Soft Skills: What Every Graduate Needs
AIESEC Canada uncovers what’s standing between university graduates and employment
By: Cassandra Ruggiero, AIESEC Canada Inc.
Let’s face it. It’s a tough time to be a recent university graduate.
For years we have worked extremely hard to pass every class, and to hold part-time jobs to pay our way through school. We have been brought up to believe that with a university education, we will land our dream job immediately and start living the good life. Unfortunately for many recent graduates, this dream is not a reality. Youth unemployment is at 14%, twice the national rate. What is the issue, and what can graduates do to increase their chances of being hired?
AIESEC posed this question to the corporate organizations they work with daily. The Canadian headquarters of the world’s largest student-run organization hosted a “Youth to Business Panel” on Friday July 29th, along with the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA), and brought together top student leaders with financial and IT executives in Toronto.
The main topic on everyone’s mind: talent acquisition in Canadian industries. The panel gave students an opportunity to understand why young graduates are not being hired, and to analyze how to avoid the steadily growing “Boomerang Generation”. For TFSA, and others, it was a chance to figure out what young job seekers are missing right now. The resounding answer? Soft Skills.
While hard skills are easily quantified by your education level, soft skills can’t be learned through books. They must be acquired through experience. Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow of the Center for Excellence at TFSA explained, “the hardest soft skill to find is out-of-the-box strategic thinking. I find that many young job-seekers are missing the ability to communicate messages clearly, and missing the ability to connect them to different stakeholders.”
“Being genuine is one of the most important [soft skills] you can have,” said Joe Mazzei from the City of Toronto. “If an employer can connect your personality with the brand of the organization, you have a foot in the door.”
If graduates are lacking these skills, then our university system is not providing opportunities to acquire them. So since we can’t learn these skills in the classroom, maybe its time to think outside of the box.
Getting involved in extra-curricular activities that offer a chance to develop soft skills is key. Organizations, such as AIESEC, provide students with real world opportunities to develop and perfect these sought after skills. Operating and managing the aspects of a small business, networking with business executives, and team management are some examples of soft skills that AIESEC members develop through their involvement during their university years.
“The world has changed around us. It is no longer advantageous to simply have an undergraduate degree,” stated Margaret Parent, a Director for the Insurance Institute of Canada.“Young graduates also need to draw on, or cultivate, the soft skills necessary in the workplace through their group work, part-time jobs, volunteer work, sports teams and other out-of-class activities.”
The good news is that students have on-campus resources, like faculty clubs or student organizations, with a global reach like AIESEC. Students need only look outside the classroom to find them.
For over 50 years, AIESEC Canada has been facilitating their Global Internship Program in Canada and abroad for companies, students and recent grads. AIESEC Canada is one part of the world’s largest student-run organization and is based out of Toronto. For more information please visit www.aiesec.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.