Improve Your Employability By Working On Your “Soft Skills”


Let’s face it. It’s a tough time to be a recent university graduate.

For years we have worked extremely hard to pass every class, and hold part-time jobs to pay our way through school. We have been brought up to believe that with a university education, we will land our dream job immediately and start living the good life.

Unfortunately for many recent graduates, this dream has not become a reality. With youth unemployment twice the national rate at 14%, what is the issue and what can graduates do to increase their chances of being hired?

AIESEC has been asking exactly this question to the corporate organizations that they work with on a day-to-day basis. The Canadian headquarters of the world’s largest student-run organization hosted a “Youth to Business Panel” on Friday, July 29, along with the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA), that brought together top student leaders along with financial and IT sectors executives in Toronto.

The main topic on everyone’s mind: talent acquisition in Canadian industries. It was an opportunity for students to understand why young graduates are not being hired, and analyze how they could avoid becoming part of the steadily growing “Boomerang Generation”. For TFSA, and other organizations present, it was a chance to message exactly what young job seekers are missing right now. Their clear and resounding answer?

Soft skills.

As opposed to hard skills that are easily quantified by one’s level of education, soft skills cannot simply be learned through books; they have to be acquired through experience.

Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow of the Centre for Excellence at TFSA expressed that “the hardest soft skill to find is out-of-the-box strategic thinking. I find that many young job seekers are missing the ability to communicate messages clearly, and missing the ability to connect them to different stakeholders.”

“Being genuine is one of the most important [soft skills] you can have,” indicated Joe Mazzei from the City of Toronto. He continued that, “If an employer can connect your personality with the brand of the organization, you have a foot in the door.”

If there is a lack of these skills in graduates, it is clear that our post-secondary education system is not supplying us with the opportunities to acquire them. So if we cannot learn these skills in the classroom, perhaps its time to start thinking outside of it.

Getting involved in extra-curricular activities that offer the platform to develop soft skills is key. Organizations, such as AIESEC, provide students with real world opportunities to develop and perfect these sought after skills. Operating and managing the aspects of a small business, networking with business executives, and team management are some examples of soft skills that AIESEC members develop through their involvement during their university years.

“The world has changed around us. It is no longer advantageous to simply have an undergraduate degree,” stated Margaret Parent, a Director for the Insurance Institute of Canada. “Young graduates also need to draw on, or cultivate, the soft skills necessary in the workplace through their group work, part-time jobs, volunteer work, sports teams and other out-of-class activities.”

The good news is that students have resources on campus in the forms of faculty clubs or student organizations, some with a global reach like AIESEC. They simply have to look outside the classroom to find them.

For over 50 years, AIESEC Canada has been facilitating their Global Internship Program in Canada and abroad for companies, students and recent grads. AIESEC Canada is one part of the world’s largest student-run organization and is based out of Toronto.

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Photo credit: skills by George Hatcher on Flickr
About the author

Cassandra Ruggiero (@cassruggiero) is a University of Guelph graduate, and the VP Communications for AIESEC Canada (, @aieseccanada). Present in over 107 countries and territories and with over 50,000 members, AIESEC is the world's largest student-run organization. AIESEC Canada is based in 28 Canadian universities and provides over 2000 students with leadership training and over 300 members with the challenging opportunity to live and work in a foreign country in areas of management, technology, education, and development. Focused on providing a platform for youth leadership development, AIESEC offers young people the opportunity to be global citizens, to change the world, and to get experience and skills that matter today.