Social skills learned in class vital to career success
When it comes to class projects, some students tend to dislike group projects.
However, as the working world continues to evolve, it might be the social skills developed during these projects that help students land a future job.
Career fields blending traditional technical skills with social skills will see the most growth in the future, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education professor David Deming, who visited MSU to speak about his recent study, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market.”
Deming’s assertion is backed up by federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. The BLS predicts a demand for home health aides, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and many other socially-skilled healthcare professionals to jump roughly between 30 and 40 percent by 2024.
Deming attributed the jump in demand to technological advances. Technical skills involving mathematical abilities can increasingly be performed or simplified by the use of computer programs. Social abilities are not so easily replaced.
“Having an unstructured conversation for five minutes seems simple to us, but it’s incredibly difficult to program because it’s unpredictable,” Deming said.
The ability to effectively convey information to a professional audience is a skill in high demand.
“What differentiates candidates for jobs now more than anything is that candidate’s ability to communicate,” Eli Broad College of Business professor of practice Shana Redd said. "It is the key competitive advantage."
Both Deming and Redd stressed the increasingly collaborative nature of the working world.
“Even if you are an expert, you still need to be able to work and communicate with others like you and others (who) are experts in other fields,” Redd said.
Redd developed a course designed to teach business students communication skills. Students conduct then present independent research addressing branding problems to human resources representatives from a company.
“Students get to work on real business problems, practicing real business communication skills relevant to the workplace,” Redd said.
It’s these kinds of unconventional classroom experiences that give MSU students a competitive edge, evidenced by the 15 percent of recent graduates who used their interpersonal skills to find jobs through career fairs.
Deming said the traditional structure of college education is not necessarily the best for preparing students for the workplace.
“(The educational system) involves much more sitting and having things explained to you — it’s much more static," Deming said. "That is a great way to convey information, but it’s not what the workplace looks like at all.”