Studying abroad has a lot to offer: the chance to experience a new country, make plenty of lifelong friends, and complete your tertiary education. While there’s no doubt undergoing an international study experience will offer you a lot of practical know-how and knowledge in your chosen field, what you might not yet realise is the skills you’ll gain in other areas.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, employers seek out soft skills like teamwork and collaboration, but these skills are not as easy to find as one might believe. Studying abroad is a fantastic way to build soft skills, as it takes you out of your comfort zone and offers plenty of challenges. Keen to learn exactly what soft skills are and which ones you’re likely to gain during your time in Australia? Here’s what you need to know.
What are hard skills and what are soft skills?
A hard skill is your ability to accomplish a set task. It’s quantifiable and can be seen and measured. For example, reading, writing, doing mathematical equations, playing the piano and cooking your favourite meal are all considered hard skills. If you’ve decided to study nursing, a hard skill you’re likely to develop is how to correctly take blood pressure.
On the other hand, soft skills are the abilities that usually go unseen, such as understanding verbal cues, problem-solving and time management. While you may learn how to take blood pressure at university (a hard skill), knowing how to keep the patient calm and comfortable in your company would be considered a soft skill.
The soft skills you’ll gain from studying abroad
LinkedIn recently released an article on the five most in-demand soft skills for new hires in 2020. We’ve broken each one down so you can get a clear understanding of the skills you’ll be gaining while you study abroad.
Creativity is the number-one most in-demand soft skill. And no, you don’t have to be artistic to be creative.
In 2017, Australian supermarket chain Coles announced that it would have one quiet hour per week. This meant that the stores’ lights would be dimmed, and there would be no music and no PA announcements. The reason for this? So that people with autism would find shopping an easier experience. Coles managed to make a minority group feel more welcome without any changes to its budget. That is creativity.
So, whether you’re figuring out how to solve a disagreement among your housemates or completing an assessment that asks you to come up with interesting solutions to world issues, you are finding creative ways of solving problems – and employers love that.
Many courses will require you to complete an essay or presentation that tests your ability to convince others of your ideas. For example, you might have to argue a case in your law degree or prove to your tutor or lecturer that your climate change solution is effective. Or, you might simply be working in a sales role outside your studies where you need to support and sell to customers.
Building your persuasion skills is really valuable when it comes to making yourself more employable, as it shows potential employers that you can communicate really well and lead others with your ideas.
There’s no way you won’t develop collaboration skills during your studies. Group projects are common among most, if not all, disciplines whether it be sports science, commerce or architecture. Learning to listen to and work with a diverse group of people is an essential skill that all workplaces desire. After all, Apple exists because Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were able to put their heads together and collaborate on a product with their end user in mind.
Starting a life in a new country? You’re about to become the king or queen of adaptability. From finding a new home to figuring out how to get to your classes, there are many ways you’ll have to learn to adapt. Employers value adaptability because there are constant changes going on in the workplace, and if you’re ready and willing to jump on-board and be flexible, you’ll go a long way in your career.
Emotional intelligence is where you have the ability to be aware and in control of your emotions, as well as empathetic to the emotions of others. Someone who is highly emotionally intelligent may think before they speak compared to someone with low emotional intelligence who may speak before they think. Entering a new culture will test your emotional intelligence, as you’ll have to manage a lot of new relationships – whether that be with a new boss, friend, lecturer or mentor. And, with so many relationships to navigate, you’ll have to learn to be empathetic, sociable and decisive in an environment that is completely new to you.