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Amit Kumar did his M Tech from IIT, New Delhi. He has an MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad. But he still could not get the job of his choice during campus recruitment.
Reason: Blame it on his soft skills. Or rather the lack of them. These include communication, listening, negotiation, etiquette, language skills etc. Hence, he could not compete with his fellow students who got better jobs.
Soft skills play a vital role for professional success; they help one to excel in the workplace and their importance cannot be denied in this age of information and knowledge. Good soft skills -- which are in fact scarce -- in the highly competitive corporate world will help you stand out in a milieu of routine job seekers with mediocre skills and talent.
The Smyth County Industry Council, a governing body based in the US, conducted a survey recently. The results of the survey was called the Workforce Profile which found "an across-the-board unanimous profile of skills and characteristics needed to make a good employee." The people most likely to be hired for available jobs have what employers call "soft skills".
Here were some of the findings according to the workforce study:
The most common traits, mentioned by virtually every employer, were:
~ Positive work ethic.
~ Good attitude.
~ Desire to learn and be trained.
Mohan Rao, a technical director with Emmellen Biotech Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Mumbai defines a 'good attitude: "It is a behavioural skill, which cannot be taught. However it can be developed through continuous training. It represents the reactive nature of the individual and is about looking at things with the right perspective. You must be ready to solve problems proactively and create win-win situations. And you must be able to take ownership ie responsibility for your actions and lead from the front without calling it quits at the most critical moment."
Most of the business leaders observed that they could find workers who have "hard skills" ie the capability to operate machinery or fulfill other tasks, but many potential hires lack the "soft skills" that a company needs.
CEOs and human resource managers said they are ready to hire workers who demonstrate a high level of "soft skills" and then train them for the specific jobs available. The ever-changing impact of technology has given hard-skills-only workers a short shelf life.
According to results of the Workforce Profile, (source: www.workforce.com) the more valuable employee is one who can grow and learn as the business changes.
Soft skills "are as important, if not more important, than traditional hard skills to an employer looking to hire -- regardless of industry or job type. This could offer a major breakthrough as educators and training providers seek to develop and cluster training courses to fit business and industry needs."
Top 60 soft skills
The Workforce Profile defined about 60 "soft skills", which employers seek. They are applicable to any field of work, according to the study, and are the "personal traits and skills that employers state are the most important when selecting employees for jobs of any type."
8. Team skills.
9. Eye contact.
12. Follow rules.
14 Good attitude.
15. Writing skills.
16. Driver's license.
18. Advanced math.
20. Good references.
21. Being drug free.
22. Good attendance.
23. Personal energy.
24. Work experience.
25. Ability to measure.
26. Personal integrity.
27. Good work history.
28. Positive work ethic.
29. Interpersonal skills.
30. Motivational skills.
31. Valuing education.
32. Personal chemistry.
33. Willingness to learn.
34. Common sense.
35. Critical thinking skills.
36. Knowledge of fractions.
37. Reporting to work on time.
38. Use of rulers and calculators.
39. Good personal appearance.
40. Wanting to do a good job.
41. Basic spelling and grammar.
42. Reading and comprehension.
43. Ability to follow regulations.
44. Willingness to be accountable.
45. Ability to fill out a job application.
46. Ability to make production quotas.
47. Basic manufacturing skills training.
48. Awareness of how business works.
49. Staying on the job until it is finished.
50. Ability to read and follow instructions.
51. Willingness to work second and third shifts.
52. Caring about seeing the company succeed.
53. Understanding what the world is all about.
54. Ability to listen and document what you have heard.
55. Commitment to continued training and learning.
56. Willingness to take instruction and responsibility.
57. Ability to relate to coworkers in a close environment.
58. Not expecting to become a supervisor in the first six months.
59. Willingness to be a good worker and go beyond the traditional eight-hour day.
60. Communication skills with public, fellow employees, supervisors, and customers.
How many soft skills do you possess?
Part II: How to improve your soft skills
The author is a career management consultant and corporate trainer.
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