Tag Archives: writing

4 skills college students must learn in college

Is it a lack of technical skills employers are most concerned about when they consider hiring college graduates? Nah, those can be learned.  It’s the lack of soft skills employers are concerned about. 

What do the following skills have in common: writing, presentation, teamwork, and critical thinking?

According to an article on Glassdoor.com, What Employers Wish You’d Learned in College, these are valuable skills lacking in most college grads with technical degrees.

True, they have the technical know-how but, “When soft skills are lacking, there’s a direct effect on the bottom line,” the article asserts.

College StudentWritten communications: We all realize that writing is an important skill, but what does it have to do with being an engineer?

A lot, according to HR director Amanda Pollack who is quoted in the article: “A big part of what we do as engineers is write reports and specifications for our plans, and we find that writing isn’t something that is really taught to engineers.”

Verbal communications: In addition to written communications, we can’t neglect to mention the importance of verbal communications, listening skills, and body language. These all contribute to effective communications. College students should be taught proper communications and have to practice it in real-life situations.

Would it be too far-fetched to require college students to attend Toastmasters or an organization similar to it?

Little emphasis was placed on presentation skills when I attended college, yet delivering workshops is my job. Somewhere along the way I learned the art of public speaking, but it was a long journey.

Similarly, project managers are expected to present to upper management the progress of the projects they oversee. Sales people rely a great deal on their ability to speak persuasively to their potential customers.

Some employers claim that communication skills, verbal and written, are the most important transferable skills an employee can possess.

Collaboration: Another skill held in high regard by employers is being able to function as a team. “Most importantly, employers are looking for teamwork,” said Brian Tabinga, a program manager who is quoted in the Glassdoor.com article.

No surprise here. Companies are working with less, while trying to produce more. Tabinga, who works with military members, says there’s no difference between the military and private sector in terms of trying to meet their collective needs.

How can colleges teach teamwork? Some elementary and middle schools are attempting to teach teamwork through collaborative projects—I’m surprised yet delighted with the number of group projects my kids work on.

More projects that are graded based on participation within a team is one way to ensure that students learn teamwork in college. Should there be courses offered on teamwork or, perhaps, minor degrees in “Collaboration?”

Critical thinking/Problem solving: The last skill the article mentions is critical thinking. Tabinga states, “Critical thinking means being able to look at a problem from multiple angles.

A lot of times you are trained to go from A to B in a straight line, and that’s not always what’s needed. Critical thinking means taking a step back to look at multiple solutions,” The article says.

All is not lost. The article gives four suggestions to help graduates develop these skills once in the workforce:

  • Get a mentor, someone in the office or outside work who can spot your shortfalls and coach you to improve them.
  • Listen openly to feedback from your supervisor.
  • Join young professional groups like The United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees), where peers get together to improve their career skills

To me, this seems a bit late. If colleges are interested in preparing students for the competitive labor market, they should do something about it before they release young students, strong on theory but needing improvement on their soft skills, into a world that requires employees to hit the ground running.

Photo: Flickr, Mikey Smith

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8 awesome traits of the introvert

I wrote this post more than a year ago but have since added another strong trait of the introvert. 

When I ask my Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they think I’m an introvert or extravert, they usually guess wrong. “But you’re so lively and loud,” they say.

What do they expect from me, Dawn of the Living Dead?

Many people don’t see the eight awesome traits introverts demonstrate. Here they are:

1. The ability to speak in public is the first of eight awesome traits the introverts demonstrate. Those of my attendees who guess wrong about my preference believe that to be an effective speaker, one must be an extravert.

They see my outward personality as an extraverted trait. I don’t blame them for guessing wrong, because society has been under the impression that showmanship belongs exclusively to the extraverts.

2. You want a sincere conversation? You’ll get it with introverts. Our thing is not more is better, as in the number of people with whom we speak. No, we prefer talking with fewer people and engaging in deeper conversation. You’ll know we’ll give you our undivided attention. It’s helpful if we’re interested in the topic.

3. We think before we speak. Dominating a meeting is not our style; we favor something akin to Parliamentary Procedure. That doesn’t mean we don’t have intelligent things to say; we just don’t like to compete with the extraverts who learn by talking.

The problem with our method of communicating is we might not get the opportunity to get our brilliant thoughts out in the open.

4. We rule when it comes to research. We learn best by researching topics on our own and, as such, prefer the computer over dialog. Extraverts learn best by throwing around ideas among their colleagues and friends. We find staff meetings unproductive unless there’s an agenda and some sense of order. Brainstorming is usually a waste of time to us.

5. We hear you the first time. We’re considered great listeners. But we don’t appreciate being talked at. We’re perceptive so you don’t need to stress your point with 10 minutes of nonstop talking. You don’t like caviar, you say. And you had a bad experience eating it when you were a child. Got it.

6. We love to write. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, but this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of talking. We just don’t have the capacity to talk from sunrise to sunset. Writing allows us to formulate our thoughts and express them eloquently. There’s no denying, however, that our workplace favors those who talk; so there are times when we put down the pen and let our voice be heard.

7. We’re just as creative as the next person. Our creative juices flow from solitude, not open spaces where people throw Nerf footballs, eat cookies, and attend wrap sessions until 10:00 pm. If you see us working intently in our offices or cubicles, we’re usually enjoying “moments,” so don’t break our concentration. Nothing personal; we’ll join you at the pool table when our work is completed.

8. We can stand being alone. We don’t need constant attention from others; rather we enjoy the time to think and reflect on life in general. Some might consider this as standoffish, but those are people who require a great deal of stimuli and don’t understand the beauty of Quiet (watch Susan Cain’s YouTube video). We develop long-lasting friendships with fewer people, as deeper is better than broader. Don’t pity us if you have 20 friends and we have only five. We’re good with that.


My MBTI workshop attendees are not far off the mark when they guess I’m an extravert; I do have the ability to put on the Robin Williams act, or revert to a serious Bill Belichick persona. I put 100% into teaching the finer points of the job search, and as a result my exit from the room is quick and toward the stairway to where I can retreat to my computer.

To share is golden: 8 reasons to share others’ posts

Since publishing this post, I’ve added more great curators and will continue doing this until I’ve exhausted the number of people who share the most relevant information.  

Sharing

Raise your hand if you share your blog posts and other bloggers’ posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

Now raise you hand if you only share your posts. If this is you, you’re missing out on at least 8 pluses of sharing other’s posts. Not to mention you’re secluding yourself from, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other communities.

Those of you who share others’ posts understand the value of sharing.

  1. It creates reciprocity. I, for one, am more likely to share what others write if they share my posts. It’s just plain right. Blogging pundits say that your posts will be shared more often if you reciprocate.
  2. It demonstrates great personality skills. Sharing posts of other bloggers shows you as someone who thinks of others, not only of yourself, thus portraying you as a team player. You read others’ articles, see value in them, and share them with your connections; demonstrating your awareness and desire to educate your audience (your team).
  3. You are secure in your established expertise. I understand the desire to establish oneself as a thought leader in the industry. But this can also be accomplished by sharing posts of others. Some of my valued connections, who are experts in their field, aren’t afraid that sharing the writing of others will affect their reputation.
  4. You know sharing won’t hurt your brand. “If I promote others’ material, readers will get confused by my message,” you think. Hog wash. If you are so insecure that you feel your message isn’t strong, your voice isn’t poignant, your style isn’t unique; maybe you shouldn’t be sharing your posts on LinkedIn and other platforms.
  5. You don’t come across as narcissistic. Ouch. I know this one hurts. At times I believe I’m guilty of this, so I try to be the best curator of information as possible. But if you only share your posts, you come across as “all that.” The true blogger will acknowledge the efforts of others, not act as though he’s standing in front of the mirror primping himself.
  6. You become known as a curator of great information*. LinkedIn is known as the most professional online networking platform. One reasons why LinkedIn has this reputation is because its members provide information capital. I know, for example, that I can find a plethora of articles on the job search, LinkedIn, and introversion—my preferred topics—on LinkedIn.
  7. Sharing is a great way to educate yourself. The posts you share are the ones that teach you something; so impressed with them that you want to comment on the lessons you learned. I learn more about the job search or LinkedIn when I read others’ posts; and, as such, I want to educate my connections.
  8. You add value to LinkedIn’s community. Related to number 6, LinkedIn offers its members more value when they can read a well-written, thoughtful post and learn somethings from them. It makes visiting LinkedIn worthwhile. Conversely, if one were to only post his/her articles, the content would be limited and LinkedIn wouldn’t be the valuable platform it is.

*My (partial) personal  list of LinkedIn curators include, in no particular order, Hank Boyer; Hannah Morgan; Pat Weber; Sabrina Woods; Rich Grant; Jack Mulcahy; Greg Johnson; Randy Block; Lynda SpiegelDoug AlesJeff SheehanSultan CampMark BabbitEdythe RichardsJohn White, MBAPaul DruryMarietta CrawfordMaria FafardPaul CroubalianIngrid Goldbloom BlochGeorge ArmesKurt Foedisch; Bobbie FoedischTrent Selbrede; Susan Joyce; Sarah Elkins and Shelly Elsigler

I could be better about sharing; I know this. I search for job posts that are relevant to my connections, posts they will appreciate. I fear that my posts outnumber the ones I share from others, but I’m trying to be better. For those of you who don’t share other bloggers post, perhaps you should try.

If you enjoyed this post, please Like or Share it.

Photo: Nanagyei, Sharing

Need help with your LinkedIn profile, try stealing…not literally

stealing In Three Secrets to Writing Better, Erik Deckers, shares three bits of advice on how to become a better writer. They are: write everyday, read the newspaper, and my favorite steal from other writers’ styles. (I think what he really means is to learn from the best.)

If I could steal from a contemporary writer, it would be Joel Stein from Time magazineJoel writes with impunity (sometimes bashes Time), employs sarcasm and self-deprecation, and often mentions his family. He also wrote a book (Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity) on how he attempted to become more manly and, as you might guess, failed at his attempt.

While I wish to steal from Joel, Erik suggests writers like Earnest Hemmingway, Hunter S. Thompson, and Mike Royko, Chicago Daily News columnist from the 1980s. If I were to get all literary, I’d go with JD Salinger and Harper Lee.

What does stealing from great writers have to do with writing a LinkedIn profile? For those of you who are having a hard time writing your LinkedIn profile, allow me to suggest following Erik’s advice. Of course I don’t mean to literally steal from others’ profiles. I mean take a little journey on LinkedIn, targeting people who do what you do, and find profiles you admire.

Then emulate the styles of various profiles without plagiarizing–one of my connections was a victim of this.  This will take a little work, but it’s well worth it.

Summary section. When I started my LinkedIn profile, I used a connection’s Summary as an example. She is a professional résumé and LinkedIn profile writer and one of my valued connections. I liked the way she began her Summary with a general statement, followed by five areas of expertise, and concluding with her prediction of online résumés.

I have since changed my Summary to show more accomplishments in bullet format but still use paragraphs here and there. But I am grateful to my connection who started me on my way to writing a profile that speaks to my personality and accomplishments.

Employment section. This part of the profile can be a challenge for some. Again, look at what others in your occupation and industry have written in this section. Do they have a job summary followed by duties and accomplishments? Do they include only accomplishments? You might be in the dark about what content to include in your Employment section.

If you have no idea which duties to include for each job, I to begin by totally plagiarizing by doing the following: type http://www.onetcenter.org/, enter your occupation, copy and paste it to your profile, and edit from there using your own words.

Education section. And when it comes to Education? Do others list numerous Activities and Societies or Descriptions of what they did at their school/s? You might find this appealing, or if you want to keep it simple by stating the name of your school/s, that’s fine as well. (For activities, don’t write your were the beer bong champion of your fraternity.)

Branding Headline. I couldn’t neglect talking about stealing a Branding Headline. Again, pay attention to Headlines as you scroll down your Home Page, including content and nifty symbols (I’m fond of the vertical bar |, while others might prefer ►, ★, ✔, or other symbols ). Emulate the nature of the content you see, without blatantly stealing.

I know I’ll never reach the type of fame Joel Stein has gained–if not in my mind only–but I’ll continue to read his columns, laugh at his wit, and attempt a little farcical writing of my own. I think Erik is onto something here. Having read his book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself , coauthored by Kyle Lacy, I know he’s a funny and talented writer.

Don’t disrupt my alone time, and 3 facts about introverts’ alone time

coffee shop 2Although the music is noticeable and people at the table in front of me are chatting and laughing, I’m happily engaged in one of my favorite activities, writing. I’m unfazed by the noise from the music and people as I sit in a plush chair in my favorite coffee shop.

The people and music are more like white noise than a disruption. It’s as though I’m alone. You could say I’m in the zone. The introverts’ ability to be alone, even in a loud setting, speaks to their ability to concentrate on the task at hand.

We introverts simply block out those around us. Some may see this as aloofness or even snobbishness. But it’s none of these; we just refuse to be distracted. Extraverts, who are drawn to people, may not demonstrate the same discipline; they thrive on stimuli and are more aware of their surrounding. Not me. I’m alone.

My alone time is about to be disrupted.

A man sits down next to me and after a few minutes wants to talk about the Red Sox’ World Series win; and I would gladly discuss the momentous event with him, but not now. I’m friendly, so I respond to his greeting and comments but quickly return to my writing.

It becomes obvious that he wants to talk more about the World Series, despite my obvious hint—I think it’s a clear hint. Maybe two minutes of conversation will be enough to satisfy this interloper, I reason.

Two minutes pass and soon it approaches five minutes. Then I start to feel annoyed with this man who wants nothing more than to talk baseball. He launches into Big Papi’s MVP award, followed by the duck boat parade he wanted to attend but had to watch on TV with his wife, who kept asking about the various players. The conversation seems more like an obligation than a mutual discussion.

My feeling of annoyance soon turns into the uneasy feeling of being trapped; after all, I didn’t ask for this conversation. A simple “hi” and a comment or two about the World Series would be fine, but to launch into a full-fledged conversation is ruining my focus, unlike the music and chatter that seem like they’re in the distance.

Prior to his arrival, I was pounding out sentence after sentence. Things were making sense. I had this eternal happiness that some mistake for simply being within oneself, which to an introvert is true happiness. And this man, although pleasant and gregarious, should know the following about introverts:

  1. When you see someone so focused that his eyes drift not from his computer screen, leave well enough alone. He’s probably taking advantage of what small amount of alone time he has.
  2. We like human contact, but at times we want to be alone, even if it’s in a crowded coffee house. It’s one of our pleasures which you, as stimuli-driven individuals may not understand.
  3. Conversation is not about you. If the other person is not engaged, it’s a sign that the person is not interested in the conversation. On the other hand, a welcome response signals a two-way conversation.

It’s obvious that I won’t get anything done with this person to the left of me talking incessantly, so I turn to the person who is sitting to my right, my adorable daughter, and ask, “Honey, are you ready to go?” Together my daughter and I leave the coffee shop, and on the way home she asks me who that annoying guy was. Just someone with bad timing I tell her.

Photo courtesy of lamill coffee, los angeles by oceanerin on Flickr