What are soft skills and why are they important, especially to international students? Soft skills, by definition, are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Jobs nowadays are very different from the previous generation and to truly succeed, you’ll need much more than just academic achievements to land a job.
Sarah Ansell is a coordinator in the Careers and Alumni division of Trinity College, Melbourne who has had sufficient work experience in careers guidance. She has worked with international students from Japan to Melbourne. To her, “soft skills are a better predictor of your future success than your academic record.”
Many international students are focused on their academic outcomes but don’t do enough to gain soft skills to help them communicate and work with others. They lack the knowledge that soft skills are an essential part of employment in today’s world.
What soft skills do I need?
Many popular soft skills favoured by most employers are categorised into three major groups: Job Preparation Skills, Job Seeking Skills and Job Keeping Skills.
Job Preparation Skills: These skills require a person to have all the characteristics that make them job-ready. Good soft skills include organisation, effective communication and having a positive yet open attitude towards others’ opinions. Being able to work independently and get along with co-workers also is a huge component that employers expect from candidates.
Job Seeking Skills: These consist of the ability to create an impressive or professional resume and the ability to present oneself with confidence in an interview or meeting. Work on presentation, speaking and how you can communicate the best parts of yourself to an employer.
Job Keeping Skills: Once you’ve mastered the above, the soft skills that help you keep your job are perhaps the most important. These include being a team-player by working well with others, treating tasks and work assigned to you with respect, being responsible to the job and demonstrating the ability to adapt to any given situation. With these skills, you won’t just keep your job but advance too!
Is there anything else I need?
Vivian Chan, also part of the Careers and Alumni division of Trinity College, identified social interaction as an important soft skill to have. As important as it is to focus on your work and get things done on the job, being a friendly person and having fun at work is equally important.
Fortunately for most international students, this is something that may come natural to them as Vivian noted that many of the students she’s worked with have become more outgoing and open to improving their sense of confidence and worth. This type of confidence is particularly essential to building up soft skills so be sure to make use of your time in school now to make friends, and be comfortable with others.