Soft Skill Sell

Student workers made up most of the IT work force when I was working at a university. The labor was cheap (no health or retirement benefits, $7-15 an hour) compared to hiring staff. For the grunt work, in my case making web pages and moving files, it was convenient. Sure training them was a hassle, but getting them up to speed was not terrible.

I cared more about selecting for the soft skills in an interview and preferred to teach the hard skills. As Maureen Downey quoted in A harder line on softer skills: If young people can master PhotoShop, can’t they figure out alarm clocks?:

She explains that while hard skills are the factual and technical talents that workers bring to their jobs, soft skills represent their ability to get along with colleagues, sell their ideas, get to work on time, problem solve and motivate others.

I needed them to establish and maintain positive relationships with the various departments whose web sites we maintained. They also needed to work well with each other as one might be asked to make an emergency change to a page while another was out. Being on time to a meeting with a department representative was important to keeping that person happy. I broke all of them calling me if they were going to be a minute late to the office. As long as they kept the clients happy I really did not care whether they were a few minutes or even hours late. (It was work I did not have to do.)

My management style probably introduced bad habits like the supposed soccer coaches rewarding kids for just showing up. I am doubtful this is all there is to it. As I recall, when I was in the position of being a student worker, the same complaints about us late Gen Xers. Going back even younger, I recall my grandmother complaining about student workers having the same complaints about early Gen Xers. My grandmother described her brothers at 18-22 as the same. This is not a brand new problem with Millennials. Identifying who will do a good job is the job of a manager. Get used to it.

The certificate of soft skills mentioned in the article sounds stupid:

A comprehensive career and college readiness bill passed this year by the General Assembly authorizes the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development to establish certification in soft skills such as punctuality, ability to learn, appropriate business attire and the ability to work as a team.

We really are wasting taxpayer money on this? I disagree this is common sense (these things must be taught). My parents did teach me much of these kinds of things.

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