Would you like to land your dream job and become successful? Then let’s talk about the importance of developing soft skills (and not just technical skills) in college!
The education system is flawed in many ways, and one of them is that it doesn’t teach enough soft skills to students. Our education aims to prepare us for the life ahead, but the real life is vastly different from college. In the professional world, the rules that applied in education get twisted, and new rules apply. And that’s where the importance of soft skills comes into play. Read on to know what are soft skills and why are they important.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are talents that are not related to the subject matter of your field or intellectual quotient. These are skills that instead of making you a subject-matter-expert, showcase you as an individual to trust and connect with. Soft skills include:
- Written and spoken communication
- Interpersonal skills
- Attitude & ethics
- Leadership skills
- Teamwork & adaptability
- Personality traits
- Social and emotional intelligence
Importance of Soft Skills for Students
Most college students think that they will be hired on the basis of their aptitude. After all, in exams we are graded on the basis of how well we have memorized concepts, solve problems and write papers. Aptitude, or intellectual abilities, are important to some extent, especially in fields like programming or medical.
However, students often don’t realize that the world that they are about to step into is completely unlike their college and is much more chaotic. Technical skills are no doubt important as these are the fundamentals. But nowadays, our society is moving into a time where knowledge for developing skills is easily accessible on Wikipedia or elsewhere on the internet.
So what will set you apart in an interview or at your workplace, where just about any colleague can access the same information in a matter of seconds? That’s where soft skills come in. In order to get a job, you need to ace an interview. And to get an interview, you need to network with people in your industry and send out applications. In order to get a salary, you need to negotiate it.
Soft skills have the power to let others know that you’re trustworthy, responsible, well-spoken and socially adept. These qualities can help you land a job, run an enterprise, lead teams, make sales and get promotions. In short, there is no career growth without soft skills.
Early Exposure to Soft Skills
If you think about it, we begin to develop soft skills right in our childhood, as we learn to communicate with our friends, family, neighbors and teachers. Our play-time, PTA meetings and birthday parties – all keep contributing to developing our social and emotional quotients.
College life tries to teach things beyond subject fundamentals, too. It also aims to teach you life skills such as collaboration and leadership. While soft skills don’t help you get good grades, they do come in handy when you’re doing group projects, presentations or participating in extra-curricular activities.
Colleges have activities like inter-college festivals, clubs etc. These which give the students an opportunity to collaborate and co-create things. That’s why extra-curriculars are so important. So try to do things out of your comfort zone. Yes, public speaking can be scary, but to develop new skills, sometimes we need to face our fears!
In order to be successful in just about any field, students can not limit themselves to skills limited to their syllabus, but also look beyond. Invest time in your hobbies, as they’ll help improve your social skills, bring confidence and enrich your personality. A famous example was Steve Jobs, who used to take calligraphy classes just as a hobby, which ultimately gave him the inspiration for introducing multiple fonts in personal computers for the first time.
Soft Skills are Not just Important, but also Crucial
Once you step out of college, things aren’t as structured as you may initially imagine. College rewards discipline and there is structure to everything. In case something falls out of place, there are systems in place to solve them.
When you move out of college, you are on your own. As compared to structured life in college, you need to find you own way, that’s the time you realize importance of soft skills in business communication. Developing good communication and interpersonal skills will help you communicate with peers, unknown associates and then collaborate with them.
Importance of Developing Soft Skills for Introverts
For introverts, soft skills are hard to develop, as we hate unnecessary communication and thrive on inner creativity. That’s why it’s so common to see the awkward geeks or the anti-social geniuses. Sadly, many introverts don’t believe in the importance of developing soft skills and think they’ll be successful without them. Rarely works out, if ever.
We sometimes believe that if we have worked hard for something and develop the talent for it, some day we will be rewarded. I would like to bust this myth by saying, you may have the talent but if you can’t showcase it or make it big with collaboration, your talent will never reach the height it deserves. Hard work will not take you far if you don’t have courage to market it well.
It’s believed that 80% of us are introverts to some level, the degree may way wary. But we are living in a world that is extremely noisy. To get yourself heard, one needs to speak up and interact with the world. Only with interaction can we exchange ideas and be a part of the society.
For introverts, some soft skills are easy to develop – like writing, while others are harder. Developing a soft skill like having the courage to speak to a stranger is very important. Having a good command on language is more important than I can emphasize. Most of us recognize this, but don’t actively work on this. The good thing is – there’s no age to improve your social skills.
How I Developed My Soft Skills After College
During my undergraduate days, I wasn’t good at spoken English, as I had never needed that skill. However, when I moved to Bangalore to do my MBA, I realized how important communicative English was to do well in my classes. I started putting conscious effort by reading out loudly, interacting in English with my friends and later at work. A lot of people accept themselves as they are to avoid putting so much effort on such simple skills.
Today I believe that good communication skills have truly helped me stand out in the crowd. At my job, I have been asked to be the face of the company in front key international clients, give press interviews, host office functions in front of large gatherings, etc. They help me develop my personality and provide an opportunity to connect and converse with people of high stature.
If you wish to become an entrepreneur someday, soft skills like these are very critical throughout your life. Do observe successful people and CEOs when they speak in public, or even when they just sit for meetings. They have developed leadership skills, charm, good graces. Improving soft skill is extremely important for people at the top, as they are the face of their organization. None of the CEOs were ever born with good soft skills, they acquired them consciously by practicing and working on them over the years from an early age.
Hope this article was helpful. Feel free to write your thoughts on the importance of developing soft skills in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @slubguy.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.