Besides knowledge, employers are looking for people who have the soft skills to think, communicate and accomplish objectives.
TIME and time again, employers have lamented that while graduates may have the technical knowledge for their job, they appear to lack general soft skills that helps them in productive work.
Studies and surveys conducted in the past five years show that some of the top qualities employers wish fresh graduates had are good communication skills; self-confidence; and critical thinking.
While it is ideal for school-leavers to look at tertiary institutions that offer opportunities to brush up on such skills, you do not have to wait till college to start preparing yourself for your career.
Good communication means that you are able to communicate your ideas, in both spoken and written forms, clearly and effectively.
Whatever your job is, you will have to get your thoughts across, give presentations and send written communications to others.
You can start improving your verbal communication skills by simply being more active in class discussions or by signing up for public speaking events.
Writing skills can be sharpened through practice; treat every essay assignment as a chance to perfect your writing. Having a committee post in an extra-curricular club will also give you this training as you will have to write reports and letters when organising activities.
English proficiency has increasingly become a pre-requisite as many workplaces around the world use it.
Working in a team
This may not be applicable for all jobs but it is likely that at some point in your career, you will have to work in a group to complete a project.
You also need to learn how to take and give constructive criticism. A good way to do this is to be actively involved in co-curricular activities but you can also gain a few tips by observing how successful group leaders manage their teams during class projects or other activities.
You may have heard that old proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”
With technology changing at a rapid pace and information so freely available, this adage rings true when it comes to lifelong learning. Employers are always on the lookout for people who are able to update and acquire new skills.
You also need to be independent and resourceful by knowing how and where to research information for any given topic, and being able to tell if this information is credible.
On a related note, the drive to never stop learning also extends to being aware of the world around you.
Reading newspapers, magazines, or even current affairs and industry-related blogs will give you an insight into what is happening in the world and in your field. This will enable you to understand what affects your work or business and come up with relevant solutions.
Critical thinking refers to the ability to meaningfully reflect upon a particular piece of information or idea.
Having knowledge is one thing, but if you do not understand how that information is important, credible or relevant, then it will not get you very far.
Through critical thinking, you can analyse information for its credibility, identify possible bias, and challenge ideas based on sound evidence.
Having critical thinking will also help you solve problems because it helps you identify the best solutions as well as the consequences of decisions.
There’s no specific way to start thinking more critically but it helps to ask questions and be inquisitive. For example, when you read a book or watch a movie, ask yourself if you agree with the ideas presented? How would you have written or filmed it?
Unfortunately, there are no classes or overnight shortcuts to being more confident as it is a continuous process that comes with experience.
You can however, build self-esteem by adopting a positive mindset and viewing your shortcomings in a healthy manner.
One way of increasing your confidence is by setting small goals and acting on how can you can go about accomplishing them.
If you make mistakes, try looking at that failure as a learning experience as each failure can teach you something new and increase your chances of success in the future.
Try your hand at new activities that can give a confidence boost because you never know what hidden skills or talents you may have.