It’s college graduation season, and thousands of graduates will enter the job market. After years of focusing on technical skills, applicants may be surprised to find that employers value soft skills the most. While hard skills are still important, LinkedIn’s 2018 Emerging Jobs Report found that soft skills, including oral communication, leadership and time management, make up nearly half the list of skills with the largest skills gaps.
An effective way of developing these skills is joining Toastmasters International, the global organization devoted to communication and leadership skills development. Below, Toastmasters International 2018-2019 Second Vice President Margaret Page offers advice for job applicants.
Which soft skills are most in demand in today’s job market?
According to LinkedIn, the top five soft skills for 2019 are time management, adaptability, collaboration, persuasion, and creativity.
How does Toastmasters help individuals develop these skills?
Our unique model for delivering a self-paced, peer-mentored education program builds the necessary soft skills for today’s work place. Most of our clubs gather weekly and we time and evaluate every part of our meetings. We also shift roles, responsibilities, and themes from meeting to meeting to help members become adaptable and collaborative. Each meeting is a valuable learning experience about communication, leadership, and time management.
Members also learn how to give, receive, value, and appreciate feedback, which is essential for team-building. At each club, seven officers work together to lead, create a plan for further growth, and deliver results.
In addition to joining Toastmasters, how can professionals and students develop these skills?
Participating with other organizations — such as non-profits or service clubs — builds those oh-so-necessary soft skills we just discussed. Empowering our members to be effective communicators and leaders is the Toastmasters mission. It’s what we do at every meeting. The science of adult learning is finally catching up to what Toastmasters has been delivering for 94 years.
Are there any specific tips you can offer for those who have a fear of public speaking?
Of course, I suggest joining Toastmasters — it’s where you’ll learn how to get your butterflies to fly in formation! It’s also important to remember that managing fear is just one element of public speaking. You also need to connect with an audience, communicate a well-constructed message, and deliver it in a compelling manner.
What can college students do now to make themselves more marketable upon graduation?
Work on putting your best foot forward. Understand that everything you do — your resume, your social media posts, your appearance, your transportation, your mannerisms, your willingness to go the extra mile — guides people in creating an impression of you.
But you want to do more than just create a good impression: You want to align yourself with a job that reflects who you are. I encourage grads to continue to use the research skills learned at college. Do you understand the position you’re seeking to fill? What is the organization you’re working for and what do they stand for? What are their values and the values of the industry? Who are the leaders of this organization?
It’s also important to network. I know networking is a dirty word to many people, and perhaps we need a new word given the advent of technology and the many ways we now connect. But there is great value in meeting people in person and building relationships instead of just “liking” comments. Research shows many positions are filled by word-of-mouth — but people can’t recommend you if they don’t know you.
And finally, you’ll serve yourself well if you become a lifelong learner. That’s one of the great benefits of Toastmasters: The ability to challenge yourself and expand throughout every phase of your life.