Soft skills bring value to the workplace

April 8, 2013 

Soft skills bring value to workplace

Springtime is when many high school students seek opportunities to gain work experience during the summer.

They will have a tough challenge ahead competing with recent high school and college graduates in addition to adults who are grabbing entry-level jobs that would have otherwise been filled by youths.

Department of Economic Opportunity, Labor Market Statistics for Florida show that the 12-month average unemployment rate for Floridians age 25 and older with less than a high school diploma is 13.6 percent compared with 8.5 percent for those with a high school diploma.

The cards are definitely stacked against anxious high school students hoping to land a job to gain work experience and earn some income.

One way that youth can stand out among the competition and increase their chances of getting and keeping a job -- soft skills.

Soft skills -- such as teamwork, decision-making and communication -- can set young people apart and create opportunities. Soft skills are personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.

Research and experience show that soft skills can be as important an indicator of job performance as hard skills.

The most common soft skills employers value in any candidate of any age include self-confidence, strong work ethic, time management abilities, critical thinking, effective workplace communications, adaptability/flexibility, and willingness to receive and learn from constructive criticism.

Consider workplace communications -- attire, body language, and how you communicate with customers, coworkers, supervisors and senior level management -- as different forms of communication.

Soft skills are important attributes that are used throughout a lifetime. We encourage parents, teachers and businesses to mentor young people on soft skills that can't be learned in a vacuum. Rather, they must be introduced, developed, refined, practiced and reinforced.

Mary Helen Kress, is president and CEO of Suncoast Workforce, a nonprofit corporation providing workforce services in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

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