Devices and Screens Do Not Replace Personal Interaction
You have been studying the right subjects, accredited in the correct courses, got the work experience and created a resume as a starting point for your career. It shows all the right technical skills sets (Hard Skills), except some skills might be missing, Soft Skills. Often, you don’t know that those life skills are missing. Personal referrals and references are very often an indicator to soft skills for prospective employers. Seeking out references that are indicators of your work ethics and interpersonal skills is important. But often not enough.
How important are these “Soft Skills”?
If you are looking for your first job or trying to enter a new career then they are very important. Most organisations that are recruiting a new employee will have soft skills in the top ten must have requirements for the job. When interviewing new employees managers and human resource recruiters will look and listen for soft skills. Questions related to communication, teamwork, relationships, personal interaction, listening, questioning and many more help to develop an understanding of your soft skills.
Most businesses have Mission Statements and these can be a great indicator for the importance of soft skills in the workplace.
For example; if we look at Atlassian we can see that soft skills rate highly.
"Behind every great human achievement, there is a team.
From medicine and space travel, to disaster response and pizza deliveries, our products help teams all over the planet advance humanity through the power of software.
Our mission is to help unleash the potential of every team."
How Do We Get Soft Skills
When we look at our careers we can identify the hard skills that we need to be successful. These are skills that are gained through hands-on experience, training, and education.
Soft Skills are those attributes that you use to interact and communicate effectively with other people. As we grow up and develop, we keep learning soft skills. It starts when we are infants and develops at school and as we become more active in our community of friends and family. When we enter the workplace our soft skills may not have developed to the point where we can fully understand or control them. Soft skills are a uniquely human trait and thus far have not been replicated by technologies like Artificial Intelligence.
In an article in Forbes article - 11 Essential Soft Skills In 2024 by Monique Danao she described Soft Skills as a set of personal attributes and abilities that allow individuals to effectively interact with others in a professional setting. At their core, these include the ability to collaborate effectively, manage time and communicate with clarity, among others. These are often referred to a as people skills or interpersonal skills. Of course, soft skills are not just important in a professional sense but are as important, if not more important, as a part of your life skills.
If we look back in time, not even very far back, we find that personal interaction has been a valuable and essential part of our development. Before the digital revolution transformed our daily lives, personal interactions were not just commonplace but the very fabric of our social experience. The era prior to the 1980s was markedly different to our experiences today. Daily routines were punctuated with face-to-face interactions, whether it was a trip to the local market, a chat with a neighbour over the fence, a discussion with the bank teller or in the workplace. These interactions, often with individuals outside one's immediate social circle, were not just transactions but opportunities for social learning and community building.
Can We Learn Soft Skills
Soft Skills are social skills and are less tangible than hard skills. Soft skills can still be learned and improved. Employers recognise the need to improve soft skills and will value any qualifications you have that demonstrate a willingness to improve them. Some fundamental soft skills for the workplace include communication, creativity, persuasion, emotional intelligence, teamwork and collaboration.
Pre-digital most people could name their friends and acquaintances. However, the digital era has brought with it a significant shift. The convenience of online platforms has gradually replaced many of the personal interactions. We are moving in to an era of digital convenience that, while efficient, lacks the human touch. From shopping to banking, socialising to learning and even finding partners, the digital interface has become the new normal. This transition, though it has its benefits, has led to an erosion of interpersonal skills, or soft skills, and, potentially, a rise in psychological challenges that may not be good for us.
Now we often hear people refer to their hundreds or thousands of digital connections, followers, or friends. But the vast majority of these are anonymous. Their digital representation, or persona, may vary greatly from the real live person. Friends can significantly impact and change our soft skills in various ways. Soft skills, which include interpersonal skills, communication abilities, emotional intelligence, and other personal attributes, are crucial for personal and professional success. The influence of friends on these skills can be profound. But digital connections do not have the same influence.
Learning Soft Skills
We start to learn our soft skills when we are children and it continues throughout life. Interpersonal skills developed through daily practice in real-world settings are now at risk of underdevelopment. The art of conversation, the ability to read non-verbal cues, and the practice of empathy in face-to-face interactions are becoming less common in daily life. The digital medium, with its text-based communication and anonymised interactions, often fails to convey the full spectrum of human emotion and subtlety. This shift is particularly impactful on younger generations, who may grow up with fewer opportunities to engage in and learn from real-world social skills. As AI becomes more “human” it will be difficult to recognise a real person to person interaction and machine generated interaction. But machine generated interactions are not capable of the subtlety and nuanced responses of human communication.
Soft Skills Getting Harder
The pivot to a digital-centric lifestyle has also been linked to a range of psychological effects. The constant connectivity and the barrage of digital stimuli have been associated with increased levels of anxiety and anger. The lack of personal interaction and the overreliance on digital communication can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration, contributing to these heightened emotional states.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was first identified in 1902. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that ADHD was a more common diagnosis. Since the 1990’s the rate of ADHD diagnosis has sharply increased.
The relationship between screen time and symptoms associated with ADHD has been a subject of growing concern. Recent articles, studies and reports, for example as published in Psychology Today, highlight the potential exacerbation of ADHD symptoms with excessive screen use.
The digital environment, with its endless streams of information and distractions, can produce symptoms like impulsivity, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating with excessive use. The immediate gratification offered by digital interactions can also lead to a decreased tolerance for the slower pace of real-world tasks, further complicating the ability to focus and engage in non-digital activities. More anger, anxiety, impulsivity and distraction all come at a cost.
So are we starting to suffer from Screen Attention Disorder (SAD), yes we made that up but it fits. It is sad when we see people so engrossed in the digital environment that they forget to absorb from the environment around them. When should we put down the devices and have a real conversation?
Our soft skills should kick in when we have had too much time in front of a screen. That does not always happen and we stop communicating and become reliant on devices. Businesses look for individuals that can use time and technology wisely, and communicate as part of a team. But there are many distractions in the digital world.
Navigating the Digital Landscape
While the digital era and social media has undoubtedly brought significant benefits to society, it is crucial to navigate this digital landscape with awareness of its potential drawbacks. Balancing digital convenience with real-world interactions, setting boundaries on screen time, and consciously engaging in face-to-face activities can help mitigate some of the adverse effects. Encouraging activities that foster interpersonal skills and real-world engagement from a young age is also vital.
Moreover, recognising and addressing the impacts of digital overuse is essential. This might involve promoting digital literacy and its potential problems at a younger age. We also need to foster environments, both at home, and in business and educational settings, that provide a healthy balance between the digital and the real.
Only now are some organisations seeing the need for change. Many schools for example are now taking mobile devices away from students during learning time. There are organisations asking for digital devices to be turned off during company meetings and training.
Finding Your Soft Skills
Soft Skills are one of the top skills that employers look for and the most important set of skills that you should have on your resume. Employers look for the soft skills when interviewing potential recruits. Regardless of the job or industry soft skills are important. If we lose the soft skills from organisations the ability to meet the goals that are set will be impacted and costs will be higher.
The ability to communicate is not just important to your career success but also to everyday life. As we charge ahead in the digital age, it's imperative to remember the value of personal interaction and the opportunities the real human connections can provide.
By consciously integrating real-world interactions into our daily lives and understanding the implications of our digital habits, we can hope for a balanced existence that honours both the convenience of the digital world and the irreplaceable depth of human connection.
Businesses are assessing soft skills in the work force. Soft skills are not easy to understand or measure but starting with simple surveys is one option. Start by looking at the soft skills in your resume. Include a soft skills analysis in your interview planning.
BiG Day In - Getting Started
BiG Day In events are for senior school and university students, graduates or people looking to explore careers in technology. Held on Australian University campuses, attendees gain insight into ‘university life’ and are able to make better informed decisions about their future.
Students interact in sessions covering career paths, career opportunities, the latest developments, and the future of technology. In the breaks, students visit the exhibitor stands to speak with company and university representatives and see the latest technology close up.
Attendees get information and advice about courses, degrees, work experience, internships, apprenticeships. They can talk with others with similar interests and industry leaders looking for new graduates.
Through BiG Day In the ACS Foundation helps new graduates and students to understand what skills are needed. But it gives all attendees the opportunity to network and communicate with peers and industry organisations.
As an individual what do you think of your own soft skills? The easy way to start that understanding is to ask friends, family and colleagues to describe your soft skills.
You can find out more and look for events near at BiG Day In Events 2024.
The ACS Foundation
The ACS Foundation's four main programs include:
Scholarships: for university students: As determined by our donors, we administer scholarships to university students. Scholarships are financial grants take the form of both academic and demographic grants and 'work integrated learning' (WIL) placements. Students must apply and be assessed against the criteria that is determined for each scholarship.
Foundation Jobs for new IT professionals: Employment arrangements for entry-level technology jobs for a limited time.
The BiG Day In for primary and high school students: Where articulate and passionate industry speakers meet with tech-focused school students to forge exciting pre-career connections.
Career Wheel for high school students: A visual representation of tech related jobs to assist high school students in selecting the type of technology career that is best for them.
For more information about scholarships or sponsorship opportunities please contact us.
Author: John Debrincat FACS, MAICD