Welcome to the last installment of our three-part series on workplace readiness skills for teens and young adults. In this installment, we’ll address four prized leadership attributes employers are seeking. They are:
- speaking and listening
- critical thinking and problem solving
- job acquisition and advancement
- time, task, and resource management
Speaking and Listening
Good communication skills, both written and verbal, are a must in today’s workplace (and, in life!). However, many employers report that today’s young adults are often challenged in this area. They may be prolifically communicative with their smart phones and social media—but these more casual skills don’t necessarily translate to a professional environment with diverse audiences.
Educators, parents, and mentors, you can help by teaching them:
- How to write a superb professional letter. Great examples are a thank you letter after a job interview and a cover letter to a potential employer.
- The importance of clearly understanding instructions, deadlines, and expectations.
- The value of building relationship capital with their colleagues and customers. Every communication should be courteous and tactful.
- To practice the “40/60 rule.” When communicating with others, spend 40% of the time talking and 60% listening—not the reverse!
- To be sensitive to tone and body language. Remember that how you say something can matter more than what you actually say.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
In this data-driven world, employers are rewarding problem solving and decision-making skills. These can present special challenges to students who are conceptual by nature, or who have been educated in schools that value memorization of facts over real world application.
If this is the case with your teen, you can help by providing training and opportunities to practice. What I Wish I Knew at 18 includes a highly effective decision-making process that guides the both the conceptual and the analytical thinker. Here’s the process, using the example of choosing a college:
- Get the facts. Identify all key inputs and assumptions (e.g., tuition, location, size, majors offered, admission requirements).
- Determine the key decision criteria (e.g., cost, location, reputation, availability of desired major). Be sure to prioritize these criteria by importance.
- Identify all realistic options (i.e., final candidates)
- Engage wise counsel. Ask others with valuable, firsthand perspectives (e.g., alumni and current students)
- Conduct a thorough and objective pro/con evaluation for each option. Be sure your research addresses the key decision criteria from step two. Also, remember that not all pros and cons are equal!
- Consider your gut instinct or intuition. Your preliminary decision may not feel right. If so, further evaluate each alternative until you’re at peace.
Job Acquisition and Advancement
When young adults enter the workforce, they soon realize that grading doesn’t end upon graduation! To avoid this rude awakening, here are two career advancement strategies to teach students:
- Come prepared to model the qualities that employers value: These include high standards, integrity, reliability, relational skills, positivity/enthusiasm, motivation, innovative, resilience, and likeability.
- Commit to delivering excellent job performance that exceeds expectations. This means: 1) understanding how they’ll be evaluated and going “above and beyond,” 2) knowing how their supervisor defines “excellence,” and 3) having their supervisor identify their most significant potential accomplishments and delivering them.
Time, Task, and Resource Management
In an increasingly competitive environment with high attention to costs, workplace productivity commands a premium. Accordingly, new employees will need to be effective and efficient. Here are some helpful tips to help them learn how:
- Become a disciplined goal setter and planner. Always strive to complete work at least one to two days before the deadline…just in case!
- Avoid procrastination…it reduces stress and improves quality.
- Organize a daily to do list by priority and urgency. Always complete the most important work first.
- Manage time in blocks and control distractions. Time is a precious asset to manage wisely!
It’s never too soon to begin imparting these essential skills and strategies. Today’s students are tomorrow’s work force, and we owe it to them—and their future employers—to set them up for success!