they need workers to have critical thinking skills and to be able to ask the right questions to get to the bottom of a problem.

  1. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence

Given the interconnected nature of the business world, leadership skills and the ability to influence and work together as a team have become increasingly important. And the key to becoming an effective leader? It’s twofold, says Wagner, involving “creative problem-solving and a clear ethical framework.”

  1. Agility and adaptability

The ability to adapt and pick up new skills quickly is vital for success: Workers must be able to use a range of tools to solve a problem. This is also known as “learnability,” a sought-after skill among job candidates.

  1. Initiative and entrepreneurialism

There is no harm in trying: Often people and businesses suffer from a tendency to be risk-averse. It is better to try 10 things and succeed in eight than it is to try five and succeed in all of them.

  1. Effective oral and written communication

Recruits’ fuzzy thinking and inability to articulate their thoughts were common complaints that Wagner came across from business leaders when researching his book. This isn’t so much about young people’s ability to use grammar and punctuation correctly, or to spell, but how to communicate clearly verbally, in writing or while presenting. “If you have great ideas but you can’t communicate them, then you’re lost,” Wagner says.

  1. Accessing and analysing information

Many employees have to deal with an immense amount of information on a daily basis: the ability to sift through it and pull out what is relevant is a challenge. Particularly given how rapidly the information can change.

Read more at the World Economic Forum.

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