Did you know:

  • 45% of US employers say lack of skills is the "main reason" for entry-level vacancies
  • Only 42% of worldwide employers believe new graduates are adequately prepared for work
  • The American Management Corporation reports that employers want workers who can think critically, solve problems creatively, innovate, collaborate and communicate.
  • 77% of employers said soft skills are just as important as hard skills
  • 60% of applicants lack "communication and interpersonal skills"
  • 77% of employers surveyed said soft skills are just as important as hard skills

About

The MSU Student Professional Development Program provides opportunities for students to develop the professional soft skills employers want in job applicants and new employees.

Many employers, both local and national, reported that students were underprepared when they entered the workforce due mainly to a lack of professional soft skills that allow an employee to become assimilated into an organizational culture and to perform at high levels within and meet the expectations of an organization.

Based on direct local employer feedback and surveys conducted with global employers by professional staffing agencies and university and employer partnerships, the Allen Yarnell Center Student Success Center recognized this need and created the MSU Professional Development Program to help our students close this skill gap and be better prepared to enter the workforce.

What are professional soft skills?

Professional soft skills are intangible attributes that can allow one to work and communicate well with others in a professional setting, build strong working relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and customers, and find motivation and drive to perform at a high level. Being able to communicate effectively, collaborate, network, handle criticism, adapt to change, display a positive attitude, and exhibit professionalism in all facets of work are all examples of soft skills. By contrast, hard, technical skills allow one to complete a specific task such as designing a website, building a database, creating a lesson plan, and conducting a statistical analysis.

When commenting on the skills and training of employees, high level executives and managers often assert that they can teach technical skills, which typically has to be done frequently because of the rapid pace of technological change, but it is much more difficult to teach soft skills.

Benefits of Completing the Certificate

Professional soft skills are essential for success in any field, industry, or occupation. Look at any job announcement and you most likely will see communication skills, professionalism, and teamwork/collaboration skills in one form or another as preferred qualifications. If you have been through a formal interview for an internship or job, then you probably have been evaluated to determine at what level you possess these essential skill, whether you knew it or not.

In fact, a recruiter from the international accounting firm Deloitte, L.L.P. remarked that:
"When interviewing job candidates, managers assume that M.B.A. candidates have technical prowess and focus almost exclusively on assessing candidates’ soft skills." Deloitte, L.L.P.

Often times, these professional soft skills are not taught in the classroom alongside the technical and theoretical knowledge learned there.

Completing the professional skills certificate, and adding it to your resume and LinkedIn profile, therefore, will not only signal to employers in the job search and application process that you recognize the importance of these skills and are taking steps to acquire them, but also they will position you for success from day one in your first job and allow you to advance in your career to achieve professional growth and higher pay that comes with it. Furthermore, with the long-term life success of our students in mind, we placed this program under our Office of Financial Education because advancing in one’s career can translate into financial security and the repayment of student loans.

Format and Completion Options

Students who participate in the MSU Student professional Development Program have one of three options to complete the certificate by attending four out of five workshops offered in the following formats:

Option 1: Attend weekly workshops offered in two five-week segments each semester.

Option 2: Attend a professional skills boot camp to complete four out of the five workshops in two four-hour sessions spread over two days.

Option 3: Complete a series of online modules that cover all the material from the workshops to earn the certificate.

Workshop Topics

Professional Communication Skills
In this workshop, students will learn how to communicate in professional settings, including being aware of how we communicate with non-verbal cues that can contradict what is being said and proper email etiquette for the most common form of written communication used in organizations today.

Teamwork/Collaboration
In this workshop, students will learn the importance of collaborating as part of a team and the value employers place on this attribute, the different roles people play on a team, practice these skills, and take a personal inventory by assessing their ability to work with a diverse group of people found in most workplaces today.

Professional Etiquette
In this workshop, students will learn and practice the art of the introduction, including the 15 second elevator pitch and proper handshakes, in addition to professional decorum, dress, and appearance for today’s multifaceted work environments.

LinkedIn and Networking with Social Media
In this workshop, students will learn how to build a professional online presence and personal brand using LinkedIn and then maximize the tools available to connect with and build fruitful relationships with professionals, alumni, mentors, coworkers, and industry groups in your field.

Socialization to and Navigation of the Workplace
In this workshop, students will learn how to understand an organization’s culture and work within it, how to handle and use criticism to improve, how to effectively deal with office politics, how to build a strong working relationship with their boss, and how to find a mentor that can be critical to professional development and growth.

Contact Information:
Erin McCormick, Associate Director
SUB 177
erinm@montana.edu
406.994.4353