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Your course of study is designed to nudge you towards developing a diverse, well-rounded set of skills and knowledge. However, there is only so much you can cover in a limited number of hours devoted to a course of study. This means that in order to refine the transferable skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century, you may sometimes need to look outside of your curriculum.
For this reason, it is essential that you create a semester skill development plan in order to steadily acquire all the necessary skills before graduation. This topic will outline the Top Ten 21st Century Skills identified by the World Economic Forum, which should be at the forefront of your skill development plan:
Emotional intelligence is the ability and willingness to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their position, even if you do not agree with them or do not share their values. It is the foundation for respect, effective communication, collaboration, and service.
Plan: Join or start a Student Club, interact with fellow members, and consider taking on a leadership role to practice emotional intelligence. To further develop these skills, become a JCU Student Mentor or JCU Student Ambassador. Involvement helps to practice building rapport, assessing developmental needs, providing tailored guidance – essential skills in serving professional clients and assuming leadership positions within organisations.
People management and collaboration
Based on your emotional intelligence, you can identify people’s strengths and interests and effectively allocate tasks, persuade them to contribute, and see where your own contributions fit in. You want to create an environment where your collaborators feel valued, supported and self-motivated. It is important to be aware of your own natural management style and recognise your collaborator’s work style, and develop your ability to manage a work style that is not naturally matched with your management style in order to make the collaboration effective, satisfying and smooth.
Plan: Apart from your involvement in a Student Club, try to compete in a student competition or challenge. Recruit a small, interdisciplinary team and help deliver a solution to a real life problem. Employers look for creative risk takers and innovators and will be impressed to hear about your project management and teamwork experience. Most of these competitions are scheduled once a year, so the sooner you pencil them in your calendar and start recruiting your teammates, the better.
Service orientation refers to a ‘can do attitude’ and the willingness and ability to go that extra mile in understanding, anticipating, and willingly addressing others’ needs. A service orientation is consistently listed by employers as one of the top five requirements for all jobs and is also a source of personal satisfaction for those who display it.
Plan: Consider a part time or casual job whilst you are studying – check JCU CareerHub for opportunities. Employers highly value part time work as a proof of your ability to act in a professional manner, follow workplace policies (health and safety, non-discrimination/harassment), and display transferable skills, such as customer service, teamwork, analytical skills, reasoning and problem solving, and time management.
Creativity boils down to generating new ideas. Many people tend to associate creativity with fine arts, literature or music. However, most human creativity happens in other areas, and is a condition of novel thinking in complex problem solving, scientific discovery, engineering, product or service development, politics and policy. Creativity starts with the attitude of seeing problems as intellectual challenges to find solutions, rather than something to avoid or complain about.
Plan: To practice this skill, participate in the JCU IT Design Sprint (for IT, Engineering and Science students), partake in student competitions and challenges, keep an eye on the events and programs offered by JCU Connect, or complete an online module on enterprise/creative thinking – see Boost Your Skills module in the JCU Employability Edge program.
Critical thinking and complex problem solving
Critical thinking boils down to your attitude to assess information on its merits, such as understanding varying points of view. It employs analytical skills and is an essential ingredient of any effective negotiation – a conversation aimed at finding a compromise between disagreeing parties. Critical thinking is also necessary to solve complex problems. A complex problem, as opposed to a complicated or difficult problem, requires novel solutions because some problems cannot be solved by following pre-determined steps and can have a variety of outcomes.
Plan: Volunteering, workplace experiences, placements, capstone projects, fieldwork, internships, and vacation programs often provide opportunities to tackle complex problems. Course-relevant experience also enables you to clarify and refine your professional interests, and test your knowledge and ability to apply it in real-life professional situations – see Maximise Course-Relevant Experience module in the JCU Employability Edge program.
Negotiating is a dialogue between at least two people aimed at shifting disagreement into a mutually beneficial outcome, which usually involves compromise on both sides in order to agree on issues of mutual interest. We negotiate in everyday situations, such as agreeing on the mutually satisfactory price of a purchase, household contributions in a relationship, or task allocation in a project. Negotiation is a key task of a number of professions such as brokers, salespeople, diplomats, or lawyers.
Plan: Course group work, student clubs and activities, part time work or mooting competitions are all abound with opportunities to develop negotiating skills in practice.
Judgment and decision making
Critical thinking is necessary to exercise judgment: assess a situation from a variety of points of view, consider possible outcomes depending on various courses of action and reaching the most optimal decision given the circumstances, as well as settling on the course of action most likely to secure the desired outcomes. It often involves negotiating with the stakeholders (other people having stake or interest in the outcome) and ensuring their buy in.
Plan: To develop these skills, engage in workplace experience or volunteer through extracurricular activities. Some volunteer positions are a great way to apply your course knowledge, exercise professional judgment, and learn how to make decisions in collaboration with others. Through the act of volunteering, you can also demonstrate your commitment to specific causes and values.
Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch between different modes of thinking at will, and shift attention from one activity to the other (between mental tasks, languages, cultural patterns, beliefs) in order to effectively adapt your thinking from habitual to new situations.
Plan: Consider a short or a semester-long stay overseas as part of your degree. This will help build your global acumen, cross-cultural communication skills and cultural sensitivity; show adaptability and resilience; and develop your ability to think on your feet while dealing with unfamiliar situations and environments. Cognitive flexibility can also be developed through entrepreneurial pursuits, such as student competitions and challenges, seeking new experiences outside of our comfort zone, meeting people from outside of our familiar circle through volunteering, or changing our daily routines – the way we commute or using the non-dominant hand to operate the computer mouse.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 3 and 4