By: Bertha Elizabeth Ibarra Lopez
The impact of certain skills in life can be underestimated. As a graduate or undergraduate student, it is necessary to understand the meaning and use of the word skills since it is a vital subject in life. Acquiring skills is very important in every stage of life; for example, during primary, middle and high school, we learn to organize, plan different disciplines, and participate in volunteer activities that help to improve skills needed in the future. Employers focus on two categories of skills in their applicants: soft and hard skills. They will be an asset to acquire a good position in the workforce.
A skill is the ability to do an activity well, after it has been done many times and in a competent manner. In our daily life, skills need to be developed and are key to a successful life. For example, there are transferable skills that a person has gained from their jobs, hobbies, coaching a sports team or being involved in volunteer work with the community. Having skills that come from different experiences are also useful in the workforce. There are two skill sets that employers look for in candidates during the job application process. These primary skill sets are hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify. Examples of hard skills are proficiency in a foreign language, a degree, and computer programming, among others. In applying for positions, these sets of skills can be listed in a cover letter, resume, or CV, that an employer or recruiter can easily recognize.
Soft skills refer to nontechnical proficiencies. The understanding of what should be recognized as a soft skill varies widely. Each profession and activity in the workforce need different skills, and some of them are central to the curricula of each career. For example, training in cultural awareness might not be useful for a chemist, but it is an absolute necessity for public or human resources management in societies of diverse cultures. Soft skills are the cluster of personality traits, social graces, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that mark people to varying degrees. Soft skills complement hard skills, which are the technical requirements of a job.
Soft skills or life skills are the abilities and behaviors that help an individual effectively deal with the events and challenges of everyday life. Those are the skills that allow an individual to handle everything from interactions with others to identifying and processing emotions. There are certain life skills that almost every employer looks for in his or her employees. After all, an employer wants job candidates to be able to handle common challenges that might come up at work, and life skills help employees do just that. Those skills are not in most undergraduate or graduate engineering curricula, but they are required for many jobs in industry, academia and government. For example, communication is one of the soft skills needed in everyday life and being in the workforce. Communication is very important to transmit the results of a solved problem in a community or a lab report, therefore it is vital to convey the information in a meeting in which coworkers can give of the work presented.
Technical skills are not enough for a career. A workplace combines soft and hard skills. For example, chemical engineers interact with individuals in a range of disciplines such as operators, managers, scientists, customers, and educators. In certain stages of a chemical engineer’s career, one will need to lead team meetings, mentor junior associates, negotiate with vendors, participate in brainstorming sessions, summarize experiments or trials in reports, and communicate reports.
Soft skills can be imagination, curiosity, determination, passion, persistence, communication skills, critical and structured thinking, problem solving, creativity, teamwork capability, negotiating skills, self-management, time management, and common knowledge, among others.
Soft skills can also be used in a job search process. For example, it can help when writing a resume or cover letter, and can be mentioned during the interview. It is important to mention that each job will require different skills and experience, but it is essential to read the job description and focus on the skills mentioned by the employer.
Communication skills are critical for life and work, since they are the ability to convey information to others. These skills can be shown verbally, in writing, or through body language. These skills help to communicate with employers, colleagues, customers, and clients.
Communication skills are important tools in our daily lives since they contribute to exchanging information and ideas with others. One method of evaluating the effectiveness of communication is studying the science behind these skills. Psychologists use science to study human behavior in the workplace. Results depend on the personality types at the organization or industry. These psychologists can use personality tests to assign people to certain parts of an organization or company based on behavior traits and personality criteria or scores.
One of the communication style assessments is the Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Influence (DiSC) assessment, which is a nonjudgmental tool used for discussion of people’s behavioral differences. The DiSC model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or another relationship. In a DiSC program, there is a set of questions to answer that produces a detailed report about a person’s personality type and behavior. The DiSC assessment helps to increase self-knowledge and improves working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members, among others.
It is important to understand how people communicate differently, because it is a way to relate stakeholders, peers, and others in your personal relationships.
Collaboration is also an important skill because in life we need to be able to cooperate with others in meetings, on team projects and in other collaborative settings. Decision-making helps in analyzing situations, weighing options, and making decisions on important matters. While working, there is always an evaluation expected, and it is important to get feedback from the company. To be able to handle criticism well takes another set of skills; such as self-awareness, thoughtfulness and professionalism. Another skill based on digital era communication is information technology (IT). This skill is the ability for individuals to use a smartphone and the internet, and to be able to use common computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel.
Likewise, financial planning is a part of organized thinking. This type of planning includes disciplines such as budgeting, retirement planning, saving, insurance, and getting out of debt. For example, at the stage which a graduate or undergraduate student needs to pay off student loans, understanding financial indicators can contribute to good planning.
In conclusion, soft skills help with the interactions of daily living and aid in preparing individuals to participate in the workforce. As a result, be sure to improve your soft skills and you will be better prepared for your career.