From Barking to Bangladesh there is a skills gap. Quite literally at opposite ends of the world and everywhere in between there is a lack in crucial skills for employability and the workplace in general. I'm not talking about CV writing and interview technique - those are a given and if you don't have these you're not even in the race. Even if you have a degree or other qualifications. I'm not even talking about working well in a team or being able to present well and work to deadlines. So what am I talking about?
I believe the biggest gap is in self-awareness. How you conduct yourself in the world, understanding what triggers stress, how to use different communication styles, how to be present, focused and in the moment. Being accountable, being resilient, flexible and relaxed. Taking the initiative, being proactive and strong.
Yet, most people do not think about the need to develop such skills or even that it might actually be possible to develop them in the first place. And yet if you develop and work on these, you are far more likely anyway to be a great team worker, a confident presenter, be accountable and reliable and a host of other things that employers want.
You are also likely to be happier in your life and choose to go for work that interests you and that you are good at or choose to be innovative enough to create a new job that maybe does not even exist yet.
Except you can't just attend a training course and be "proficient" in these kinds of skills. And training is not what is needed. That may sound counter-intuitive but what I believe does work are exercises that help to immediately raise awareness of our capacity for and understanding of these skills.
This happens through leading the group through an exercise designed to focus on, say your comfort zone, and then facilitate reflection and discussion on what happened, what feelings that brought up and relating these to other aspects of our lives and work.
The conversations that can occur during these kinds of sessions are what enable individuals to learn about themselves and understand better how to apply and strengthen these skills. Some of the exercises might be physical in order to get people to really experience how a particular emotion or behaviour feels.
One of the exercises I do in workshops is simply saying "yes" (ok, not that simple - it's actually a fun applied improvisation game) and we do this not just vocally but with the whole body in order to feel the immense surge of energy that comes with saying "yes" rather than "no" (even if it's just a quiet, internal "no") which is what we all tend to do as a default when something is unexpected or not as planned.
The cornerstone of all development is self-awareness. I'm not a psychologist but I am a trainer and I know I can facilitate and create the space for workshop participants to heighten that awareness.
And if you're a teacher or trainer, so can you.
The Advantage is a two-day experiential learning workshop designed to raise awareness of adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive and resilience. EQ and self-awareness underpin this. The Advantage is being delivered to a range of clients – from the NHS to youth offending teams and senior managers. If you're interested, you can come along to a free taster session in early December in London.
About Emma Sue Prince
Emma Sue is author of The Advantage – the 7 key soft skills you need to get ahead published by Pearson Business. She has designed an experiential learning workshop based on these skills: adaptability, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive, critical thinking and resilience and is currently licensing trainers to deliver these.
Emma Sue provides consultancy in emerging economies and travels regularly to India, Bangladesh and Tanzania advising on a range of large funded projects. She runs a free membership site – Unimenta – for practitioners working in soft skills. When not working Emma Sue runs a local gospel choir in her home town of Godalming, Surrey and is an avid baker.