Tigers talk workplace success; Speakers explain soft and hard skills

By Albert Ivory, The Towerlight

Photo by Albert Ivory/ The Towerlight

The Young Alumni Advisory Council presented “Skills To Pay The Bills” at Stephens Hall Wednesday night to offer students the chance to engage in workshops that covered essential skills that are needed in the workplace.

It kicked off with an introductory address by Bob Graham from Serious Soft Skills, a business education service that he created with TU’s Department Chair of E-business and Technology Management, Tobin Porterfield, to “empower employees, team members, managers, leaders and their organizations to better leverage their soft skills, in conjunction with their technical skills, to advance their careers and organizational success.”

According to Graham, studies conducted by Harvard University, the Stanford Research Center, and the Carnegie Foundation show that 85 percent of your career success is based on soft skills while the remaining 15 percent is based on your technical skills.

Graham explained that the difference between soft skills and technical skills is that soft skills are developed through interactions with others, whereas technical skills are developed through theories, grammar and making excel spreadsheets.

Soft skills range from empathy and time management to setting priorities and being able to collaborate, among others.

“The world is changing in profound ways; we’re more competitive than we’ve ever been,” Graham said.

He also told the audience to think of three critical areas. The first is storytelling; how to articulate information that you have gained and make it profound and memorable to gather the attention of potential employers.

The second is experience; using moments from the past to form your future, such as acknowledging your weaknesses. The third and final is attunement; being conscious of what others may need and find a way to assist them.

“To be successful with soft skills, you have to do self-reflection, looking inside yourself, holding the mirror up, and take mentoring,” Graham said. “People who have very good soft skills do not get laid off, do not get fired, and do not get transferred to crappy jobs…they move up the ladder.”

He encouraged the audience to challenge themselves and get used to being uncomfortable.

The audience then broke out in different sessions facilitated by Towson alumni. The sessions included “Communication Skills” led by Patrick St. Clair (2016), “Emotional Intelligence” led by Tanyea Jordan (2014) and “Teamwork and Problem Solving” led by Frank DeSantis (1999).

In St. Clair’s session, he encouraged audiences to take control of their narratives and be more proactive in challenges.

“Respond to criticism to find misunderstandings and avoid assumptions when giving feedback,” St. Clair said.

Jordan’s “Emotional Intelligence” session had audiences take a personality test to see which “color” they were. The colors a participant could be included orange, green, blue and gold, with each symbolizing different traits a person could have.

Participants that had blue were characterized as enthusiastic, sympathetic and accepting while green stood for qualities like analytical, strategic, and global. Gold meant that the person was loyal, faithful, and dependable.

“Each color depends on the circumstances and environment, and they may change,” Jordan said. “It’s about what you and others bring to the table.”

DeSantis’ Teamwork and Problem Solving session involved the audience interacting with one another to complete certain tasks. The purpose was to show employers that an applicant is willing to collaborate and capable of developing ideas and strategies to make an organization thrive.

“I found the event to be really good,” sophomore Anh Tran said. “I needed to work on communication skills because I would definitely need them for future careers.”

Graham closed the event emphasizing the importance of marketing oneself.

“Today is the day to start the network. It builds over time,” Graham said.


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