Turn “Soft Skills” Into Superpowers

As career development professionals, we’ve seen enough research, and heard enough anecdotes to know that so-called “soft” or transferable skills are a must for any employer. Convincing our students that these skills are valuable, however, is another thing all together.

And then helping them articulate those soft skills to employers in a way that’s actually valuable to their job search… This was one of my biggest hurdles again and again as a career coach. 


Technical skills are easy for college students to both understand and demonstrate. You’ve taken a course that taught you Adobe Photoshop? Great! List it on your resume, and you’re done. But the top skills employers want to see on a resume –according to the NACE employer survey– are things like the ability to work on a team, problem solving, verbal and written communication skills, and having initiative. 


Just listing “teamwork” in a skills section is never a good idea, however. So how do we help students both to understand the importance of their soft skills and to demonstrate their proficiency to employers in a meaningful way? 


Use tools to help them find their superpowers

We all have different strengths–and for those of us who have been in the workforce for some length of time, we probably have a fairly good idea of what those are when it comes to work. We know if we’re good at crafting emails and reports, or leading teams, or organizing and managing projects and timelines. We know because we’ve had time and experience trying each of these things and receiving feedback from managers and coworkers about our performance. As such, it’s easy for us to figure out that we’re skilled in written communication, or leadership, or collaboration.


Students are often not as certain about their own strengths when it comes to work. That’s where self-reflection plays an important role. After taking assessments steeped in interests, values, personality, and workplace preferences, students can begin to get a clearer picture of who they are and where their own strengths and interests reside. In fact, PathwayU Schools often refer to these as the students’ gifts.


Here’s a quick example of how this might happen: A student finds through their PathwayU results that they are interested in highly social careers, that they value relationships and support, that they are extraverted, and they would prefer a work environment that requires a great deal of collaboration.


Employment Superpowers are rooted in soft skills. The best way to articulate your soft skills, is to tell employers about your scores for Interests, Values , Personality and Work Place Preferences. See how at @pathway_u:Click to Tweet

Then put their superpowers into context


Let’s continue with the same example. After taking their PathwayU assessments, this student now knows to look for examples in their life of times when they have shown an ability to work on a team and be collaborative. 


They think back to a group research project from a class they took last semester where they played a pivotal role in keeping the group in step and working toward the final goal. Through conversations with their career coach, the student learns how they can talk about this experience both on their resume as well as in interviews. They even incorporate the anecdote into a short elevator pitch about themselves that they can use as an introduction to employers at recruiting events.


The result: The student now has a strong understanding of the value they can bring to an employer through their collaboration and teamwork skills, as well as how to demonstrate those skills through meaningful examples.


From “soft skills” to superpowers

By helping students identify their soft skills and reflect on how to incorporate these into resumes, interviews, and elevator pitches, you can help your students take their job search to the next level. Employers want to hire employees who are good communicators, problem solvers, and team members–but anyone who has been on the hiring side of the table knows how difficult it can be to assess these skills in a candidate. When a student can easily articulate the specific soft skills they bring to the table and demonstrate how they’ve used them in other contexts, their chances of moving forward in the hiring process increase exponentially. 


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