Tag Archives: scholarships

The Unlauded Benefits of Soft Skills

Too often, graduates from higher education and business schools are not taught to acquire soft skills before going into the workplace. Their focus is typically on training and education, alongside job preparation and technical skills.  However, without the appropriate soft skills, their work is an uphill challenge that comes with a steep learning curve. In this post, we take a look at the soft skills graduates need to begin learning, and why.

Communication
Writing for Salesforce, Stuart Leung explains the problem:  “Despite the supposed ‘disconnect’ of the digital age, humanity is still a very social species, and unless we as individuals understand how to communicate, cooperate, and coordinate with others, we are at a significant disadvantage – especially in the workplace.  In fact, according to Mark Murphy (author of Hire for Attitude), 46% of new hires fail in the first 18 months, and of those new hires, 89% fail for reasons associated with attitude.”

Clearly, employers are going to be looking for candidates with soft skills like communication, especially if it curbs an alarming 46% fail rate.  Attitude problems are perhaps harder to predict in a new graduate, but a good communicator is likely not going to suffer from these as severely.  Conversely, companies that have a glut of effective communicators are far less likely to lose key employees.

Learning the intangible
Rosemary Haefner of CareerBuilder (@haefner_r) says: “Saying that you’re a team player is not enough; you have to show it.  Provide an example of how you worked on a team to accomplish a particular goal.  Provide an example of a high-pressure situation that you handled with ease.”

Teamwork is just one of several soft skills that employers are looking for.  They’re also after responsibility, leadership, problem-solving skills, decisiveness and adaptability.  The truth is that many of the desired qualities in candidates are intangibles, unknown before introducing an employee to the working environment.  And the problem with these intangible skills is that they are notoriously difficult to teach.  Attributes like decisiveness, cultural awareness and emotional intelligence are hard to acquire; they are often innate talents, rather than learned ones.

In most instances, it is a challenge to develop soft skills through study alone – it is something that progresses over time, with experiences of both success and failure.  The Director of HR at the Lawn Tennis Association, Vicky Williams, argues: “Most things can be taught, other than passion – people are either born being passionate or they’re not.  That’s an innate skill. But if you take teamwork as a leadership competency, while somebody cannot go from completely unskilled to being A-starred, their leadership journey equips them to be better than when they started out.”

Value
There is no question that employers value soft skills.  In surveys, qualities like “team player” and “good communicator” are always high on the list.  However, soft skills are terribly difficult to teach directly.  The best thing employers can do is create an environment that facilitates the learning of soft skills, and giving their employees a firm grounding in what competency in these skills should look like.

Eight Interviews with MBA Scholarship Winners

Choosing MBA Master of Business Administration program for outstanding career

Welcome to the Q&A interviews with six young engineers who have each won a £30,000  Sainsbury Management Fellows scholarship to study for an MBA at a leading business school.

Over the next few days, we are publishing a new Q&A from an  awardee who will share why they decided to take an MBA and how a business education will help them achieve their goals.

Each year Sainsbury Management Fellows supports engineers with business leadership ambitions by awarding  up to 10 applicants a scholarship to help offset study costs.

Equally important, the scholarship awardees become part of the SMF network , a diverse, dynamic and experienced group of professional engineers who provide the MBA candidates with mentoring and support as they advance their careers.

If you’re a young engineer with ambitions to start a business or gain a leadership role in a blue chip company, gaining an MBA degree will augment your engineering qualifications and experience with strategy, marketing and finance skills.  These combined skills-sets will enable you to push your career in an exciting new direction.

We hope the interviews  inspire you to consider applying for a scholarship.  Learn more about how to apply.

Cathy Breeze – Steering SMF Communications for 20 Years

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Cathy Breeze took up the role of Director of Communications at Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF) around the time that email started to take off in business! 20 years on Cathy is managing a wide ranging campaign that embraces everything from the Annual Dinner and the Annual Report through to social media communications; running an active LinkedIn Group, Engineers in Business; an e-newsletter for Fellows, publications, research projects and a university business competition.

The communications channels may have changed, but the mission of Sainsbury Management Fellows remains the same – to help ambitious young engineers gain the skills and experience that enables them to become business leaders, either in their own start-ups or in blue-chip companies.

Cathy has spearheaded the external communications campaign to raise awareness of the scholarship scheme and attract high calibre candidates to apply for an award, as well as working with SMFs’ Trustees to build relationships with leading institutions such as the Royal Academy of Engineering and EngineeringUK. Cathy has helped to foster many mentoring relationships between Fellows and young engineers and helped the Trustees in the organisation’s transition to a registered charity.

At a dinner to celebrate her 20th anniversary as SMFs’ Director of Communications, Cathy said: “This has been the most rewarding job of my career, and I’ve had some interesting posts. I am fortunate to work with Trustees who have a strong vision for the charity and a commitment to deliver great results. They have inspired my work on the communications front. I very much look forward to our next challenge – raising £10 million to continue the charity’s work. We have already raised over £1.7million, which is a great start.”