work smart

I was never taught
to accept compliments.
Instead I want to cry
as I fumble on words
trying not to call them
a liar.
I was never taught
that my work was
just as good
if not better
than his.
I was taught
that a girl could be
smart or pretty,
never both.
I was taught to walk silently
without conflict
without uproar.
Confidence is a lost art
in our children.
Compassion was removed
from the curriculum
for another state exam.

And if you think
I am lying
or being over-dramatic,
you are perpetuating the disease.

—  Michelle K., The Real Reality.

Careful listening, collaboration, asking good questions—these “soft skills” aren’t always taught in school.

Today’s college graduates need every skill-related edge they can get when it comes to applying for and landing a full-time job.

Numerous surveys and reports indicate that recent U.S. college graduates face a wildly competitive job market along with astronomical student loan debt. More than 40% of recent graduates are underemployed and 16% are working part-time jobs, according to Accenture’s 2013 College Graduate Employment Survey.

One employer survey, conducted by staffing company Adecco, indicates that 44% of responding companies cited “soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration” as the area with “the biggest gap.”

Additionally, a Talent Shortage Survey from ManpowerGroup discovered that nearly one in five employers worldwide is unable to fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills.

So what are these soft skills—and other critical workplace skills—that are necessary to join today’s collaborative, fast-moving, real-time workforce? Here are five:

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Pencil Vs Camera - 64 by Ben Heine on Flickr.


“The habit of going home to your spouse and debriefing them is very intuitive for a lot of people,” says Peter Shallard, a business psychology expert who focuses on entrepreneurs, but it’s a bad idea.

First, “being stuck in your own work problems is a form of self-indulgence,” and second, rehashing a work problem will “stimulate us to mentally regress back to that afternoon when we had that problem.”

Instead, ask your family members (or friends or roommates) about their days, and challenge yourself to be a good listener. Focusing on other people and their needs is a great way to get out of your own head.

"Smartphones mean the office is always in our pocket. Smart drugs could mean the office is always in our minds."

Given the recent surge in the popularity of nootropics—non-toxic, non-addictive drugs that enhance learning acquisition, increase the coupling of the brain’s hemispheres, and improve processing—a debate over the murky limits of our neurological optimization has arisen as well.

Clearing your mind and living in the moment isn’t about putting productivity on hold. You can be more profitable with less brain clutter.

If you are like me, you probably find yourself multitasking more, yet feeling like it really isn’t benefiting you. As a society, we’re stressing out about more and accomplishing less, adversely impacting both our mindsets and our productivity.

Most of us think of this as the new normal, and we’ve gotten used to juggling more. The begrudging acceptance of this attitude prevents companies from taking actions needed to keep workers focused and productive.

A stretched-thin, stressed-out workplace is not the workplace of the future. It falls on business managers to change this culture and promote focus and compassion—a concept making the rounds in workplace circles known as “mindfulness.” This is the technique of tuning out the noise and focusing deliberately on what is important.

Studies have found that mindfulness at work can increase engagement, productivity, innovation, and measurable business results. Here are three tips to increasing your mindfulness so that you cross tasks off your list and stress about them less.

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