Saturday, July 31, 2010 Career Congress 2010: "Booksmart is not Enough"

By Chanda Shahani

In today's competitive job market, being "book smart" is no longer enough for new graduates. They not only have to bring in technical skills to the table; but they also have to have people skills and the right attitude as well.

Penny Bongato, Human Resources Director for Logica, who was speaking before an estimated 400 school administrators from all over the country at the Career Congress '10 held on July 30, 2010 at the SMX Convention center at Pasay City said that several studies conducted by the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) conclusively show that the gaps that remain between what industries want and what schools can supply from its fresh graduates are "in the areas of skills and attitudes."

To drive home the point, she also showed a video that is available on (Please click on the video embedded above to watch this) which dramatizes the dillemma of a new graduate's not being able to make the grade in a job interview, despite possessing that all-too-precious diploma.

"A PMAP study made in 1999 showed that many graduates applying to staffing entry level positions fail in basic communication skills," she said.

She said that another PMAP study made in 2006 also showed that many graduates lack English oral communication skills, personal confidence and the ability to solve problems independently.

In 2008 a detailed study foucing on behavioral cometencies and surveying eight (8) industries showed that the growth areas for jobs were in Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Pharmaceutical industries, and Hospital Serrvices. It found that the three main cometencies expected outside the technical competency ofthe graduates were in communication, initiative taking and critical thinking.

"By communication I mean understanding and being understood," she said. She said that listening was a communication skill that graduates needed to possess. This also involves questioning and probing skills and also diplomatic skillls as well as being able to express one's ideas inoral and written format."

Many graduates have poor comprehension, are introverted and lack self-confidence, she said.

Initiative taking was also important because companies expect graduatesto have the emotional confidence to make a decision as well as being proactive and self-starting. She said that the graduate in today's workplace has to have the courage to take action and to be accountable. In this regard, a student who had extra curricular actities in school involving extending assistance in difficult situations would be able to bring valuable skills to the workplace beyond what was taught in textbooks.

Critical thinking was also important because it involves the ability to bring solutions to challenging situations. "The root causes of a problem need to be defined correctly and then creative problem solving must be employed using logic," she said.

"In this context, being "book smart" is no longer enough for graduate to be considered being hired by an employer. The graduate must show an ability to think on his or her feet and express himself confidently," she said.

(Chanda Shahani is the Editor of the Diliman Diary).

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