Jobs And Careers - Youth Focus - Communication


In order to understand fully how important social skills are in personal and professional development, we need only recognize how important communication, which is the primary social skill, is in our day to day transactions, work functions and interpersonal exchanges.

We communicate both verbally and non-verbally.  Verbally: through speech, language, diction, tone of voice, sounds, etc. and Non-Verbally: through body language, posture, deportment, gestures, facial expressions and dress.  Both verbal and non-verbal communication help to convey attitude and project the role or personality we assume, confidence, lack of confidence etc.

We learn to value the ability to communicate from an early age as we receive direct feedback in the form of approval or disapproval from those around us and this in turn influences and shapes behaviour.  In our childhood state our social communication with parents, peers, teachers and community help to mould our development and form the initial self-concepts and value system which we hold.

As individuals grow and move out into the working world, they will encounter complex interactions with people of different backgrounds, interests, culture and educational levels.  The ability to communicate and deal with people at all levels is a valuable skill which can help to establish good working relationships and lead to high levels of co-operation and productivity, which in turn create achievement and success.

Individuals will also find themselves in a number of different important situations which will require sound knowledge of how to behave appropriately, what conventions to observe and what role to play.  These may include: how to handle an interview, chair a meeting, deliver a speech, manage confrontation within a group, motivate a team, observe the correct etiquette or protocol at a business dinner or important social event, serve customers with courtesy and tackle difficult situations with poise.

The higher people go in their careers, the greater demand there will be for social dexterity.  First as they represent themselves as professionals or competent individuals with the necessary confidence to get ahead and as representatives of their organization who must be able to interact in all different kinds of situations, at board meetings, travelling on business affairs overseas or liaising with business associates and clients, etc.  People who are adept in the social skills tend to project an image of confidence and in turn elicit a positive response from others.  This in turn is good for business as well as one's personal career advancement.

If a company for example is looking at two candidates with the same qualifications and work experience, the one with the greater social skill is likely to have the edge, because the organization is looking for the individual with the more positive image to represent them.

As companies detect deficiencies in the social skills of their workforce, they have been investing in programmes to correct this.  Management trainees are being sent on programmes to improve their knowledge of etiquette and protocol.  Front line staff is being instructed in good customer relations and many employees are learning about the social interaction involved in team work.

Individuals are also investing in the development of their own social skills by seeking out private instruction in courses such as speech and communication, self motivation and confidence building, improving language skills, etc.

Traditionally many men have been exposed to important social conventions and received mentoring through organizations such as service clubs or the lodge or what has been described as 'the old boy' network.

With more and more women now entering the workforce and aspiring to successful careers, or positions of leadership or public visibility, they will also need to seek out greater exposure and development of their social skills, particularly in areas such as public speaking and leadership roles and functions.  Many young women are looking to successful older career women for mentoring and are joining associations and service clubs which will provide them with exposure.

Young entrants to the workforce who are sometimes pushed aside as simply ill mannered because of their lack of social skills, are in fact ignorant of what is the appropriate thing to do and why certain conventions and protocol exist.  Many of these young people can be helped through training programmes, parent instruction or mentoring.

Training institutions are challenged to better prepare graduates in the social skills.  I for one feel that anyone graduating from a tertiary level institution should be able to face the world with a certain degree of poise and confidence and that our education should include a knowledge of etiquette and protocol, public speaking and important social conventions.

Schools can also help to develop young students' social skills by making it part of their career development activities, where students can be encouraged to see how having the right attitude, manners and personality can enhance career prospects.  Activities such as debating and assisting in the organization of events can help young students to build confidence and gain exposure.

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June 2020
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