By Clare Schinzel
In today’s world, academic prowess is highly valued. Degrees, test scores, and grades are regarded as some of the core items that contribute to a person’s future career. But as important as academic excellence is to the workplace, it isn’t the only deciding factor in career placement.
SEL, or social-emotional learning, is the process in which individuals develop and apply their social knowledge and skills into five defined categories: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness. In simpler terms, it is the development of problem-solving and social skills.
In a world dominated by technology, basic skills like this aren’t as practiced. With answers one Google search away and technology limiting human-to-human interaction, it is easy to see how these key attributes of an employee are on the downfall. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, about 31% of employers all over the world fail to find qualified employees. With the millions of people applying for jobs all over the world every day and the increase in college graduates, a percentage that high shows how our communication skills are dropping rather than evolving in the long run.
Employers value critical thinkers and problem solvers more than traditional academics for a reason. Careers are almost never a solo job. No matter how secluded it may feel, collaboration is a requirement in every workplace. In the end, academics alone won’t get students anywhere, even in fields where that is often mistaken for the case.
For example, the medical field is, without a doubt, a high academic level study course. However, it is not all textbooks and papers. Surgeries, diagnostics, and other key parts of the practice require multiple doctors and nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how fast medicine and medical procedures had to evolve in order to keep everyone safe. Each doctor may have an extensive academic background, but working together becomes necessary in a field that experiences so many changes in treatments and studies. Without being able to communicate the results of studies and safety procedures, the public would not get answers and clear directions to questions like quarantines, school procedures, and masking.
Psychology is another medical career that requires an SEL background. While studying standard procedures and brain functions are necessary, being able to accurately communicate and connect with a patient is essential to career success.
But high academic level jobs aren’t the only ones that require SEL. Even something as simple as a cashier worker needs it. Accurately communicating with management, fellow employees, and customers are essential to smooth service.
Additionally, just as in the medical field, all sorts of problems pop up: broken registers, lost items, and misplaced products are common issues in the business. Unfortunately, there won’t always be a certified technician to fix a jammed register, so it is up to the employee to either fix the problem or efficiently ask for help.
Core subjects like math, science, and other classes are extremely useful for many career paths. However, employers have said that it is no longer the biggest deciding factor in hiring. Critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and other SEL skills top the list of hiring criteria. In a world so dominated by academics, it’s hopeful to see a surge in basic human “life skills.” This new criteria opens up many careers in management, retail, business, and other places to new groups of people and proves to the world that there are sometimes more important things than memorizing a textbook.
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