Often the most successful employees are those who have learned behavior and values from teachers who know the skills students will need to be successful in life.
Teachers have incorporated rules or guidelines for their classrooms that serve to instill qualities in students that help them not only succeed in the classroom, but apply to the way they to their peers. Now may be the time for teachers to make sure that they are actually giving instruction in development of these soft skills needed for work and life. The following are some of the skills students will need for success in the workplace, along with suggestions for teachers to incorporate these skills into their curriculum content.
Frequent tales of scandal, theft, sexual harassment, and racism in the business world make companies take an extra look for a candidate with integrity. Billionaire Henry Hillman, a financier and philanthropist from Pittsburgh, Penn., was remembered in eulogies given after his recent death as a “fierce competitor always in control,” but also as a humble man who often commented “the whale gets harpooned only when it spouts.” Using public figures, literary characters, or community leaders as mentors and role models allows teachers to instruct and instill character traits and skills students will need to become successful themselves.
An equally important skill students will need is to know how to work as part of a team. Teamwork results in all employees striving for the same goal. Companies don’t look favorably on one who must always take the lead, or on one who is always the follower. Everyone must work together to plan, set and meet deadlines, and achieve results. Teachers can promote teamwork through the use of group projects in the classroom. Give students the freedom to use their social skills to work out team responsibilities and learn cooperation, but make sure that roles are switched throughout the project and that all students are working to contribute and achieve the end result. An open discussion of what and who worked at the end of the project can allow students to realize how important each person is to a team.
A well-respected high school band instructor told his students on the first day of class: “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unforgivable.” Any student who was late to class or to a performance learned that he was not kidding. Employers depend on their employees to have a good attendance record, to report to work on time, and be responsible for the work assigned. Dependability is a skill students will need and in addition to setting expectations for keeping to the class time schedule, teachers can teach dependability by making students accountable for their actions. If homework is not done, expect an explanation why the assignment was not completed and ask how that student will keep it from happening again. Make the student responsible for correcting the problem and follow up to ensure they took the action promised.
No employer wants a worker who is unwilling to adapt to changes within the company. Employees are expected to continue to learn new skills and assume more or different responsibilities. Learning to be open to new ideas and concepts is one of the skills students will need to become a successful employee. Teachers can promote this soft skill by developing activities that the students can do through the application of a new skill learned, such as solving a problem associated with community involvement in school projects by developing a survey, promoting its distribution in the community, and analyzing the statistical results. Assign students to take on new roles to publicize the project, promote it through a website created by the students or within the school site, and teach them to be flexible in response to the feedback received.
Communication is key to a successful workplace. Employers look for job candidates who can express themselves. Whether it is expressing an idea, asking for assistance, making a presentation, or writing a report, successful employees must be able to communicate. Development of this skill can begin with class discussions. Teachers can help the students develop their communication skills by asking questions to help students make their comments more clear and concise. Writing skills should also be developed through class assignments that become a basis upon which students build and improve by expanding on short answers to form an essay or report that is then given orally to the class.
Teachers can begin to develop the skills that students need to be successful in the workplace by using every opportunity to make them part of their lesson plans. Students with character, who are dependable, flexible team players with good communication skills can easily make the leap to life after school.