For schools, preparing students to enter the workforce in an environment of ever-changing technology and new business practices is a challenge. I believe, however, there is also a broader set skills required to excel in a career that may be getting overlooked by educators. What I believe is important is the development of the whole person in preparation for their career. Schools need programs that focus learning on adaptability, willingness to change, innovation, creativity, and the forming of strong relationships. Schools can enhance these skills through smaller class size, rigorous classroom debate, and project-based work; each develops much-needed emotional intelligence for one’s future success. Educators can also ensure students have opportunities for community service, club membership, and leadership. All of these activities are avenues for an individual to fully develop a broad skill set.
I have seen the advantage these skills provide. Early in my career I worked in organizational development for a telecommunications firm. I witnessed many employees lose their jobs. Those who survived demonstrated adaptability—the willingness to try new assignments and transfer their learning from the known to the unknown.
In my experiences in both the academic and corporate worlds, I meet a lot of students who have excelled in school—high GPA’s, strong test results, and solid technical skills—however, they struggle with some of the basics. While savvy with technology, some of these young people have trouble with writing and grammar. Others lack in the area of interpersonal communication. Many universities and corporations have created curriculum that focuses on technical and interpersonal skills and the basics, including business writing. Students receive support from courses which focus on conflict resolution, effective conversations, giving and receiving feedback, presentation skills, and social etiquette. These key skills are not only necessary to become effective professionals, they are critical to succeeding in life. For many, these skills have been overlooked in classrooms. Face-to-face socialization and interaction have been replaced with online courses and texting.
Personally, I continue to build on these skills by stretching myself with new work assignments and raising my hand in my community to lead or volunteer. Each of these experiences teaches me something new about myself and continues to build my emotional intelligence.
Educators who can integrate the development of these skills into their curriculum and everyday classroom experiences will help students develop into agile, innovative, well-rounded leaders.