A “Soft” Pitch for Key Work Skills

2013_14_Career_Day_031We are holding our annual Career Day today. This student-organized event brings professionals to the school to speak to LCC’s grade 10 and 11 students on the nature of today’s workplace.

The concept of “career” is complicated for many young people. Jobs are shifting and changing more rapidly than ever in the past. Some examples of lucrative jobs that didn’t even exist 10 years ago include: App Developer, Social Media Manager, and Sustainability Expert. The list is actually quite lengthy.

On this shifting career landscape, one thing is certain. What were once considered “soft skills” and designated as less important than technical skills, are now considered significant attributes that employers actively seek. More and more, employers are sending messages that they can teach technical skills to their employees after being hired, but the soft skills need to be embedded and need to be strong from the outset. In fact, they now require a new focus, perhaps just as important as technical skills.

So what are soft skills? They include attributes such as: verbal communication, capacity for teamwork and collaboration, tact and diplomacy, empathy for others, creativity, cultural sensitivity, resilience, and flexibility. A positive mindset is also very important.

In his book, Hiring for Attitude, author Mark Murphy claims that close to 50 per cent of all new hires fail in the first 18 months, and of those new hires, 90 per cent fail for reasons associated with attitude and weak soft skills.

So we cannot dismiss soft skills as “fluff.” They seem to be emerging as key skills in today’s workplace. I expect this message will be reinforced in today’s career seminars with our many guests. – Chris Shannon, Headmaster

Career Landscape

Blog_CareerDay_03Apr2012Our grade 10 and 11 students are eagerly participating in Career Day this week.  It’s something we have done for a long time—long enough for the ground to have actually shifted from under our feet.  It has always made sense for students to aspire to traditional professions: lawyer, doctor, engineer. However, the concept of career has changed and fragmented a great deal in the past decade. Young people should no longer expect a long career with a single firm or institution. Change and transience are now the norm. We have also learned a lot from university dropouts, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, that has shattered well-entrenched notions of success.

With the development of the Internet, businesses, governments and learning institutions can now communicate directly with potential clients. Ingenuity and new digital tools have essentially redefined the world of work. Yes, there is still a need for traditional professions. However, even those professions are having to adapt.

As we move forward, noted Harvard educator Tony Wagner in his book, The Global Achievement Gap, stresses that it is now less about preparing for a specific profession and more about teaching and refining the following core skills:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration across Networks
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination

—Christopher Shannon, Headmaster