Gone are the days when students headed off to college to learn a skill that would land them a job that lasted until retirement. Not only can few expect to work for just one company over the course of their entire career, those who do will almost certainly not remain in the same role, using only the skills for which they were hired.
“The employee of the future typically will have a new job every five years, probably for 60 to 80 years, and probably every one of those will require skills you did not learn in college,” says Huntington D. Lambert, former dean of continuing education at Harvard University.
The job market is changing more rapidly than ever. Many of the positions in demand today were unheard of a decade ago, while many entry-level positions typically offered to recent grads have been replaced by automation.
The Search for Soft Skills
Recruiting and training workers is an expensive proposition. Companies cannot simply replace employees every time an initiative requiring new skills is announced. This ongoing shift means that employers are now seeking candidates who can evolve with their positions.
“Technical skills turn over fast, so employers are looking for fast learners who can quickly evolve and have exceptional soft skills — the ability to write, listen and communicate effectively,” explain Laura Weber and Chip Cutter in The Wall Street Journal article “A Wake-Up Call for Grads: Entry-Level Jobs Aren’t So Entry Level Anymore.”
Communication Is Paramount
Certainly, hard skills such as those used in engineering, IT and the sciences are still in demand, but 92% of today’s employers say soft skills are equally important. In fact, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says he considers soft skills more important than the ability to code.
While time-management has always been a highly valued soft skill, the changing face of business is drawing attention to a host of other factors critically important to an organization’s success. Driven by an increasingly on-demand culture, companies are striving to meet customer expectations.
Organizations in all industries are feeling the push to become more agile and more innovative to avoid falling behind. Moving quickly requires finding creative employees adept at persuasion and collaboration. In a nutshell, employers are seeking excellent communicators. Fifty-seven percent of senior leaders say that soft skills matter even more than hard skills.
Furthermore, employers report increasing difficulty finding candidates who possess these skills. In a recent survey, 73% of responding employers said the search for qualified applicants was somewhat or very difficult.
“The more the younger generations communicate electronically, the less practice they’ll have communicating in person, and the more often that lack of skill will be noticed,” said Jane Snipes, managing partner at NorthStar Recruiting in South Carolina in an article quoted by BBC.
Excellent Soft Skills Offer Opportunity to Stand Out and Advance
Though technical duties can change and specific roles may become obsolete, employers are increasingly valuing soft skills in new hires to ensure employees will thrive regardless of how their position and job title may evolve. Today’s employers are looking for candidates who know how to listen attentively, speak intelligently, advocate for their ideas, solve problems and handle difficult conversations with grace.
It is no coincidence that these same skills appear again and again on the lists of attributes most important for leadership. As it turns out, the skills most likely to get you in the door are the very same set that help you up the ladder.
Learn more about Lamar University’s B.S. in Communication online program.