5 months 1 week ago
It's exciting to see the Central College President highlighting needs for "soft skills" in workplaces of today and tomorrow. My new book, "GRIT 101: Study Smart, Learn for Life," provides strategies for boosting those skills, infusing them into typical school & college courses. Following is the text of today's editorial in the Des Moines Register:
Changing workplaces seeking ‘soft skills’
From time to time I am asked, “What keeps you up at night?”
The answer is not what people generally expect. Futurists say the nature of work will change dramatically over the next 20 years. As a result, my thoughts churn constantly on the professional pathways that lie ahead for our graduates and how they might be affected by changes in automation, computerization and artificial intelligence.
At every opportunity, I speak with leaders of large and small businesses and public and private institutions. I read much about the future of work, but there is no substitute for talking to those hiring today and anticipating the workforce needs of the future.
Based on these conversations, the best advice I can give students is: “Avoid the risk of majoring in a job title.”
Odds are the role students are preparing for won’t last in its current form long enough to support an extended career. Sometimes I think students should major in adaptation. More than any other skill, the need to adapt is essential to every career.
Some aspects of work that are less emphasized by parents and policymakers are staging a comeback. An executive from a large technology firm who has hired and managed engineers for more than 20 years looks for engineers who are “ humble, hungry and people smart.”
I asked him if he’d ever fired an engineer who was not humble, hungry and people smart. His response was a decisive, “Yes.” I then asked if he’d ever fired an engineer for not having sufficient math skills. “No,” he said. He told me what distinguishes solid engineers is not technical ability. It’s their capacity to be energetic and creative; to work in teams and with colleagues in other countries and from other backgrounds. He indicated that these “soft skills” are as important to a successful technology career as the so- called “ hard skills.”
I recently met a lawyer from a large legal firm during a dinner at a professional conference. Thinking that the law was relatively impervious to technological change, I asserted that automation and artificial intelligence would certainly not affect the legal profession in any meaningful way. He told me I was completely wrong. His firm has many large corporate clients who will not pay a lawyer to review contracts. Instead, they use a software program that learns through pattern recognition the essential elements of a valid contract. The software “reads” the
contract, validates it and the client saves money. Lawyers perform other tasks that require novel thinking and creativity.
At another dinner, a recruiter for a large, big- city corporation told me that no applicant for any position gets past her unless they write and speak well. Her company views these skills as a proxy for many other strengths. This practice was not limited to positions that required writing skills. It was applicable to all positions in the corporation.
I recently read an article entitled “Wanted: Experts at Soft Skills.” The article describes corporate training in empathy skills to maximize personal relationships with clients — skills a computer cannot replicate. PBS NewsHour recently aired “How These Humanities Graduates are Finding Jobs in Silicon Valley.” The piece featured employees and entrepreneurs with undergraduate degrees in philosophy, art history, dance and English who are playing vital roles in the technology industry.
There’s a theme here. We like things simple. But the world is not cooperating. We face accelerating complexity and change. The skills of the future certainly involve technical and professional competence. But competitive graduates need to be energetic, hardworking, understanding of human difference and diversity, creative and critical thinkers, effective communicators, appreciative of context and nuance and of high character.
This sounds a lot like a liberal arts education and the mission of Iowa’s private colleges and universities.
Mark Putnam is president of Central College in Pella, Iowa, and the current chair of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities board of directors. Email: president@central. edu
5 months 2 weeks ago
MAKE A Personal TIP JAR
Feel marvelous right now with this three minute guided meditation by Mary Jorgensen
The New Year arrives with promises of better times, the opportunity to become a better person, and a new chance to experience better outcomes from our daily efforts. But any day can be a New Year’s Day, a time to renew and resolve to be the person we want to be.
Some us have been advised to “let go” of the past, to move on to new and exciting experiences.
I’ve noticed that it’s easier said than done.
The potential of the New Year can quickly fade, and the same old struggle sets in. Past resentments, worries and self-doubts come creeping in and it isn’t long before I’m back in the pot holes of daily life.
I’ve researched the best practices to create a practical strategy that can stick around long enough for good results to show up. In other words, something that’s fun and doable over a period of time.
Here’s how it works:
SET UP YOUR TIP JAR! Find a box or a jar that you’ll call your “Tip Jar.” Pick something that pleases you and can be set aside for this purpose. Start right away, even today, to put little gratitude notes in the jar.
Sit down to write short notes for each of the reasons you feel optimistic and happy right now. One “happy note” for each bit of paper. Fold in half, toss into your jar. You’re building your account of what you’ve noticed that makes you feel good, experience joy, or boosts your confidence and good will.
As you begin to write, this trains your brain to notice what’s going well. Emphasizing what you’re thankful for, raises your level of optimism toward what’s happening next.
BANK THOSE NOTES! While you’re growing your “tip jar account,” with regular deposits, you can draw out a “happy note” anytime you need some positive feelings.
MAKE A WITHDRAWAL! When your day sinks into stress, worry or anger, reach into your personal tip jar and make a withdrawal. The gratitude note you wrote earlier will bring you a good memory, a smile, or a kind word.
Your tips will remind you of the challenges you’ve worked out already giving you a little dopamine boost.
PAY IT FORWARD! Think what a “happy note” can do for you to dial down anger, worry and self-doubt.
You can free your brain to solve problems in a positive way, cooperate pleasantly with others, and become the better person you want to be.
(For further understanding: Presence, by Amy Cuddy; Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.; Mindsight by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. )
6 months 2 weeks ago
Concerned about school kids' safety? As an adult, do you notice effects of school teasing and bulllying? Life coaches like me are so encouraged when school administrators initiate compassionate relationship building in school. John Eyerly, superintendent of George-Little Rock Iowa schools, has sponsored a program to identify every high school student in terms of who interacts with them in a caring way at school. Wow. Enlisting all school employees, from bus drivers to administrators, to interact positively with every kid every day has helped turn some students from violent thoughts to more beneficial thoughts. Here's what I wonder: What if parents determined also to interact POSITIVELY with each child every day? Caring matters in our world.
7 months 3 weeks ago
Need a reason to say something nice to someone? Researchers tell us that, every negative gesture or comment needs to be balanced with at least 3 "good things." Otherwise, the negative haunts, humiliates and hurts forever! We can all recall a slur or a slight in our recent past. Some criticisms or put-downs can stay with us for life, with results that still keep us from exploring our best selves. Especially from friends, domestic partners, teachers, or work mates, the negative sticks and stays. When we notice at least 3 good things about ourselves, however, we're inspired and our confidence can be restored--even a little bit. It's worth trying: say something nice, complimentary, optimistic today, especially to someone whom you've criticized in the past. Our world will be better for doing that.
8 months 3 weeks ago
I was talking with Shoken one day, the Abbott of Ryumonji, pouring out all my worries, worst fears, the usual. It was a time like today, when the future was so uncertain, my control over it so minimal. What's going to happen, I pleaded with the wise Buddhist. He seemed calm, empathic, but unmoved. Eventually, after a silence, he said, "Mary, let's just take care of today." Nothing more.
9 months 1 week ago
Ever notice that what you think about can really drag you down? Neuroscience tells us that our physical bodies respond to our thoughts, and that thoughts can either drag us down or cheer us up. Beyond simple emotion, the thoughts then bring about actual situations in our lives. So, if we're "dragged down" by doubt, fear, or anger, we will act in a way that keeps that feeling going, attracting events and people who fuel that feeling for us. On the other hand, if we're cheered by an optimistic or grateful thought, our physical bodies respond in ways that keep that feeling or awareness going. So, doubt, fear, anger can bring on more doubt, fear and anger. Likewise, optimism and gratitude can bring on more optimism and gratitude. When you shift your thoughts, you can go about your day to get positive outcomes. Contact me to learn more!