Volume 20 | issue nº 1 Spring 2018

Going “Soft”

By Dana K. Haffar

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Soft-skills workshops empower students on the professional and personal levels

Besides the standard qualifications listed on a CV, there are less obvious, abstract skills that employers look for in job candidates. What they are and tips on how to cultivate them are treated in a series of workshops across both LAU campuses, initiated last year by the Outreach and Civic Engagement Unit (OCE).

The goal of the Soft Skills Series, said Elie Samia, assistant vice president of OCE, “is to impart the intellectual density and emotional intelligence that the youth need to succeed in their lives.”

Also known as “transferrable” and “professional” skills, soft skills are those traits that set a desirable candidate apart from one who is simply qualified – that is, someone who only possesses technical knowledge or “hard skills.” Integrity, flexibility, professionalism, interpersonal and communication skills, problem-solving and leadership ability, and work ethic rank high on recruiters’ lists.

According to a study by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center, “85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15 percent of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).” The findings were drawn, in part, from A Study of Engineering Education by Charles Riborg Mann, published as far back as 1918 by the Carnegie Foundation, which revealed the pivotal role character plays in professions as specialized as engineering, law and medicine.

The interactive workshops have so far explored alternative communication skills, time and stress management, emotional intelligence, debate and interviewing skills, customer service, and business ethics, to name a few – delivered by handpicked professionals.

Speakers offering a wide spectrum of perspectives have included entrepreneurs Elie Daher and Maha Fadel; doctors Michel Khoury, Michel Nawfal and Zeina Ghossoub El-Aswad; trainer and consultant Samer Taher; Walid Abboud of MTV news; executive director and consultant Fayez El Helou; editor-in-chief of Executive Magazine and member of the advisory board at the Adnan Kassar School of Business Yasser Akkaoui; and Assil Ayyach, LAU instructor of Oral Communication.

Sessions on negotiation, interpersonal skills and body language proved invaluable to second-year Nutrition major Reem El Helou. “It’s important to know how to communicate with people of different ages and different backgrounds,” she said.

The interactive workshops continue to draw crowds of students from various disciplines eager to learn how best to present and manage themselves in a professional environment. Information and tips gained from the sessions, they agree, have contributed substantially to their professional and personal growth.

“The workshops give us the chance to investigate topics and work on our skills, because we need them in both our work and personal lives,” said Ali Moussawi, a second-year Economics student with a minor in Computer Science. “They are fundamental to anything we do in our future careers – how to communicate with others, with peers, with people around us. All hold equal importance.”

With many more insights to come, the Soft Skills Series engineered by OCE is ongoing, serving — in Samia’s words — to “ignite the sparks of youth empowerment through well-canvassed and tailor-made workshops to help them discover their voice in life.”