Working from home has brought into sharp focus the importance of soft skills and global competencies – and are allowing those employees who were previously overlooked in the office environment to shine, an education expert says.

“Until recently, soft skills had to be content with a nod, while applause was reserved for technical skills. But as everyone who can is currently working from home, it is clear that these previously nice-to-have skills are now of crucial importance,” says Peter Kriel, General Manager of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.

He says this period provides an excellent opportunity for students and workers to develop those skills which will, without a doubt, become even more highly valued in workplaces when the world starts returning to a new version of normal.

“We were all thrown in the deep end when we had to start working remotely with little notice, but those who have had the opportunity to develop skills such as resilience, self-management, collaboration and effective communication, have arguably settled into our new paradigm somewhat more easily. And outside of the office environment, with everyone working remotely and battling to juggle a myriad of balls from home, the necessity of these skills are truly coming to the fore,” he says.

Kriel says he expects recruiters will in future pay close attention to whether prospective candidates are able to demonstrate that they have a track record and skills base beyond technical mastery in their field.

“Good institutions of higher education have been inculcating these skills in their students, and those who have not yet done so, will certainly start considering the implementation of programmes which will ensure they produce well-rounded graduates who aren’t just academically proficient, but who will be able to apply their knowledge in a world where nothing is certain anymore,” he says.

“And for those working from home right now, you can take this opportunity to develop these skills, which will allow you to demonstrate your competence and contribution not only to your current employer, but also position you for promotion in future.”

He says people should consider how they can work on – and showcase – thinking skills, research skills, communication skills, social skills and self-management.

“Many offices will continue to have remote working arrangements in future, and all the above skills will be absolutely essential to making a success of your career. Employers will want people who show resilience and adaptability, trustworthiness and very importantly, the desire and ability to problem-solve and show initiative.

“So for Matrics who need to start considering their study options next year, even in our current circumstances, ensure you ask of prospective institutions – whether they be public universities or private – what programmes they have in place to ensure they produce work-ready graduates, beyond the contents of their curricula. Because while there was a general understanding of the importance of these skills before, their absolute key role to being effective in our current environment can no longer be disputed.”

In addition to working on soft skills and global competencies, working people and students must also ensure they get a solid grip on technology during this time, as getting the logistics of doing work out of the way will increase their general efficiency.

“It is time to become a digital ninja if you haven’t yet done so,” says Kriel.

“You need to get to a space where you are comfortable with those platforms that will help you survive and thrive in the world of work and the world of study in coming months, and our changed world of tomorrow. To stand out in the job market in future, employers and recruiters are going to be paying much more attention to previously overlooked skills, and now is the perfect time to develop and refine your personal brand so that you are ready to grasp opportunity when it arises.”

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