By Elmarie Pretorius, Managing Owner at The Mindspa Institute, International Trainer, Motivational Speaker and Author.
Companies around the world complain about a general lack of soft skills in postgraduates who are freshly entering the job market. Younger workers lack a long list of skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, punctuality, time and stress management, conflict management, business writing etc. Tertiary Institutions often neglect soft skills development as part of their knowledge mix to equip students for their future workplace, because their main focus remains developing the hard skills or more technical skills. In light of June being Youth Month in South Africa, I wanted to focus specifically on young women entering the job market.
Us women are sometimes, not only our own worst enemy, but also each other’s worst nightmare. Now more than ever, young women need to position themselves as highly desirable candidates for leadership positions early on, in what is still perceived as a male dominated economy. Older more experienced women must also build and support the future women in business.
I believe developing these 3 important soft skills will ready young up-and-coming females on their way to becoming powerhouse businesswomen:
When I, for example, have two job candidates sitting in front of me at the interview table, applying for the same job, I will choose the person who is portraying the most confidence. This will be the tiebreaker. I can promise you that most HR Managers will do the same.
Confidence can be defined as the belief you have in yourself. It means that you feel comfortable with who you are, and that you, yourself, see how much value you can add. Marcus Garvey was quoted in saying: “With confidence, you have won before you have started.” However, women in general tend to talk down to themselves. For whatever reason, some come across as being “unsure” about, not only themselves, but also what they were trained to do.
When you feel confident from within, you also look confident, determined, and motivated to the outside world. If you believe in yourself, then others will too. This automatically increases your success rate in your work, sports, relationships etc., and can have a profound impact on the new opportunities that come your way. If you don’t know how to do this, taking a short course in how to develop your confidence and be more assertive within the workplace will be a good idea.
2. Continuous learning and self-development.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, said “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” I have seen it throughout my years in both the corporate industry as well as running my own business. There are daily challenges in every workday. You need a vast number of skills and knowledge to succeed professionally and for that matter, in life. Climbing the “corporate jungle gym” takes skill and reinventing yourself daily. It is not a straight and narrow path, and every climb, failure, or change teaches you something different, creating a steppingstone to the top. Daily continuous improvements are a must.
Many youngsters entering the workplace as newbies, have this distorted idea that when you have been to university you know everything there is to know about doing this specific job. Untrue! But, not to worry because as Sandra Scofield said: “We are not beginners forever, but we never stop learning.” Anyone and everyone will tell you that there is a huge difference between book knowledge and real-life work experiences and skills.
Younger women who have been in the workforce also experience this pitfall when their needs and wants in life change from wanting to build a career to building a family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but to suddenly stop learning and upskilling yourself when you get married or want to start a family, is very dangerous if you want to, or have to, re-enter the workforce in the future.
It is advisable to stay on-top of your game by constantly attending online webinars, short courses or workshops which will keep your professional mind active and your skills current.
3. Working Together.
Many women will confirm that working with other women remain one of their biggest challenges at work. I constantly ask myself why us women find it so difficult to work together and uplift one another. It is like woman-to-woman jealousy becomes this uncontrollable emotion. As if we don’t want to see other women succeed.
It boils down to us feeling insecure and not being able to approach teamwork from an emotional intelligent point of view. It is quite simple. Women who come across this problem, must try to ‘get over it’ and actively make an effort to get to know one another to build new relationships. Women who learn early on to manage their own emotions and enhance them without blocking their voice, not only transform and create dynamic teams, but also become mentors of the future women leaders. If you have mastered these skills, you have no reason to trample on other women to get to the top.
I am in complete agreement with Kasia Gospos’s statement: “Amazing things happen when women help other women.” We must support each other and become one another’s cheerleaders and allies. There are mentorship workshops for more experienced women to develop skills to uplift and support the younger generation of female leaders.
The 4th Industrial Revolution comprises of developments in smart technology, genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, biotechnology, etc. This obviously forms part of a very technical hard skills development currently within our youth graduates. But the human element will hardly ever subside. More so, some of these areas of expertise are also perceived as being more male dominant. The buck doesn’t stop with young women equipping themselves with the skillset they need to become extraordinary business leaders. It is up to all of us women to create momentum for our young females entering this type of job market, and it will take a village to get them there.