Top 10 Soft Skills College Grads Need for the 2022 Workforce (and Beyond)

In the last post, we examined career readiness as it relates to soft skills – and we revealed a significant discrepancy between educators and employers. According to a Gallup Poll, 92% of educators (i.e., Chief Academic Officers) believe college grads are prepared for the workforce. But only 11% of employers believe college grads are prepared.

Only 11% of employers believe college grads are prepared

And it all comes down to soft skills.

These non-technical competencies (sometimes called essential skills) include a range of behaviors, attitudes, and outlooks that improve professional interactions. Think adaptability, emotional intelligence, communication, and more. It’s the difference between a cold, controlling colleague and one who is more collaborative and empathetic. For college grads entering the workforce, it could be the difference between landing the interview and actually getting (or keeping) the job.

As colleges and universities figure out ways to incorporate soft skills development into higher education, future graduates will have a better shot at more rewarding professional lives. And it’s bound to spill over into their personal lives too. After all, they’re called essential skills for a reason. Attributes like empathy, self-awareness, and active listening are keys to a well-rounded, fulfilling life.

Attributes like empathy, self-awareness, and active listening are keys to a well-rounded, fulfilling life.

After some research and reflection, we complied a list of the top ten soft skills college grads will need to succeed. There are certainly more than ten, but these are top of mind for today’s workforce.

Top Ten Soft Skills for College Students to Learn:

  1. Communication – The way you speak, write, and connect with people is tied to the outcome of any interaction. Communication also covers body language, listening skills, the ability to give clear feedback, negotiation, and much more – including how you conduct yourself in virtual meetings.
  2. Adaptability – For some, the transition from in-office to remote work has been difficult. People who remain adaptable have a smoother transition. When circumstances change (as they often do) adaptability will help you adapt to new roles, priorities, technology, and more.
  3. Collaboration – Teamwork really does make the dream work. Even if you prefer to work alone, you’ll most likely be part of a team for some projects. Your willingness to be a trustworthy, engaged contributor to that team will help set you apart.
  4. Critical Thinking – Organizations need people who can analyze a situation, pinpoint potential problems, and then think critically to come up with solutions. In practice, critical thinking is the large umbrella over skills like resourcefulness, innovation, and attention to detail.
  5. Empathy – When you’re empathetic, you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to experience their feelings. That said, empathy is a balancing act. Too much, and you might let their problems drag you down. Too little, and you seem insensitive. It all depends on how well you manage your response to others’ feelings. Which brings us to the next soft skill:
  6. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – This is the ability to recognize which emotions (yours and others’) are happening at any given moment, and then manage them to match a situation so it goes more smoothly. People with high EQ know how to “read the room” and act accordingly, especially in high-pressure situations. They also don’t take things too personally if someone’s having an off day.
  7. Open-Mindedness – This is incredibly important, especially as it relates to diversity. According to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Expert Kim Crowder, people in the workplace must be “. . . highly aware that cultural differences are naturally going to show themselves. Being sensitive and seeing the value of that without asking individuals to assimilate or conform to the dominant culture is a golden skill for any leader.”
  8. Self-Awareness – When you accept your own strengths and weaknesses, you empower yourself (and others) to collaborate naturally. Like the old adage says: it takes a village. The same is true at work. For students who are still in school, the VitaNavis® platform and the Strong Interest Inventory® assessment are incredibly helpful tools that expand self-awareness.
  9. Diplomacy – Life is incredibly nuanced. At work, things are even more complicated because there’s a lot on the line – income, professional connections, company policies, client relations, and more. Diplomatic responses are often helpful in work situations that need courtesy, conflict resolution (or prevention), and empathy.
  10. Learning Agility – If you’re lucky, you’ll never stop learning. A willingness to learn is one of the key indicators of success. Humility also comes into play here, because you need to be open to instruction and constructive criticism. In fact, you’ll need to be an agile learner if you want to grow professionally.


Top 10 Soft Skills College Grads Need for the 2022 Workforce (and Beyond)

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