The phrase, ‘soft skills’ is a new entrant in our vocabulary which is gaining importance by leaps and bounds. Three decades ago, we didn’t even know what these skills were! Today, they are being actively looked for in every industry. With the changing world, our perceptions, methods and our work environment has changed considerably. Today, communication is the byword underlining any interview—college, work or business. Recruiters will most likely select a candidate with good presentation, self-confidence and creative out-of-the-box thinking than one who has topped his class in IIT or some Ivy-League school without any of the skills that the former had. Companies like Google, IBM look out for skill sets which are not restricted only to academic learning.
Let me give an example. A friend of mine, who is a recruiter, had sent a few candidates fresh from colleges across the country with excellent skill sets to a well-known multinational in Mumbai. He was sure that out of the ten, A was bound to be selected. This guy had won the Principal’s Cup for topping his class all the four years and was an expert in his subject. Surprisingly, the one whom my friend had placed at number 4 walked away with a fat pay packet and perks. On closer inspection, he was told that A, no doubt had a lot going for him but he was neither presentable nor could he communicate his skills to the panellists. They felt that he would never be a team leader and relating to clients’ needs may be beyond him. This set me thinking and I have put together a few ideas about soft skills which are needed in today’s world and how we can go about it.
This is perhaps THE most important tool that one can have. One may have knowledge but if one is not effectively able to transfer that knowledge then it becomes useless. Communication between colleagues, between boss-employee and student-teacher and such combinations is very important. Verbal and written communication is also important because it gives other people an idea about what we are. For effective communication, a good grasp of language is necessary. Sometimes, lack of vocabulary can stifle a relationship before it has begun. The role of school teachers in this regard becomes significant as they have the responsibility of teaching good language.
2. Teamwork and adaptability:
This skill is also very necessary as it is central to any project. It could be a school project or staging a college play. Each person should adapt themselves to the needs of the project and be a good support system to others. Each person has to understand that ultimately, the project is more important than the individual.
This is a corollary to the above. A leader is born when he is able to take the rest of the team along with him and guide rather than order around. A leader is one who is willing to take responsibility for failures and give credit when due. He should be quick in thinking and be able to effectively resolve conflicts.
4. Stress management:
In recent times, this has become very important. Multinationals are recognising the stress levels of their employees and are doing their best to give them a congenial work environment, periodic workshops on stress management and outings etc. Yet, the individual needs to try and beat the stress on his own. Yoga, some sort of fun exercise, hobbies etc can do a lot of good.
Viewing the same situation from different angles and coming up with a new approach shows the creativity of a person. Take the example of an advertising agency. Being creative is the cornerstone of any ad agency. They may be having different clients for the same type of products, yet, they come up with different advertising for each.
There are many ways to develop soft skills. In schools, debates, plays, sports and games, elocution contests and even social service periods help in developing such skills. Right body language, voice modulation, improving listening skills and making eye contact while speaking—all this leads to the development of one’s personality.
The question we need to ask our educators and education administrators is whether we are laying enough stress on improving soft skills or are we afraid to innovate and make our students ready for society?