The Best Career Preparation
Much like assuming a high school graduate can read and write, it is assumed a college graduate will be able to perform job specific tasks. These are what we call the “hard skills” needed for any workplace. For a teacher, it’s classroom management skills. For an engineer, attention to detail, computer modeling, advanced mathematics and precise communication. And for someone in business: marketing, sales, servic, and planning come to mind.
But is that all it takes to succeed in your place of employment? Anybody who has ever held a job knows there is also a set of “soft (people) skills” needed for success. These skills include the ability to prioritize your assignments, to resolve conflicts in a team setting, to listen effectively, to show empathy and, of course, the capacity to think outside the proverbial box.
Google, a company known for hiring computer science students, put their own hiring theory to the test. Having valued the hard skills, also known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), they wanted to know how their employees did with soft skills, specifically managers who were leading teams.
Google’s People Innovation Lab started Project Oxygen, so named because good managers are a breath of fresh air. Using data pulled from performance reviews and employee surveys, they created the following list of necessary qualities.
A good manager:
Is a good coach
Empowers the team and does not micromanage
Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
Is productive and results-oriented
Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
Helps with career development
Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team 1
If you look at this ranked list carefully, you will notice that so-called soft skills comprise seven of the eight attributes. The one hard skill, technical know-how, comes in last.
“Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” 2
Don’t misunderstand. Technical skills are still necessary for most jobs. But skills that are traditionally compartmentalized as only needed when in social environments, reserved for times when everyone gets together after the work is done, are also being found to be equally important.
In a world that demands technical skills in every field, how is it that soft skills end up being of primary importance? Perhaps it’s because of the general assumption that a college education equates to technical know-how. We assume that a college graduate will have the required technical skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. However, Grace College goes a step further to ensure graduating students have everything potential employers are looking for, and more.
Student-led teams abound on campus, with groups organizing student activities, chapel services and community involvement. Most offices also utilize student interns, offering a veritable classroom experience for “soft skills”.
People do not work in a vacuum. Working with others is an integral part of success. Grace College teaches students how to do this effectively.
Given the Grace College foundation of teaching everything from a Christian worldview, it should be noted that many of these “soft skills” are necessary for a relationship to thrive. “In many ways, humility, gentleness, and patience are hard skills. They are “hard” versus “soft” in that they are absolutely critical to our survival and success. They are characteristic of the life that is worthy of its calling (Eph. 4:1–2), and they are the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).” 3
When selecting a college, everyone looks to see course offerings for their desired majors. But look deeper for a school that cares about the whole person. In the end, it will make all the difference.