3 Skills & Attributes To Focus On In The 21st Century!

As always graduation day was a very enjoyable and special day full of smiles, congratulations and a sense of having played a part (albeit a minor role) in someone’s life. This year I listened to Sarah Willingham, a fantastic entrepreneur, and as it happens a very inspiring speaker. Sarah’s story and advice was brilliant, poignant, uplifting and heartfelt and one word resonated with me and it was ‘Resilience’. “Remain resilient”, Sarah said.

I recalled my thoughts on employability attributes and skills in the 21st Century and how I can play a role in ensuring my students gain them. These skills go beyond disciplinary expertise and standard attributes such as:

• Oral & written communication
• Collaborator & networking skills
• Agility and adaptability
• Empathy and global stewardship
• Professionalism and self-regulation
• Critical thinking and problem solving
• Curiosity and imagination
• Initiative and entrepreneurialism
• Vision for the future.

I feel that there are three more attributes that are not focused on.
• Resilience
• Hope and optimism
• Grit

Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties: toughness. This ability to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever, not allowing failure to overcome you. But how do I impart this ‘rubber ball’ ability? I decided to myself 3 questions:

• Do I help learners see failure as opportunity for growth?
• Do I encourage and reinforce learners own innate resiliency?
• Do I ensure each and every learner knows “You matter”?

Hope and optimism – confidence about the success of something or about the future, the glass being half full rather than half empty. Winston Churchill’s famous quote describes it well “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Again, I asked some questions:

• Do I role model, teach, reinforce positive self-talk?
• Do I encourage a can-do attitude?
• Do I use examples that portray how others have succeeded or overcome adversity?

Grit – courage and resolve; strength of character. You’ve got to love that word, say it out loud. It’s about perseverance for long term goals and again highlighting this to students.

• How do I give learners opportunities to work on long-term, complex projects?
• Do I assist my students in identifying perseverance?
• Do I acknowledge the rewards of persevering through tough times?

Since asking these questions of myself I have starting to notice positive events, promoted seeking of new experiences, encouraged and role modelled the development of a positive attitude and self-belief and fostered a culture of listening. This has given a focus on my teaching. I have engaged in positive talk, maintained perspectives and developed a positive attitude.

So, what attributes and skills do you think are important and need to be added? How would you / do you develop them? What am I missing here? Let me know in the comments.

Karl McCormack, Lecturer – Accounting & Business

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