Networking events are great for meeting people and exercising your soft skills. I was at a networking event the other day for IT and business professionals, and during the meeting they had us break out into groups.
They asked three basic questions:
- What skills do you valuable most in prospective employees?
- What skill is hardest to find for your business?
- What advice would you individuals as to the training and knowledge they need to be hired?
Now with an IT focus, you would think that the professionals in the room would overwhelming lean towards IT training and IT certifications. But every time a spokesperson for a table stood up, the first thing said was how valuable soft skills are in the workplace and how they sought workers with them. Don’t get me wrong; IT skills are still critical, but it wasn’t the only one employers these days are looking for.
As one professional phrased it:
“We can teach the IT skills and easily have them attain more through classes; what we can’t do is teach them the people skills and communication skills they need to truly be a valuable employee.”
In our room, the focus was on how clearly employees needed to communicate with clients and with co-workers. In addition to being able to speak clearly and speak in language that suited their audience, employers wanted employees who could read situations and adjust to them. They want employees who are good with co-workers and clients. They want employees who care about who they are communicating with and care about providing good service.
It seems in our effort to make our students more STEM educated, we have left behind other critical skills in the workplace: those elusive yet fundamental soft skills.
These professionals were not necessarily talking about written skills either, although they thought that important too. They were talking about body language, eye contact, and wording things appropriately for the situation. They were talking about making customers feel good about the service they were receiving and feeling like the company providing that service cared.