Students in the Providence College School of Continuing Education master more than traditional subjects like English, history and science. They also develop proficiency in areas such as communication, critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration that can really pay off in the job market.
The knowledge derived from academic work is important, says Joseph Gemma, assistant dean of undergraduate students and professor of management at PC, “but it’s the soft skills that will get you ahead.
”These and other key soft skills are in high demand in today’s job market, according to experts at SCE and sources like the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
In the WSJ article, “Hard to Find: Workers with Good Soft Skills,” author Kate Davidson writes that “Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers. Those traits, often called soft skills, can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by.” In fact, 89% of executives report having difficulty hiring people with these skills.
The article cites an analysis by LinkedIn of the most sought-after skills by employers. These include the ability to communicate, organize, work on teams, be punctual and socially savvy, think critically and be creative and adaptable.
The core curriculum required at SCE was designed to ensure that students develop competencies in a range of “soft skills,” including writing, critical thinking, understanding diversity, global engagement, information literacy and teamwork.
One of SCE’s majors, the bachelor’s in Professional Studies, specifically focuses on developing these soft skills, said Eileen Wisnewski, senior associate director of the college’s Career Education Center.
“Employers appreciate not only the ability for students to do well in their classes, but to think more globally and bring a broader perspective to their work,” she said.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recommends that students be prepared to provide examples of its 2016 top five skills: leadership, teamwork, written communication, problem-solving skills, and verbal communication, Wisnewski said.
She went on to explain that SCE students may already be part of the working world, or they may be younger and still feeling their way professionally. In either case, students should take advantage of the resources at the Career Education Center to refine their resumes and learn how to showcase their soft skills to employers. Often, SCE students have developed these skills at work and just need to show employers how they’ve applied them, she said.
Any skills that are transferable across areas of expertise are valuable to employers because they can be applied in a variety of situations. Critical thinking is a prime example, said Professor Gemma, who also teaches “Principles of Management” and “Human Resources Management.”
“Recruiters are looking for people who can communicate and lead … team players who can deal with complexities without being paralyzed by them,” Gemma said.
One of his former SCE students, a proficient auto mechanic, earned a management degree that helped him land a job at Toyota, negotiating on behalf of the company with customers across New England having problems with their vehicles.
The job requires a complex skill set that includes critical thinking, leadership, problem solving, compassion, and communication, Gemma said.
“A case can be made that all these skills are soft skills that this graduate is using on a daily basis, given the magnitude of his job,” Gemma said.
If you take a course with Gemma, you will be exposed to these skills directly. “I model the soft skills when I’m teaching a class,” Gemma said. “I communicate well, and use soft skills to solve problems right in front of my students so they see me doing it.”