Takeaways from the CareerUp Expo

Well, we went for the hat trick of career/education fairs — adding a third outing to our recent habit of stepping out of the office for some quality face time with potential students.

Last week, Devon and I forged through the morning rain to attend the CareerUp Expo, just a few blocks away from our offices in Washington, DC, where we had the opportunity to chat with attendees and presenters about what Saylor Academy can offer our neighbors here in the District of Columbia.

The Expo, put on by the District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in conjunction with the Greater Washington Board of Trade, brought together students, employers, employees, job-seekers, and experts to discuss the opportunities available in the local economy and the skills that employers are really looking for.

And we heard a lot about soft skills: caring, reliability, consistency, effort, communication, curiosity, attitude, commitment, preparation, and so forth.

We also heard that what you say on your resume, in your cover letter, during an interview — it does count. But how you say it, what you do, and how you do it — these count much more.

Caring about doing good work and supporting the people you work with are skills that anyone can develop — and that any great employee must.

The employers noted that job seekers often do not give themselves enough credit and do not show at least as much as they tell in an interview or in a job. Often, prospective employees think that they do not have the soft skills that a job may require, forgetting that their roles as parents, mentors, volunteers, or members of a congregation will have provided them with skills aplenty.

That is to say, don’t sell yourself short. Understand your strengths. Believe that you are the right person for the job. And make sure that others see that, too, by putting in effort, asking for help, and constantly learning.

And here’s the thing: looking at a long list of soft skills can seem overwhelming. Nobody is perfect. We all have bad days…weeks…months…

…years…

But so much of success really does begin with that major life skill we call “showing up”. And you might be surprised just how far ahead of the pack you will be with a reasonable amount of effort.

One of the panelists at the Expo, a restaurant employee who spent his early years on the line in the kitchen, was asked, “What separates the good line cooks from the bad?”

And his reply: “Just giving a [darn], I guess.”

That attitude — caring about doing good work and supporting the people you work with — is a skill that anyone can develop.

We hear a lot about the need to develop technical skills, and the flavor-of-the-decade remains “STEM”.

I left the Expo surprised and impressed by the emphasis on soft skills, and heartened by how much employers value the kinds of attributes that everyone can bring to the table.

I should mention here that Saylor Academy offers free courses covering all kinds of soft skills: communication, customer service, organization and study skills, working with people, dealing with the unexpected — you name it.

You can take any course you like on your own schedule, at no cost, starting today.

Start the discussion at discourse.saylor.org