When you step out into the working world, you have your degree to back you up and all the knowledge that hopefully you gleaned from it. But is that enough to survive in the rat race?
Often, fresh graduates find themselves thrown in the deep end when they enter the workforce. Unlike the controlled environment of university or college, it is now every man for himself. The theories that were imparted in school now have to be applied to real-life situations. Increasingly, employers find a gap in skills in the graduates they hire.
In March 2012, BBC News reported that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland cited a gulf between the education system and the labour market. They advocated more communication between education authorities and employers to ensure that those who entered the workforce had the relevant soft skills to succeed at work. Among the soft skills that were found lacking were communication and team building.
We suspect this incident is not an isolated case nor is it specific to country. In Malaysia, the Ministry of Education Malaysia has defined soft skills as something that is critical in the globalised working world and listed critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship, ethics, lifelong learning and skills management, leadership skills, teamwork and communication skills as elements that contribute to success.
Here are some skills that bring you, the young graduate, far in your career.
This is what people normally call EQ, or emotional quotient. It is one’s ability to adapt to any situation thrown at them. Having a high EQ will enable a person to navigate most situations successfully. It is about having an open and positive outlook, and being able to think oneself out of any problem. For example, someone with high EQ will know how to deal with a difficult colleague or boss, and is able to turn the situation to his or her advantage. Being able to communicate well means he or she can get a point across when necessary, without alienating anyone else.
GIVING THE RIGHT IMPRESSION
They say the first impression is the most important. And we say,so are the next hundred! It is important to present yourself in the best light at all times. Projecting a confident image is most effective if it comes from within.People usually can spot the fakes a mile away. Contrary to common belief, confidence need not be showy or arrogant. The best show of confidence is an innate belief in self, that you can do the job well. This is shown through the attitude with which you take on a new responsibility. Do you whine and moan that it’s too difficult? Do you shy away from extra work? Or do you accept the challenge gracefully, and show initiative to overcome any areas of difficulty? Treat every job as an opportunity to show your true ability, and you will get far.
Do you always finish a project on time? Do you keep to appointments religiously? The answer to both should be a resounding yes. Knowing how to use your time well is a very essential skill, and it is part of teamwork as well. When you don’t deliver as you promised you would, you’re letting your team or department down. When you know how to rank and prioritise tasks well, you will find the workday a breeze to get through. Make sure you are organised about work. Filing your work properly will save you precious hours the next time your boss asks for a report of the last project you did. By doing this, you will appear as someone who is very on-the-ball and has a firm grip on the task at hand. Always choose quality over quantity. Don’t stay back for the sake of staying back. You don’t want to be the last one to leave the office because you spent most of the day procrastinating or focusing on the wrong areas of work. You also don’t want to be known as the person who is always late to meetings and appointments. It is a sign of disrespect to the people waiting for you.
It is important to know how to put yourself out there, whether it’s with your subordinates, your peers, your superiors, or industry players. The network that you build around you at every stage of your career is important. The people you work well with today could be your business partners tomorrow. At every step, it is important to cultivate relationships. Be personable with those around you. You don’t have to become best friends with everyone, but make sure when people leave you after an interaction, they remember you positively. People like to work with those who are capable and pleasant. This way, the next time an opportunity comes up, you will be the person they think of.
There will always be politics at work, so it is important that you always play the strategy right. Besides, politics need not be a dirty word; as long as you play the rules of reciprocity well and figure out what the rules are to play by, you can get by with your integrity intact.
CRITICAL THINKING AND PROBLEM SOLVING
Instead of the word “problem”, use the word “opportunity”. There, you have achieved the first step in critical thinking. Critical thinking is about being able to think your way around an obstacle. It could be a personality clash with your co-workers, or a particularly difficult client, or an obstinate boss. Your role is to get yourself out of these tangles with positivity. Don’t get bogged down by the situation at hand; rather, try to stand back and look at the big picture. Is your colleague being obnoxious because there are obstacles in his or her way? Perhaps if you help him or her out with the problem, it might solve the animosity between the two of you. Is the client frustrated because he’s not getting what he asked for? Then figure out a way to give it to him.
You don’t have to own your own business to be an entrepreneur. More and more, managers are encouraged to think like entrepreneurs for their area or department. What this means is that you take ownership of your work. If you’re a lower level executive, it means doing the jobs assigned to you so well that your manager doesn’t need to do any hand-holding. If you’re a manager, it means managing your team excellently so that you are a well-oiled machine. If you’re a top level executive, it means always making decisions that will benefit the company as a whole. Behave like someone who owns the business, and you will find your mindset shifting tremendously. You will begin to see areas that need improvement and think of fresh ideas to benefit your company. By doing this, you turn yourself into a valuable team player and an asset to your bosses.
Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash