Given the ever-changing nature of today’s workforce, coupled with the impact of technology and artificial intelligence, “soft skills” ranging from effective communication to taking risks are slowly triumphing over the traditional “hard skills” we once relied on!
We spoke with experts in various industries, from Google to A-Star Research, to better understand what they felt helped them get to their current positions - skills that all students today should possess!
- Find Your “Rocket Ship”
*“If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don't ask what seat.”
– Sheryl Sandberg.*
Danielle Pensack, a Managing Consultant at IBM, took this famous quote further and added the importance of finding your “rocket ship,” even if you aren’t offered that seat! Students should latch on and take initiative to be a part of something they are passionate about and something that they can impact, whether it be a club at school or college, a small team in a large organization, or a budding startup!
- Foster Curiosity
At the age of 16, students are not supposed to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but they are supposed to explore! Lauren Ooi, a member of the Brand Strategy Team at Google, told us about her internship at the Jurong Bird Park, where she truly learned the importance of teamwork. Her curiosity about wildlife and nature led her to the internship, and despite not being in the exact field she saw herself in, what she learned then has remained relevant today!
- Understand and Acknowledge Opposing Views
According to Cole Sims, a research assistant at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A-Star Research, there is tremendous value to completely understanding a given problem before constructing one’s own opinion. He cites the recent presidential election, as well as opposing viewpoints he faces in the lab on a daily basis, and expresses the importance of a holistic understanding in order to develop critical thinking abilities. This critical thinking, in his experience, leads to better decision making and negotiation skills, which, at least for the foreseeable future, will not be replaced by AI!
- Effective Communication
Across the board, our experts reiterated that the ability to communicate effectively should not limited to only being able to get a point across. Kenneth Low from REACH (Ministry of Communication and Information, Singapore) said, “No matter how structured your thinking, or how brilliant your ideas, if you can’t communicate them to all stakeholders in a manner in which they understand it the best, then your ideas may never come to fruition.” This skill is important when running for student council president in high school, as well as when applying for your dream job or internship - and practice, most definitely, makes perfect!
- Take Risks
Chandan Deep, Head of Channel Sales and Revenue Partnerships at Twitter APAC, encourages high school and university kids to take risks, fail, learn, and move on. She expressed how she wished she had taken the opportunity to go abroad for her MBA, instead of pursuing her studies back at home. She mentions that university education abroad would have catalysed her growth and helped give her a broader perspective on things earlier in life!
- Be Adaptable
Given the rapid pace of development, what you learn in your first year of a computer science degree is obsolete by the time you enter your last. This statement doesn’t just hold true in your education; it's also true of your first job and business. In our 40-odd years of career progression, imagine how many change cycles the world will go through. Adaptability is, then, possibly one of the most important skills that students should build. Rohit Beri from ANZ expresses, “I graduated with a degree in Commerce and ended up in Investment Banking. 99% of my learning was on the job and 1% was probably based on my academics. We are not limited by the stream we choose to major in at college. As long as you’re adaptable and can deal with change head-on, you will be able to maneuver successfully through any job and life in general!”
These soft skills should and can be built as early as high school, and just like many of our experts express, they will carry you forward towards and through your dream career!