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Soft Skills: A Buoy for Youth Looking to Enter the Workforce

/ 13 Mar 2022

Soft Skills: A Buoy for Youth Looking to Enter the Workforce

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Al-Fanar Media).

The global job landscape has taken a sharp turn in the past few years. As a result, the requirements that employers have for job seekers have changed and will continue to evolve.

Education is just one aspect of any job requirement, and although it seems like the primary ask, there are many other criteria that a potential candidate needs to fulfill.

Frequently sought after skills normally relate to technology and years of experience, but we are now seeing the rise in importance of soft skills. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has sharpened this focus.

Some terms used to describe such skills are: transferable skills, workforce readiness skills, 21st-century skills, and non-cognitive skills. Specifically, when it comes to employing youth and individuals just entering the workforce, employers are increasingly looking for personnel that who flexible, adaptable, proactive, creative, and collaborative.

In addition, the pandemic has given rise to many more soft skills—empathy and resilience, for example.

Employers are increasingly looking for non-cognitive skills that will support the professional and personal growth of employees. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the need for a workforce that is entrepreneurial and can adapt to changes. Global lockdowns have also expanded the geographies that employees can be hired from, thereby widening the talent pool.

Skills that we thought were not valuable in a workplace are now more significant than ever. Youth need to prepare themselves and build their personalities to be desirable to employers.

While employees showcasing leadership skills will be in demand, there is also a requirement for individuals who display emotional intelligence.

Against the backdrop of the post-pandemic world, here are some insights on the important soft skills that youth need to advance their careers:

  • Resilience

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we knew it. Every industry has been affected by it in different measures. In a work setting, it altered the way the world was used to working.

The comfort of office spaces that most people were used to changed to a more informal setting inside their homes. There was technology fatigue, and working remotely also meant blurring lines between workdays and personal time.

Most youngsters who joined the workforce during the pandemic did not experience a workplace culture in the first year of their careers. The shift was stressful and gave rise to anxiety in individuals. This sudden shift and necessary changes have paved the way for an important soft skill that is resilience. Simply put, resilience is the ability to thrive or cope with challenges and stress, and this soft skill can contribute greatly to career growth.

Some ways by which resilience can be developed and nurtured are: by trying not to view crises as insurmountable problems, accepting that change is a part of life, focus on your own mental wellness and communicating openly. In a post-pandemic workplace, employees who exhibit resilience will flourish rather than flounder.

  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Empathy is not a skill, some may argue. However, in the world we live in now, empathy is definitely a skill that most organisations are looking for. Indeed, some may even consider it to be essential to personal and professional success.

Having the ability to recognise the reason behind another individual’s behaviour and to be able to feel and express compassion is crucial in this era of remote workforces. Being around people physically can make us more attuned to another person’s feelings, but it can be difficult to judge from the other side of the  screen.

Additionally, for leaders, empathy is a critical trait as studies show that leaders who display empathy have happier teams, which are ultimately more productive.

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, gives one the ability to create better relationships with customers and coworkers and promote a positive work environment for the whole team. During times fraught with uncertainty and anxiety, emotional intelligence is key to building lasting and productive relationships.

  • Self-Awareness

Simply put, self-awareness is the knowledge one possesses of their behaviour and feelings. Seeing yourself clearly and objectively forms a critical part of being self-aware. By understanding yourself, your capabilities, shortcomings and areas of improvement, you can be on the path to success.

Although line managers are there to support through issues, it is important for companies to have employees who are self-motivated towards solving their issues and problems. Being able to view a problem objectively and to skillfully maneuver through it by reasoning is a desirable skill to have.

It is not just about the person next to you; it is as important to know the qualities you possess and the feelings you have as it is to know your colleagues. Observing yourself objectively will help with growth and self-realisation.

Additionally, referring to practical skills, one may be good at a certain task; however, there might be someone who can do it better and more efficiently. As we moved away from working in offices where there were several colleagues to help out when needed, most were suddenly left to work independently.

Being aware that colleagues can still be reached out to is important despite the change in the work environment. Understanding when help is required and seeking help is an admirable trait.

Sometimes, youth push themselves to be good at everything they are tasked with, and it can significantly harm their emotional state and create a deep-seated dislike towards a certain task. This can be corrected by understanding the threshold of one’s capabilities and skillfully allocating it to someone who can better perform the work.

  • Problem Solving/Creative Thinking

Employers look for a workforce that is empowered and can work towards managing problems on their own.

Although line managers are there to support through issues, it is important for companies to have employees who are self-motivated towards solving their issues and problems. Being able to view a problem objectively and to skillfully maneuver through it by reasoning is a desirable skill to have.

Remote working came with its share of issues and sometimes made it more difficult to get thoughts across to customers or colleagues.  From technological problems to differences in opinion and situational gaps–these can create uncomfortable and problematic situations.

However, creative thinking in adverse times and focusing on one issue at a time can significantly impact the outcome. In fact, a study by the World Economic Forum listed creative thinking and problem-solving in the top list of skills that employers believe will grow in prominence by 2025.

Tackling a problem independently can also be satisfying to the employee. Especially for youth or young minds that have potentially come with little experience, it can be motivational. This can be enhanced by understanding scenarios that can come up in daily work schedules with colleagues and clients—being analytical and focusing on the how rather than the why can help with coming up with solutions.

Much to Learn from a Year of Change

Soft skills are developmental, and youth can continue to cultivate them as they join the workforce. Direct managers and colleagues who work closely with each other are important in character building.

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Organisations are focusing on employees who bring much more than their education to the workplace; possessing soft skills is important and will only be more significant in the coming years.

There is so much to learn from the pandemic-driven year. Skills that we thought were not valuable in a workplace are now more significant than ever.  Youth need to prepare themselves and build their personalities to be desirable to employers.

Paul Hopkinson is associate head of Edinburgh Business School for Heriot-Watt University Dubai and academic lead for Heriot-Watt Online.

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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام