At a time when young people are achieving outstanding A-levels and top university degrees and yet cannot secure their first job it has been recognised that skills that are not necessarily on the syllabus are the ones that are key for getting ahead at work.
Employers believe that strong people skills are important, whereas many graduates perceive that people skills get in the way of doing the job. Young people have been taught to be so results oriented that sometimes all they are focussed on is completing the task - for example producing financial figures, or developing a software programme - when in fact it is all about working in teams, managing stress and demonstrating self control that are important. These skills are not taught but are realised and learnt during all work experience situations during education, and the drive to be part of a team and be exposed to different people situations will in fact teach more than can be learnt in a lecture theatre.
Top Ten Skills that are not taught at University
- How to chat to people of all levels; eg, no mumbling, eye contact; be interested as well as interesting.
- How to get people on side by asking questions, making an effort and offering to make the tea.
- How to speak confidently on the office telephone, take notes and know when not to look at your mobile.
- Financial skills – being able to understand profit, turnover, costs and margins.
- Punctuality and flexibility – being willing to go over and above the requirements of the job (even if that means staying late sometimes).
- Spelling, grammar, punctuation – not using ‘text talk’ in emails or letters.
- How to strike a balance between friendly and professional – not using teen talk (‘you guys’ or ‘cheers’) in pitches and presentations.
- Being organised and ‘switched on’ – being ready for the day, using a diary, remembering things.
- Being able to think, problem-solve, make decisions and ask for help when necessary.
- How to be practical and useful: being able to get from A to B, run errands across town and plan journeys.
The message in this is for students to get out in the real world and gain work experience – all work experience is good work experience!