When writing a job application, it can be all too easy to focus on the technical aspect of the role. You may land an interview thanks to an impressive CV, but the ability to communicate effectively at an interview may just be what secures you the job.
Why are soft skills important?
Soft skills are abilities which are linked to the relationships you have with others, both personally and professionally. They include skills such as problem solving, communication and adaptability, which cannot be taught in the same way as academic theory.
Defined by employers as any skill “that’s needed to get things done,” soft skills give you an edge over your competitors, who might have similar practical experience and qualifications.¹
Being good at communicating or demonstrating your adaptability will show employers that you are relatable, reliable and aware of your environment. It’s important to continue developing these types of skills throughout your personal and professional life - perhaps by joining an evening class, or even by studying online.
5 soft skills you could learn from studying online:
Juggling your work and personal life can be tricky enough at times, without adding in the commitment of studying. However it’s interesting to note that the majority (95%) of our current online postgraduate students do in fact work and study at the same time. If you’re thinking of applying to one of our online degrees, you’ll need to make time for attending live ‘connect’ lectures, completing coursework and weekly reading assignments. Organising your time effectively in this instance can transfer across any type of industry.
You will also find that the module content itself will help you with these challenges. As Dr Michael Shulver explains, the Operations module on the Online MBA and Online MSc International Business courses helps students to ‘build systems into decision making’ and streamline unnecessary thought processes. This type of learning is a time-saving skill (linked to problem-solving) which can be directly applied to most situations.
All our online courses have been specifically designed to be interactive and engaging. The online learning environment encourages students to actively participate in group discussions (both in forums and within live lectures). They’re great for boosting students’ communication skills – particularly if English is their second language.
Being good at communicating isn’t just about being able to get your point or argument across to others. Listening is also a big part of communicating and yet it’s an ability that many fail to master. A good student will listen to lectures, feedback and then act on it to improve their grades.
If you can show an employer that you can communicate effectively in a variety of ways, whether participating in group work, leading a team or conducting a presentation, you’ll certainly stand out against other candidates (in a job interview), or to your current co-workers.
Recommended read: 8 good study habits for online degree students
As a member of the Russell Group and currently ranked in the top 100 world universities for research output and global reach we understand how important research is for making a difference to our society.² As such, we have designed our online courses to enable you to develop your own research skills to make an impact on your career (no matter which industry). For example, our Online MSc International Business module on ‘Research methods in international business’, introduces students to different research strategies, methodologies, techniques and tools which are all relevant for addressing the challenges of modern global business.
Excellent analytical skills are valued by employers as it shows you’re able to obtain an unbiased view, can work independently and have the skills necessary to create strategies, plans and analyse current business performance. In all roles you need to be able to assess situations, seek multiple perspectives and gather in-depth information for projects.
Like any challenge, studying online requires motivation.You’ll have to motivate yourself to log onto laptops or computers to study, attend fortnightly lectures online and complete weekly reading assignments and coursework. When you consider all the above, it certainly requires a different type of motivation than traditional studies.
Current Online MBA student, Ceridwen Scerri says: “Like everything else it is challenging at times. I was blown away with the amount of readings we have to do each week. However, when finding the right pattern of study, it is do-able.”
Master this soft skill and you’ll go far – employers are always looking for recruits with a strong work ethic and employees who are self-motivated and reliable.
There’s every chance your circumstances may change while you’re studying online. With anything that lasts for an extended period of time, differing circumstances can throw up a whole host of problems. How you cope with these challenges will test your adaptability, which will come in handy throughout your professional and personal life.
Business environments change rapidly too, and studying an online course means you can apply current up-to-date learnings in real time, which is a huge advantage to have.
The University of Birmingham was recently ranked the UK’s top university for graduate employment.³ If you’re looking to enhance your soft skills and think that studying online could be the answer for you, please visit our course pages and fill out the request for information form or call +44 (0)800 032 7101 to speak to a member of our Admissions Team.
¹ PLIMMER, G. (2011) What do employers mean by ‘soft skills’? Financial Times. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/6d6cd43a-553a-11e0-87fe-00144feab49a [Accessed 01.02.2016].
² UNKOWN (2016) Research facts. University of Birmingham. Available at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/impact/our/facts/index.aspx [Accessed 01.02.2016].
³ UNKNOWN (2015) Birmingham announced as University of the Year for Graduate Employment. University of Birmingham. Available at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2015/09/graduate-employment-award-18-09-15.aspx [Accessed 06.02.2017].