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Essential Soft Skills | Office Hours

Are we preparing graduates for the information workplace? That’s a question I recently considered while reading Paul Fain’s article “Grading Personal Responsibility” in Inside Higher Ed (12/13/12). He describes a new initiative at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, NC, emphasizing as part of the curriculum “soft skills,” including personal responsibility, interdependence, and emotional intelligence.

These are important concepts to consider, and I wonder just how much emphasis is placed on these types of skills as students move through our programs. Are LIS grads as work-ready as they could be? Are there some soft skills particularly necessary in information ­professions?

Consider the following soft skills essential for our libraries and information centers.

Communication

A given, right? It should be a tremendous concern if a student is graduating without experience communicating via the written word, as a participant in a conversation or group meeting, as a presenter in front of groups, and online within various interactive channels. Clear, concise writing no matter what the format—memo, proposal, brief, email, blog post, Facebook posting, Tweet—is paramount. A focus on literacy, in every sense of the word, should be crucial as students move toward their degree.

Initiative

I would also stress the willingness to speak up and be heard. New librarians are often too silent. Of course, they shouldn’t be annoying or act as know-it-alls—those traits are career killers—but they should be willing to submit ideas up the chain, talk to higher-level administrators when they can, and use their communication skills to make themselves heard, recognized, and appreciated. They should join teams, even during probationary periods, and submit ideas for efficiencies and improvements. With money tight and staff limited, any good administrator is going to welcome this type of new librarian.

We don’t have the luxury to have new hires wait for detailed step-by-step assignments or direction. Librarians should take their projects and run with them and have the support of their administration to do so. Is the student who asks multiple questions about every detail of an assignment destined to be the hesitant micromanager hooked on having meetings with little tangible outcomes? Read more…

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