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Soft Skills

Written By:

Madelyn Saunders

School Counselor

Myerstown, Pennsylvania 

Being career ready does not only include the specific skills you need for the job you want to have. Sure, if you want to become a doctor, it is certainly important to study biology, anatomy, and other sciences. Without this knowledge, students might go into med-school without a general understanding of how the body works. If you want to become a mechanic, you will need to have a thorough understanding of how the parts in a car work together. These are two examples of hard skills you need to be successful in a chosen career path. There are additional skills, however, that sometimes get overlooked: soft skills.

In one of my previous school counselor advisory councils, our community members voiced their concerns that young adults entering the world of work are not meeting the needs of businesses because they are lacking the soft skills they need to be successful. So, what do I mean when I mention soft skills? Soft skills are the attributes employees need to work cooperatively with others in their work environment. Some of these skills include communication, critical thinking, teamwork, a positive attitude and a strong work ethic. They help you to be more effective in any career and assist in creating a positive work environment. If a Math teacher knows every calculus equation, but she only speaks in a monotone voice and cannot connect with students, will her students learn?

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “These are skills that kids should learn at home.” Sure, it is partially a parental responsibility to raise children who get along with others, but not every child has a parent or guardian equipped with the knowledge of doing so. So what can you do if you are a parent, guardian, or educator and you realize some of your children are lacking these skills? What can you do if you are a student and you realize you need them too? Teach. Learn. Practice. From a young age, read stories to kids about getting along with others. Ask them questions that help them make the connection between positive outcomes and positive behaviors. Teach them about listening, being flexible, and using positive self-talk. Give them the opportunity to practice these skills. Make sure they work on projects and activities with others. Step in when you notice a skill deficit. Re-teach skills if necessary. If you are someone in need of skills to work collaboratively with others, reach out for help. Join a club where you are forced to work as a team. Practice until you are successful.

School counselors across the world are working diligently to teach soft skills to students beginning in kindergarten, but it must be a team-effort. Skills like decision-making, responsibility, empathy, and self-awareness are foundational in people becoming successful adults in their careers, relationships, and personal lives. When we start treating them with the same importance as math, reading, and science, we will then create more students who can effectively work well with others.

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