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How Soft Skills Propel STEM Careers

How Soft Skills Propel STEM Careers

If you had to describe the ideal qualities for success in a STEM career, you might immediately think of the technical skills and expertise that differentiate STEM from other fields. 

But there is another equally important but often forgotten layer: soft skills. 

As a teacher or school administrator, you want success for your students after graduation, but how can you help them build the vital soft skills they need to achieve that success?   

What are soft skills? 

Soft skills are skills relating to how you work, not what you know or what technical things you can do. For example, teamwork, leadership, communication, problem-solving, creativity, and any kind of public speaking. 

There is more and more emphasis from employers that these are the skills they’re looking for. Most job candidates will find that the technical skills on their CV get them to the job interview stage, but that it’s the soft skills questions during the interview that mean they get hired—or not. 

Also, and even more importantly, it’s the soft skills that help people succeed in their job and get promoted later. So, while you can always improve technical STEM skills, it’s vital to continuously develop soft skills in STEM jobs.

STEM are missing skills from university degrees

The problems begin with many STEM university courses, as the focus is on acquiring and building technical skills and knowledge. Universities see soft skills as things people will develop in the real-world situations of the workplace after graduating. 

But hiring managers are looking for well-rounded employees that demonstrate soft skills from the outset. This mismatch causes a problem known as the ‘STEM paradox’. Meaning there are more than enough capable STEM graduates for jobs, but vacancies are hard to fill.

There are three critical soft skills that will help in any role or when running their own business:

1. Soft skills in entrepreneurship 

Creative thinking, critical analysis, and problem-solving are soft skills that STEM students often naturally excel at and are built into the nature of university degrees. 

Unsurprisingly, many of the great innovators of our time, such as Steve Jobs of Apple, or Anne Wojcicki, the founder of 23andMe, a DNA testing company, were STEM experts who became entrepreneurs. But, without the ability to inspire others and to sell their ideas, their companies might never have gotten off the ground.

2. Soft skills in public speaking

Public speaking includes more than presenting ideas on stage at a conference. It covers anything to do with communicating ideas to other people—something that starts during a job interview and is part of any meeting or interaction with other people. 

Public speaking skills are especially important in STEM-related jobs because complex data and concepts often need to be communicated to non-tech co-workers. The ability to speak—and write— concisely and in an engaging way helps to avoid problems and misunderstandings. It can also be a huge boost to how well other people think you can do your job. 

3. Soft skills in leadership 

Simon Sinek, author of Leaders eat last, believes that good leaders make people feel safe because they perform better when they aren’t worried about losing their job or getting shouted at. So, vital communication skills in STEM, like in any field, involve soft leadership skills such as negotiating and finding compromise, managing conflict, delegating, and making people feel included. 

A good example of this is where top surgeons are working with nurses. If nurses don’t feel safe to report mistakes, or are intimidated by the surgeon, it can harm the patient. 

ELSA helps improve the #1 soft skill in STEM

The foundation supporting all of these soft skills lies in communication. Most jobs involve working with others, even in the most technical STEM careers. But it’s difficult to collaborate, lead, negotiate, or resolve conflicts in English without good communication skills. 

And public speaking, like in job interviews, meetings or presentations? These three scenarios are impossible for even the most gifted STEM students without the confidence to speak English fluently.

That’s where ELSA comes in. 

Our award-winning technology can provide speech feedback to help students level up their speaking skills in four main areas: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and fluency. ELSA can record and analyze speech, providing 95% accurate feedback in real-time. Thus, students can compare their speech to a mother tongue speaker’s, study their mistakes, and receive tips for improvement. 

If you want to see the possibilities for your talented STEM students to improve their English communication skills, sign up for a free trial today! 

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