While my son was home from college over the holidays, we spent a lot of time talking about careers. He’s a sophomore at Tufts University and is currently trying to decide what he wants to be when he “grows up.”

I had him shadow me at work and meet with a number of my colleagues to see what they did and how they navigated their own career journeys. On our drive home, I mentioned that, many times, a person’s major has little impact on what career(s) they build. A 2014 CareerBuilder survey showed that just more than half (51%) of graduates said their job was related to their career major.PB-US-Blog-Inline-Soft-Skills

So if a major doesn’t majorly affect your career (see what I did there?), what skills are most important to building a successful career in today’s – and tomorrow’s – workforce?

The truth is, it’s the soft skills that are so critical, because they are the ones that can be applied wherever we go.

Here are a few examples of how you can hone your soft skills to be an asset to any organization:

  • Learn to live with and leverage technology. You do not need to be a technologist, but you do need to embrace tech.
  • Synthesize data and build narratives around it.  You do not need to be a data scientist, but you do need to be able to tell stories with data.
  • Focus on human connection and understanding and appreciating others’ perspectives. You do not need to be a psychologist, but you do need to connect with others on a personal level.
  • Continue to learn. You do not need to be a PhD, but you do need to be observant and curious in order to stay relevant.

Follow your passion. Building a career is a journey – and it’s often not a direct route. Make decisions about your career that fuel your passion. You will enjoy the ride so much more.

Could soft skills be the key to career fulfillment?

I encouraged my son to find a major he is passionate about, not one that “guarantees” him a job. While it may be easier to get an initial job with certain majors (such as accounting or engineering), that job may not always lead to long-term career success and fulfillment (and I would bet that is even more the case when the individual wasn’t passionate about the major in the first place). Of course, the flip side of that is, with certain majors, you may have to work harder to get that initial job. But once you it, it’s no longer about your major, but your passion, work ethic and continued skill development.

Figuring out majors versus career choice is not a new challenge; it’s one of the few college dilemmas that hasn’t changed over the decades. But as the world evolves, the most prepared job candidates will have mastered the soft skills necessary to follow your passion – wherever it leads – and build a successful career.

What soft skills do you recommend to the workforce of tomorrow?


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Al Chiaradonna