By Meloney Brazzola, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne
If you already know what you plan to study at university, lucky you! If you’re still looking at options, that’s fine, too. But either way, make sure to consider a program of study that will help you build “soft skills” in addition to the training in a specific field.
Why? Because business leaders and research reveal that soft skills will be critical for your future employment and will help you stand out from the crowd.
One top-rated university prides itself on nurturing their student’s soft skills as an integral part of their curriculum: EHL (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne) emphasizes their experiential education model, within and outside of the classroom, providing a social learning context where cultural sensitivity, leadership skills, adaptability and an appreciation for lifelong learning are developed.
According to the EHL Director of Alumni & Industry Relations, Valerie De Corte: “Our goal is to provide students with the tools and skills they need to develop a successful professional and personal life. We maintain regular contact with global industry players to ensure that our programs are systematically adapted to meet – and exceed – job market demands. And, as the first hospitality management university in the world, the development of soft skills has been an educational focus for 125 years. Companies from all sectors are starting to fully grasp the importance of these skill sets and are contacting us to recruit graduates for the automobile, finance, luxury, pharmaceutical sectors, to name just a few.”
So, what are the soft skills you’ll need? Here are a few:
1. Critical thinking
The ability to think logically and critically to solve real business issues is essential in our complex, ever-changing world. Companies need to be able to continuously improve products and services to compete. To do this they need workers who can ask the right questions to get to the bottom of a problem. You will need to learn how to think and learn, because the only way to remain useful and relevant over an entire career of 30-40 years will be if you are able to change and adapt.
Being able to think in new ways to solve problems is another essential soft skill you should develop. Computers—even very smart ones—are not (yet) able to bring the same level of creativity as humans can to the table. Curiosity and imagination drive innovation and are key to problem solving. “Out-of-the-box” thinking will be needed to find new and innovative ways to address problems.
Skills such as communication, listening and public speaking are becoming more and more important also. Knowing how to communicate effectively is a key part of building professional relationships—be they with your teammates, your supervisors, leaders in the organization or with clients.
Experience with multiple cultures can help you develop your communications skills. And awareness of cultural sensitivities will enable you to operate comfortably in many settings or even in other countries and locations. International internships and work experience can help develop an open, global mindset that is sought after by global companies everywhere.
4. Learning quickly
An often-overlooked trait that has never been more important is the ability to learn quickly, over and above just the ability to recall current facts or knowledge. As the workplace continues to change so rapidly, you will be called upon to continuously learn new things and ways of doing things. So the ability to quickly adjust and keep your mind open to learning will help you navigate these situations.
5. Customer/client mindset
People skills and an understanding of client experience is a sought-after skill for more and more employers. As companies strive to differentiate themselves in competitive markets, customer experience is becoming a strong criteria. Clients expect impeccable, personalized and discrete service and they are not afraid to express their satisfaction – or discontent – in the public arena through social media.
6. Collaboration & adaptability
The speed of the market and our workplaces, powered by the constant stream of new technology, will not slow down. To respond to these demands, successful people need to know how to collaborate with others and be adaptable. Knowing how to work in a team, being able to build on each team member’s unique strengths, knowing how to deal with frustrations, and being able to adapt to rapidly changing work environments are all critical in the workplace of the future. Choosing an educational program where you have a chance to work on group projects, for example, will help prepare you to meet any new challenge you face.
As you consider your next course of study, pay attention to programs that place emphasis on developing these soft skills in addition to your core subject matter. These skills can be obtained in an educational environment like EHL or others that believe that excellence is formed in the perfect blend of intelligence and emotions, hard skills and soft skills, theory and practice.
You can expect to change jobs at least seven times in your lifetime—and some of these jobs will be ones that don’t even exist today. In a few short years we will see more advanced automation, robotics and artificial intelligence that will greatly change how we work and live. Some jobs will disappear, others will grow, and entirely new jobs that don’t exist today will be created. What is certain is that you will need to be able to continuously learn and adapt if you want to keep pace.
Employers today seek candidates with a strong dose of soft skills in addition to technical knowledge in a subject. As one recruiter at EHL points out, “We appreciate namely the generalist profile with a broad skills base: financially literate, marketing savvy and operations tested. Combined with a distinct service orientation and strong intercultural skills we have the certainty that the talent we hire are ready to hit the ground running as of day one,” says Andreas Bergmann, CEO, TGV Lyria, an international company in the transportation sector.
Having a full set of soft skills in your toolkit can help you stand out from other candidates and will also help you be able to adapt to new ways of working in the future. Over your entire career, soft skills will set you apart. Be sure to make them part of your educational experience!