Tag Archives: soft skills

Soft Skills: Key to Securing the Job?

 

According to Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) one in eight graduates  found that time invested by graduates in their personal brands as well as flexible sociability was a key factor in their first-job success.

AGR’s stat covers a wide range of characteristics when concerned with the word ‘sociability.’ The explosion of the technology industry, the obligatory online applications forms when applying for a new job and an almost constant online presence via email, phones, and social media has both complicated and expanded the definition of sociability.

Futureboard’s previous articles  have covered the importance of maintaining a persistent and professional online presence when job-hunting. However there is a growing importance in the ability of interviewees and graduates to be able to demonstrate not simply their hard-skills (i.e. skill sets and competence in managing tasks and activities in a job role) but their soft-skills in the workplace. Emotional intelligence, also known as soft skills, is the skill-set most likely involved when evaluating likability or fit. As Miriam Salpeter quotes “Soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with co-workers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.” In those key moments in an interview these skills will be tested consciously and sub-consciously and the latter requires good practice to the point that it is habitual.

I am not referring to basic social skills so what do I mean by habitual soft skills? Firm eye-contact, the ability to regulate the pace and tone of your voice, good posture and self-confidence. Self-confidence does not come to us all naturally so practice and act it, even if you don’t feel it as perceptions are very important. Meditate if you have to and consolidate your thoughts. The 2,500 personality tests around will indicate (at a basic level for some of us) that not all of us enjoy, prefer or have the best soft skills. However personality of some kind and a likeable and workable one which allows you to engage with employers, would-be employees and customers will push you ahead of the running for top job even if someone is more qualified than you.

Why? Because you may be more eloquent, likable and professional and while employers employ online personality tests and online applications processes and are adamant (as to avoid legal issues) that someone doesn’t get hired because they weren’t liked, personality and soft skills are as essential as qualifications and skill-sets whether both parties like it or not.

Have a look at some of these links and fill in the chinks in your armour while evaluating your weaknesses and above all; strengths.

Strong Work Ethic: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/five-characteristics-good-work-ethic-10382.html

Positive Attitude: http://www.careerealism.com/attitudes-workplace-get-ahead/

 Self-Confidence: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/06/10-ways-to-fake-confidence-the-1-reason-why-you-should/

Flexibility: http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2013/08/18/5-reasons-why-workplace-flexibility-is-smart-talent-strategy/

Proactive: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/are-you-proactive-or-reactive.html

Time Management: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/20-quick-tips-for-better-time-management.html

Communication Skills: http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/ways-to-communicate-effectively-in-the-workplace.html

Matthew Williams

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Military Values in the Workplace

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Sun Tzu

Applying military values to the workplace and career works; it is from discipline and a combination soft and hard power that spontaneity evolves. “What is this guy on?!” you may ask, you may suggest “This is the era of ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Digital Natives’! Military-style disciplinarians at the office are history, they were the worst!” Or you may even think “not another traditionalist.”

There are numerous articles on avoiding toxic workplaces and the invaluable lessons on ‘Soft Skills’ . There is an increasing focus on the needs of the emerging graduate workforce and employers are often expected to match graduate expectations. According to the Telegraph, “graduates are struggling to wade through generic company messaging to find their way to the right job…and the result is 1 in 4 graduates quit within a year of starting work.”

Hannibal Barca marched his Carthaginian army across the Alps. He lost half his army along the way to the winter cold. Similarly Alexander the Great marched his army from ancient Greece to India in the space of eight years. What did these men and their armies achieve by pushing themselves to the extreme? They won remarkable victories and they both achieved historical fame. How did the Roman Army become the best the world had seen in its time? It was disciplined, relentless and adopted new strategies and tactics to not just survive but evolve. The reward was loot, treasures, empire, fame, and being the subject of debate for military scholars and historians hundreds of years after they had gone.

What defined Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Brian Clough? They were ruthless and defeats were guaranteed to be few and far between. They got results, whatever the cost. However more importantly they got the balance right between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. They won piles of trophies in the footballing world. At the other end of the spectrum Paulo Di Canio had a mutiny on his hands at Sunderland in 2013 after he cracked the whip too hard whilst Arsenal F.C have been defined as a ‘friendly club’ and therefore easy to bully in the crunch games. With all the new trends emerging across the globe, the rise of the millennials and digital natives, the ever strenuous push for ‘world peace’, and the technological revolution you’d be forgiven for thinking that the past, particularly military history, has little to teach us bar substantial barbarity.

Granted, a hard-core disciplinarian without a reward system, trying to impose their views forcefully on other and the lacking ability to be flexible is not a good leader. Balance between sacrifice and reward, balance between discipline and innovation, balance between compassion and discipline and timely daring and timely caution. These are the military qualities have served the best military commanders and the best businessmen. Generals and leaders have only failed when they got this balance wrong. The digital natives don’t want to be too nice for their own good. Field Marshal Hague technically worked from home in the First World War, dishing out archaic strategies and orders miles behind the trenches. The result? This reoccurred across Europe a century ago with the deaths of millions of young men.

Dramatic? Certainly, but why does this affect the new generations pouring into the workplace? We expect employers to accommodate our needs, expect success and above all we have instant expectations.  Everything that happened yesterday is largely forgotten and we operate at break-neck speed, preparing graduates for jobs and roles that have scarcely been invented or taken off as projects. The digital world dominates in its entirety in the workplace. There were there were 4.2 million UK home workers in the first three months of 2014, amounting to 13.9% of the workforce. . This was the highest since records began and according to Futureboard’s research this looks like a trend that is set to increase with the introduction of the ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digitial Natives’ into the workplace. The latter facts are disconcerting to some extent.

“Too many bosses still don’t trust staff to work from home and instead force them to trudge into the office so they can keep an eye on them,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary. “Employers’ attitudes to new working practices must change to make a much better use of modern technology in all workplaces.” Since when has an email be more effective than a face to face discussion? I have learnt more in a conversation than I will in the content of an email. I have worked from home before, yet I find it restrictive, anti-social, and a monotonous experience. There is less reward from working from home and technology for its wonders and the capability of our generation to utilise it is merely technology, it does not improve human instincts which have served us so well now and in the past.

We might be known by future generations as ‘the Softies’ and our ancestors would likely brand us as such in a heart-beat. Why lose our ruthless streak when it has served the best of us so well in the past?

Matthew Williams

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Enter the Millennials and Digital Natives

“Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”

Alvin Toffler

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The rise of the ‘millennials’ and ‘digital natives’ will in the coming years produce a new and combustible working environment. The old-timers (so to speak) will have to accommodate the habits of the tech-savvy generation while the young (so to speak) will have to learn and retain some of the invaluable skills left behind by older generations. Naturally part of the problem is that people’s skills in the digital and technological domain will have to be honed and improved in the face of the momentum the world of technology is gathering.

Florence Broderick noted, “It’s fundamental that we understand that no social network, platform, app or technology will ever really help us with our soft skills.” These ‘soft skills’ in the age of a technological revolution are becoming an increasingly, if not an essential part of the workplace.

In Futureboard’s recent article two members of the technology community noted that while the pace of software and technology is moving fast technology; businesses require a mixture of individual’s and profiles, not simply introverts who love to code.

They need business leaders to manager technical projects, graphic designers to create memorable brands, business developers to sell their products and entrepreneurs to innovate and make bigger things happen. It is important to remember that not all millennials and digital natives will end up being cyber-robotic organisms, an extension of AI incapable of effective human communication staring at computers screens indefinitely.

By 2025 (10 years will disappear quickly!) millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce. This 75% will have a different view of how work should get done and come into the workforce with a different set of expectations from their employers.

However on the flip side employers from Gen X and the Baby Boomers generations (despite being the minority) will and should in many aspects expect Gen Y and Gen Z to be able to adapt to certain attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. According to Futureboard’s Student Survey conducted in 2014, these would range from strong work ethics, the ability to engage effectively in a face to face discussion when required, and be competent by email and telephone when necessary. There are disadvantages to Skype as there are to email.

Perceptions between different generations are of equal importance. There are workplace assumptions that millennials need to be prepared to challenge. According to a survey of 6,361 job seekers and veteran HR professional in 2013, 86% of HR professionals described Millennials as tech-savvy with 1% loyalty to their employers. The reality is that 82% of Millennials describe themselves as loyal to employers and 35% would describe themselves as tech-savvy. This is one example and illustrates that narrowing the gap between workplace perceptions and expectations of employers and employees is important for companies.

What will the outcome be if the integration of a broad set of different generational skills is successful in the workplace? Particular companies will thrive if they are able to absorb ‘digital natives’ and ‘technoholics’ and make the transition from a predominantly hierarchical organisation to one that is predominantly based on networking, fluidity and constant evolution and adaptability.  The ‘digital natives’ are career multitaskers, they will move between businesses and pursue careers without boundaries and the millennials will prefer working with organisations, rather than for them and generally lead flexible lifestyles with an increased importance on work-life balance.

However the emerging workforce must learn and understand the skills and motives that drove previous generations as strong work ethic, the ability to communicate to large and small audiences in person, respect, loyalty and input, regardless of the changing working hours, remain an absolute essential in any working environment. Old and new have to merge so that markets can accommodate Gen Y and Gen Z in a comfortable manner.

Matthew Williams

(P.S: Happy New Year!!! Bring on 2015!)

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