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'Soft skills' key to keeping a job

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GINA R. HEINE
April 9, 2008
— Preparing high school students for “the real world” inevitably includes lessons on resume writing and interviewing techniques.

But those lessons only get you the job. Often forgotten are the “soft skills” needed to keep the job, local human resource managers told students Tuesday at Parkview High School.


Plenty of high school and college graduates have the technical skills, but they’re not taught how to work with other people, said Andy Capone of ABC Supply in Beloit. Educators probably should teach more about skills needed to keep a job, he said.


Capone and Dee Nyre of Prent Corporation in Janesville spoke to juniors and seniors about soft skills, one of three sessions students attended during the school’s first career workshop day. It is the first event developed out of the Parkview School-Business Partnership, a group of school and business leaders who started meeting last fall to better connect schools and business.


Nyre defined soft skills as a wide range of interpersonal abilities and qualities that are “highly, highly prized in the workplace.”


Having the best technical skills doesn’t mean much if you’re “a class A jerk to work with,” she said.


“You will lose your job if you don’t work well with others,” she told the students.


Many companies, including Prent, require that job candidates complete personality tests to determine soft skills, she said.


Nyre offered these tips to develop soft skills:


-- Leadership: Guide and support others in order to accomplish something by being organized, delegating effectively, sharing the load, being accountable and giving recognition.


-- Co-worker relationships: Conversation is a two-way street, which is why we were given two ears and one mouth, she joked. Employees need to have multicultural skills to understand and relate to a more diverse group of people than they did in school.


-- Teamwork: Collaboration requires a person to be cooperative, willing to work together, offer praise and respect and give and take ideas and work load.


-- Communication: It’s more than texting or e-mailing, which are popular with recent grads, she said.


“We’re losing good communication skills because people e-mail so much,” she said.


The workplace has no room for gossip or rumors, she said.


-- Work ethic/dependability: Being hired does not mean you’re owed a paycheck, she said, and employees need to be accountable, able to work under pressure and have flexibility.


-- Motivation/initiative: Employees need to see the big picture to help others and have the intuition to do what needs to be done before being asked.


-- Honesty/integrity: It’s a given, but regaining trust or your reputation is much harder, she said. “Walk the walk” and deal fairly with co-workers and supervisors.


-- Organizational skills: Most people do not manage their time well, she said. Tasks should be prioritized and done right the first time.


-- Problem solving: People should be willing to take a risk and be creative, think critically and, as Nyre reiterated numerous times, “work well with others.”


Sharing work experience

Tuesday’s career workshop day at Parkview High School was the first event of a new partnership started in fall between school faculty and staff and human resources personnel from area businesses, Principal Steve Lutzke said.


The Parkview School-Business Partnership has been meeting monthly to come up with mutual needs between the school and businesses and to determine how it can successfully meet those needs, Lutzke said.


“They need more qualified workers, and we need to help our students make schooling more relevant for their futures,” he said.


Other ideas include a career fair in fall, facility tours and guest presentations.



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