The debate whether hard skills or soft skills are primary for professional success is as old as the hills. Suffice it to say that both are important and that the relative significance may best be left to the varied, specific industry requirement, as the case may be. Nowadays, college goers are learning remotely at a time and setting that has reshaped our work and academic world like never before. It is the same case in the now metamorphosed world of work. There are near newer mandates in so far as the altered significance of soft skills is concerned, with a few getting more prominent in the current situation, like never before. The approach and treatment of others has changed course too.
Digital Communication Skills
At a time when digital interaction has become the norm, it is not enough to be able to communicate well only face to face. A tech interface of the company’s choice is inevitable these days, to contact teams remotely. Therefore, all the interview prep and negotiation skills to add to personal effectiveness and communication skills need to focus on clarity of speech, voice modulation and enunciation of sounds, in depth. This is to negate the ‘lost in translation’ effect of garbled speech across WiFi wavelengths. In so far as giving presentation or a public speech is concerned, it is best to attune oneself to the WFH mode of giving it via the screen. Facial gestures and hand movements then become crucial to stress upon to convey meaning and intent clearly, in the absence of much scope of moving about on a stage across a live audience. Digital literacy skills of awareness about sites copyright and plagiarism issues and privacy chatter is not new but all the more important now.
Adaptability and Flexibility
When everyday becomes a newer version of technology to be used, novel ways of communicating, working and being, it becomes important to double one’s adaptability level. The uncertainty around the disruptive tech world is another reason why flexibility to accommodate, change and thrive in the professional and academic world are even more important now. Apart from familiarisation to the world of virtual meetings and interviews, it is also significant to learn to tackle the unreliability of technology and cope with it while in an ‘all important meet’ without disrupting the flow of one’s own thought or that of the others. This digital disruption has brought into focus, newer ways of decision making, problem solving and responding rather than reacting, especially while the virtual, real and AI world is merging like never before.
Collaboration and Creativity
Before they were announced to be the part of the 21st century skills package, these skills were still significant and there is no denying that this significance has doubled in our times. As remote courses and academic delivery through the virtual mode increases, there is also an increased need to work in teams across time zones, apart from other factors. In such a scenario, the need to accommodate differences, inter-cultural understanding and empathy have also gone up manifold. Ease of dealing with situations that may not be under one’s control while interacting with people across the world, out of the box thinking and solutions at a time of cost crunch will need a rethink and oodles of creativity.
Perhaps the most significant skill and quality that learners in their college time need to focus on in these turbulent times, is to become mindful in action and language. A continued focus on this aspect of sensitisation will inform their communication to be understanding in these unpredictable times. It is an especially important professional skill now, as then it would inform the students’ actions with understanding, empathy and compassion, qualities that need to be conveyed and understood at multiple levels in any organisation.
Apart from these skills in the rapidly changing world, thinking on your feet, paraphrasing and conveying your POV succinctly, and pandemic mindfulness are other areas where attention needs to be paid to at the college level right now, rather than merely regurgitating the previous year’s paper, especially since the pattern has changed drastically.
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