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Soft Skills That Attracts Employers

Very often in the course of advising students, we come across those who ask which courses to study that can earns them a lot of money. Well, we will always tell them, it is not just the course that you study or even your results that will get you a great salary but rather a combination of all these plus the most important ingredient of all, the soft skills that you possessed. You may have a Masters or a Phd Degree but if you don’t have the correct attitude and you are poor in your soft skills then you may not even land a job what more asking for a high salary.

So, exactly what are employers looking for when they want to hire an employee?

In every job, you need to have both hard skills and soft skills to function well in it. Hard skills are usually referred to as the content of the job which is the reason why students study in universities – to be equipped with the knowledge and ability to function in a profession. These skills are not transferable between professions as it is specific to the individual field of study. For example, what you study in engineering is not applicable to nutrition and the knowledge that you learned in mass communication is not applicable to accounting.

What are soft skills then? The Oxford dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Sometimes it is referred to as transferable skills as you will carry these skills with you as you change jobs even across industries. For example, if you have acquired project management skills, you can use this skill in in an engineering capacity as well as managing a product launch in marketing capacity. Actually soft skills comprises both how well you interact with people, be it your colleagues or clients as well as the manner in which you carried out your job.

Interaction with People   

Our children today grow up in front of their computers and smartphones.  There is no need to talk to anyone at all.  We have parents who even had to resort to texting their children to come downstairs for dinner because they are glued to their headphones in front of a computer playing games and won't be able to hear their call. I have seen people who sit next to each other communicating via facebook. One will be uploading picture and the other commenting on their friend's post.  Even a whole family sitting down for dinner will be busy with their own smartphones or tablets and no real communication takes place as they are busy "communicating" with their friends.

This has caused serious problems in our students today as we have a whole lot of students who don't know how to relate to people.  Some parents won't even know that their children are having this problem because they are at work most of the time and seldom see their children interact in public. Also these children usually have no problem communicating with their family although some do. However in front of strangers they will be shy or totally don't know how to talk or struggling to express their thoughts or feeling as well as asking questions. So what are the soft skills that are glaringly lacking from our younger generation today?

Communication Skills – Verbal and Written

A skill will become rusty or lost if you continuously don’t use it. If students continue to glue themselves to their computer or smartphones, sooner or later they will lose the skill of communicating face to face with people. The first thing an employer will notice in an interview is communication and public speaking skills. We are only talking about speaking skills – being able to describe and express your thoughts, feeling and action. If there are problem even with these skills, then the person will also be poor in questioning, explaining, persuading, negotiating and presenting skills.

We see students texting and chatting over the internet or smartphone but that does not mean that their written skill is good as well. Most of the time, they will be writing short messages and grammar is completely left out. Fresh local graduates are now having difficulty stringing a proper sentence together let alone writing a report. They also have poor command of English. In 2011,  JobStreet survey on “Reasons Why Some Fresh Graduate Don’t Get Hired”, 56% of employers cited “Poor command of English Language” and 52% cited “Poor Communicating Skills” as their top reasons.

A graduate who applied for a job sent this to us, said Mr Tony Tan, senior consultant of StudyExcel. “I has attached my resume. Home sir/miss give an good fit back. thank you.” Do you seriously think that he would even be considered for an interview!

Interpersonal Skill – Relating to People

Not only communicating skills is lost, fresh graduates now don’t possessed interpersonal skills as well. Due to lack of face to face communication, students now do not know how to interact with people. Good manners, respecting people, being courteous, making friends and sensitivity to people’s needs are seriously lacking in our students today. This will affect how they work in a team as well as resolving conflicts, let alone building a lasting network that will enhance their career. In 2011, JobStreet survey on “Reasons Why Some Fresh Graduate Don’t Get Hired”, more than 60% of employers cited “Poor Character, Attitude and Personality” as their top reason.

That is why most employers are still more inclined to hire an overseas graduate as the students are not only graded on coursework and tests which are only 30% of their marks but about 45% are graded on practical or project work, 10% are on working in group and 15% on presentations. This learning style has forced the students to communicate and to relate to people.

Work Performance Skills and Work Attitude

Besides relating to people, employers are also looking at the manner in which you carry out your job. Some companies do have an Assessment Centre as part of their selection process to identify skills like organising, analytical and critical thinking, resourcefulness, adaptability, leadership and problem solving.

As our education system are more inclined towards the “spoon feeding” and the memorising style, students are not resourceful enough to seek out information needed to handle a project or assignment. They are also lacking in analytical skills in analysing and interpreting the tons of information flooding in as well as using their mind to engage in critical thinking to craft out good solutions to a problem or crisis. ( do we want to add this in? ) Employers also like people who have a passion for learning and stretching their skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.

Some overseas institutions run programs to assist their students in gaining soft skills. For example, SAIBT (South Australian Institute of Business and Technology) runs SAIBT Student Leadership program and forums for students at even pre-university level which allowed students to gain leadership skills and confidence even before they enter university. University of Wollongong runs a Graduate Qualities & Employability Skills Team challenge (GQEST) where students get to research career opportunities for their course of study, network with employers and build up their resume. While others may provide employability training program that designed to create employable graduates with good soft skills.

StudyExcel will be organizing the Australian Education Fair from May 3 to May 7, 2013.  The event will kick start on May 3 at Traders Hotel, Penang, May 4 at Impiana KLCC Hotel, May 6 at StudyExcel Subang Jaya Office and May 7 at Grand Paragon Hotel, Johor Bahru. If you are not sure of what to study, drop by our fair and take a Career Interest Profiling exercise to determine which career interest category most suit your interest and personality.

A number of prestigious scholarships are being offered by the institutions for June/July 2013 intake as well as January/February 2014 intake. So students with good results should bring their forecast results or transcripts for assessment and an immediate offer where applicable. It is not often that representatives of educational institutions visit Malaysia to meet with students and discuss their options personally. Therefore, it is definitely an opportunity not to be missed.

StudyExcel is an education advisory, offering itself as a one-stop help center as well as the official representative of schools, colleges, TAFE and universities for Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, USA, EU, Singapore and Malaysia . Its experienced staff members are well-versed with various education pathways, courses and institutions and take the time to explore and map out the options to suit one’s interests and budget. They visit the institutions regularly to keep updated on developments and facilities at the institutions represented. It also provides assistance with applications and enrolments in institutions, accommodation assistance, airport receptions and pre-departure briefings.

StudyExcel has five offices throughout West Malaysia with its headquarters in Subang Jaya, and the branches at Penang (04-2282286), Taiping (05-807 2273), Ipoh (05-255 2811) and Johor Bahru (07-357 7010). 

For details, visit www.studyexcel.com or call 03-5880 9999 or find them at http://www.facebook.com/studyexcel




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The Star, Jan 5 Thursday, 2012
We often receive resumes which have only the applicant's basic information minus the work experience especially from fresh graduates. When questioned why. they will say that they have just gradauted and have no work experience yet. But Some graduates have gone through intership or industrial training during their studies but they often do not think of it as working experience becuase to them it is not a full time job. How wrong they are!!!
Read more about it here

(The Star,
HIGHER EDUCATION, StarSpecial, Wednesday 14 December 2011)

Our life is a summary of decision we make and the biggest and most important decision is probably our education direction. The most difficult questions to answer is, "Do I choose a course with good job prospects or a course which I have passion and interest in?"
Read more about it here.

(The Star,
HIGHER EDUCATION, StarSpecial, Wednesday 14 December 2011)

We struggle everytime when it comes to deciding where to send our children to further their studies. Every parent will automatically want to keep their children nearby so that they can watch over them. So what are the points to conside when making a decision on where to send our children for further studies.
Read more about it here.


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