There was once a time when being a university graduate earned you respect. Immediately after graduation, one would get a well-paying job and live happily ever after. That has been the dream for everyone who decides to pursue education to the highest levels. It has been my dream as well. I hold a degree in Information Technology and hope to pursue my Master's soon.
However, my personal beliefs about the workplace have been challenged since the day I landed my first internship. I thought the work experience would be similar to the university class interaction I was used to.
I remember the first staff meeting I attended. The thought of speaking up about the role I played in the company was paralyzing. I felt as though everyone else was miles ahead in life. Therefore, I wished to remain invisible and not participate in anything that required me to talk. I felt the same way even in my eighth month in employment.
The education system is supposed to help us learn and grow in all areas. But I feel that it failed me. This sums up my school experience. I had one goal for both primary and second schools, which was survival. I survived through cramming my notes and getting high scores without posing to reflect on what the information meant to me. I didn't know better at the time. In university, I read just enough to get me above average during the exams season.
During my four years in the university, only one unit highlighted soft skills. The lecturer asked us to be in groups of five. She then presented us with problems that affected ICT and the society, gave us a method of presenting and set dates for each group to present their findings.
It was hard to imagine that I'd stand up and present to my peers. Mostly because the group work would not entail full participation, one or two people would create the presentation. Then the rest would brush through just enough to sound knowledgeable.
Some presentations were painful to watch, but in retrospect, I appreciate what the lecturer did. She highlighted skills such as communication, collaboration, teamwork, creative thinking, and problem-solving. I know most graduates can relate to parts of my story.
I have been out of school for three years now and was lucky to work with a training company for one and a half years. I can confidently explain what it means to be "half baked." In simple terms, most graduates lack soft skills. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable smooth interaction with other people. In my opinion, communication is the biggest struggle for most graduates, yet it's the most crucial.
By Mary Wairimu
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