Celebrate Your Soft Skills
Communication skills, flexibility/adaptability, and problem-solving skills are some examples of "soft" skills that make a big impact in the workplace. While soft skills are important, it can be difficult to find specific examples highlighting soft skills to share with employers. In characterizing soft skills to potential employers or networking contacts, draw from previous experiences to demonstrate abilities. Reflect on classroom experiences, work experiences, student involvement, and volunteering to uncover examples of positive experiences where some of these superior soft skills were applied.
Consider how the skills mentioned above are critical to success in education. For example, communication skills are key as educators need to be able to communicate effectively with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators. Being able to solve problems and adapt to changing situations is also critical as classroom environments tend to be very dynamic. Think of experiences when communicating with different types of people was needed to successfully complete a task or when a situation changed unexpectedly that required resolution.
A student recently shared a story with me about a time when she was working as a campus tour guide, and she returned from her last tour of the day to find a family arrived late that was eager to see the campus. The student ultimately decided to give the family a private tour after her scheduled hours. Note below the several skills this person demonstrated based though this one experience. In sharing the story of this experience the student pointed out that she:
• Informed her supervisor that she was willing to stay late and take a lead role in assisting this family
• Obtained permission to access secured buildings and give the tour
• Solved a problem by assisting this family that no one else was available to assist that day
• Built a positive relationship with the family and the prospective student (who might not have been able to visit the campus again for several weeks)
• Demonstrated her adaptability by adjusting the tour based on the interests of the prospective student
This one story highlights several soft skills that would be valuable in a variety of workplace environments. Being able to tell stories from past career-related experiences is important. These stories often serve as evidence to a potential employer that you are capable of meeting the demands of a position.
-Kristin Nisbet-White, Assistant Director
Career Center, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois