Why Do Soft Skills Matter For Students?

18 Sep 2020

5 mins read

Increasingly, dynamic workplaces are calling for more than book-smarts. Educators have previously emphasised the role of academic ability in achieving success, but new research has challenged that paradigm.

As new graduates find themselves at innovative and high-tech workplaces, in addition to technical skills, soft skills which include the ability to think critically, communicate and collaborate effectively, and lead in different situations are highly sought-after by employers.

1. What Are Soft Skills?

Often known as “people skills”, soft skills are character traits that determine how well one would handle themselves when interacting and working with different people. They are ultimately skills that one would need in order to excel at the workplace and even in their personal lives. Here's a list of soft skills that are valued the most by employers today:
  • Communication (oral and written)
  • Creativity Problem-solving
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Positivity
  • Learning from criticism
  • Working under pressure
  • Negotiating

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

Soft skills are essential when interacting with the people around us. Soft Skills are the foundation of building good relationships and are integral in one's personal as well as professional life. Be it with the people at the workplace or our loved ones, these skills make it easier to form relationships, create trust and dependability, and lead teams. Here's a list of some specific examples supporting the importance of soft skills:

The modern workplace is interpersonal
Career progression and promotion
Soft skills set you apart and complement hard skills
Customers and clients demand soft skills
The future workplace will rely on soft skills

Do soft skills really matter for students? Let's take a quick look at the top five reasons why soft skills matter:

1. Soft Skills Improve Employability

A survey by The Society for Human Resource Management found that the skills employers value in applicants - dependability and reliability, integrity, communication skills and adaptability - are largely considered to be soft skills.

Will having soft skills Increase my chances of getting hired?

Technical skills in a fresh graduate's resume may get them noticed, but their soft skills will ultimately determine whether they get the job. Employers are looking for new hires who will thrive well in their environment, get along well with his peers, and be able to lead effectively if needed.

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2. Soft Skills Predict Success, Even in High-Tech Environments

If you think having strength in Maths and Sciences is all you need to get by in tech companies, think again! A study done by tech giant Google found a correlation between soft skills and continuing success in an organisation.

“Project Oxygen” analysed all of Google's hiring, firing, and promotion data since its incorporation, and found that an employee's communication skills, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence went a long way in predicting their long-term performance. Coaching skills, listening ability and empathy also mattered for employees were some of the other important skills that counted.

3. Adaptability Ensures Survival at the Modern Workplace

The workplace is continuously evolving at a rapid pace, and a person's ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment will determine their chances of keeping up. As increasingly complex roles and responsibilities come with less time to learn on the job, it's important for students to learn to manage varying workloads and tasks easily, juggle multiple commitments and produce quality results within schedule.

4. Good Interpersonal Skills, Great Leaders

Employees who can build and maintain strong relationships with clients, customers and various stakeholders are very valuable to companies - and they don't stay in the rank-and-file for long.

Soft skills mark ordinary employees out for future leadership roles. One's ability to relate to others determines their success in leading a team to get a project done. And one's ability to show responsiveness and empathy to clients signals a true commitment to resolve issues or serve their needs.

5. Soft skills Allow Your Hard Skills to Shine

Even with an impressive array of technical skills which may get your foot in the door, soft skills will enable you to succeed. Your ability to collaborate, coordinate and relate to others will help you become more effective.

Without good communication skills among employees, the company won't be able to capitalise on the wealth of knowledge and expertise available. Soft skills allow people to better collaborate on projects together, brainstorm and negotiate, and gather support and encourage participation from others.

How to Develop Soft Skills?
  • Hear people out before you speak
Taking the time to hear someone out and being mindful is a great step towards developing good soft skills. This essentially helps one to be aware of how the other party is feeling before proceeding to take the conversation further
  • Maintain good eye contact when speaking to someone
This really helps to build a good connection with the person one might be interacting with, while assuring them that they are being heard
  • Have good writing skills
Having good writing skills will essentially help to improve one's communication skills; hence, it's important to always write in a clear and concise manner
  • Monitor your body language and observe others
Be conscious of your body language when you interact with others. Ensure you send out positive vibes and do not come across as defensive or rude

For all the above reasons, SIM Global Education places a high premium on developing students' soft skills. Beyond honing their academic capabilities, SIM provides an environment where students learn leadership, adaptability, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills among many others. They will also have more opportunities to hone their skills through vibrant student life at the institution, with over 70 student clubs and councils and year-round activities in arts, culture, and sports.

“[My] role as a Director of Student Engagement helped me hone my leadership skills as I had to lead my team to organize events,” says Jill Terese Teo, Director of Student Engagement SIM Scholars' Network (2013-2014). “These also gave me the opportunity to work with different people and build my network.”

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SIM GE's holistic programmes have been proven to increase graduate employability, with 83.6 % of graduates finding jobs locally within six months after completing their degrees. International students who graduated from SIM also enjoy a 77.3% overall employment rate.

SIM GE graduates readily join the ranks of the following industry sectors after graduation: Financial and Insurance (31.4% of our graduating batch), Information and Communications (9.1%), Wholesale, Retail Import & Export (7.1%), Administrative and Support Services (6.2%), and Transport and Storage/Warehousing (5.6%).

Posted online, 02 November 2018 and updated on 18 September 2020