Common sense and good manners: The importance of job-readiness skills in the workplace

Common sense and good manners: The importance of job-readiness skills in the workplace

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Employers traditionally focus on job skills and applicable knowledge when seeking out capable young job candidates. Hiring managers and human resource personnel need people with specific abilities which enable them to succeed in a given job and add value to the company. In recent years, employers have found that many young adults they bring into their organizations lack basic social skills, often referred to as “soft” skills.

These are fundamental interactive habits that once were taken for granted, behaviors that define good business etiquette and common courtesy. Studies have shown that while college graduates and other young job applicants today consider themselves well-prepared for the work environment, employers are increasingly concerned about young employees who dress improperly, don’t show up for work on time, don’t possess adequate verbal skills, and exhibit a lack of respect for coworkers and supervisors.

Must-have skills

When employees don’t look clients in the eye or offer a good, firm handshake, it reflects badly on the company and raises doubts about their reliability and capabilities, regardless of educational or personal background. It often comes down to body language and simple habits that were once assumed to be the parents’ responsibility to teach, just another part of growing up. Universities and technical schools may address soft skills, but they’re in the business of teaching theory and practical knowledge, not how to be courteous and diplomatic with others.

Patience and communication are paramount for success in a business environment. The ability to stay calm when things get tense is a trait that’s prized by supervisors, who expect their staff to work together effectively. Good communication is essential for resolving conflict. It’s how you come across to others and make an impression on people whose support you need to advance. If you can’t communicate well or show that you can work as part of a team, your employer will lose confidence in your ability to complete assigned tasks or gain the confidence of colleagues.

Listening is one of the most under-appreciated skills in any organization, yet it’s one of the most important. If you’re unable or unwilling to listen to others, you can’t be an effective participant when problem-solving or in an exchange of ideas. Understanding work assignments and what superiors expect of you depends on listening carefully and thinking critically.

Good manners

Certain skills are indispensable in any social setting, things people notice right away. One of the most telling is a failure to make eye contact when conversing with another. It makes you look disinterested and uncaring. You might be used to looking at your smartphone or tablet when you talk to people, but it makes little difference to others when you’re in a client meeting or addressing a group. Maintaining eye contact lets people know that you’re paying attention and that you respect what they’re saying. Let’s face it: it’s just good manners.

Body language is another important form of non-verbal communication. People quickly notice if you’re slumped over in your chair or if your arms are folded while they’re speaking. Others will respond positively if your body conveys energy, interest and engagement, so sit up straight and remember to make eye contact with each person when you’re addressing a group of people.

Being well-educated, possessing a valued skill set, and a good resume are important factors in getting hired and moving forward in an organization. But it’s only part of the picture, a fact that often gets lost in a world that stresses technical fluency and individual creativity. Work on developing effective communication and social skills – they’ll always put you in a position to succeed.

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Author: Mashpee Chamber of Commerce

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