Soft Skills and Success Go Hand-in-Hand

... children are putting in place the skills that become the basis for later success. They are learning to learn ...

It's never been truer than it is today that hard skills will get you an interview but soft skills will get the job for you and enable you to keep it. As with so many other individual skill sets, the foundation for these soft skills is best laid in the earliest years of a child's life.

More and more, businesses don't see a college degree as a guarantee that someone has the skills for success. Rather, they see soft skills – honesty, trustworthiness, team building, effective communications, conflict resolution, and positive attitudes – as equally essential for achievement on the job.

Concerns by major Memphis employers frequently focus on the importance of soft skills for their employees – showing up for work on time, contributing to a positive work environment, encouraging high-functioning teams, defusing conflict, and displaying courtesy and good manners.

Early Childhood Development is the Foundation

In recognition of this fact, the University of Memphis' Fogelman College of Business and Economics now has an initiative spotlighting the four C's – emotional control, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. It is a timely initiative, and in support of it, Memphis needs to concentrate on a fifth C, one that begins two decades before students enter their college classrooms. It is childhood development in the first three years of life, the time when the best foundation for these soft skills is laid.

During these years, children are putting in place the skills that become the basis for later success. They are learning to learn by asking questions - by building experiences and vocabulary through play, observation, interaction, and problem solving, and by mastering their own feelings and emotions.

When young children are healthy and feel safe, loved, and nurtured, it leads to the optimal brain development of their social, emotional, and cognitive skills. In other words, children lay the foundation for their soft skills during the first years of their lives. During these early years, success builds on success like stair steps toward the future.

Many Conditions Inhibit Healthy Social and Emotional Development

Many children in Memphis are born into families where fundamental needs are out of reach. Without heroic efforts by parents, early childhood care-givers, and others, these children are less likely to develop the social, emotional, and cognitive skills that are inextricably intertwined and will be called on later in life in the workplace. It doesn't mean that these soft skills can't be developed later in life, but like brain development itself, it is much easier in the first three years of a child's life.

Early Interventions are Most Effective

Today, we understand that early interventions are most effective at supporting optimal brain development, and we know also that they produce significant returns – for individuals, businesses, and communities. It is a reinforcing circle: workers need soft skills to succeed, which contribute to the success of businesses, which then hire more workers.

Today's job market is characterized by growing competition, and to succeed, applicants need the competitive edge that is provided by personal traits, habits, and attributes. The learning of these soft skills begins early for the best outcomes, and that is why a city that cares for its children makes sure that every child's first years have the positive development that equips them for success in the future.