Beyond academic performance, soft skills are crucial

Ibrahim Kamrul Shafin | Published: August 08, 2018 21:44:04 | Updated: August 11, 2018 13:43:06


Many of the artists currently topping the musical charts at home and abroad used to be theoretically illiterate when they started producing music. They started building upon their passion at a certain point of their lives and acquired the skills that are necessary to present the soundtracks that please the listeners finally.

The audience does not care about the literacy of the artists; they care about the products. Similarly, the consumers do not care about how educated the CEO of a company is as long as the products or services they consume or avail are top-notch. Perfecting one's output depends on many factors that a person learns on the job in different ways. In rapidly changing world that we live in, there are uncertainties in anything that a person wants to achieve. Academic results showcase discipline and performance in class, but how a person will perform in real life depends on a lot on non-academic factors. Academics can serve as a fuel to create the end products, but it is not an independent way to reach there.

Academics come into play because of many reasons; mainly because it is measurable, comparable and it accelerates skill building. However, in many scenarios, they are not the ideal representation quality or promise of performance. An entrepreneur of a company have to hire accountants to keep track of his or her  accounts and finances. If the entrepreneur is not well versed in accounting principles, he or she can never properly evaluate the skills of the person whom he or she wants to appoint as an accountant for the company. Now a track-able performance or academic results of the applicants from recognised universities can help the owner of the company to understand the potential effects of the person whom he or she is going to hire. It is understood that a quantifiable degree from a reputed university can be a good indicator of the performance of some job applicants whose work is heavily technical and involves a lot of fixed principles. However, if the entrepreneur wants to hire another employee whom he or she intends to appoint as a salesperson, solely a good CGPA from a high ranked university may not be an absolute indicator of the candidates' performance.

However accurately a university may try to simulate real-life environment to help the salespersons prepare for the job, actual human interactions with people will always be different every time. And for this, the personality and soft skills of the person have to be brought under consideration. When a senior executive in a multinational company in Bangladesh was asked, 'What helps you maintain smooth relationships with so many colleagues?' He replied, 'Countless hours of conversations about life and interests, taking tea at roadside tea stall, taking evening snacks together built the social and work relationships that I have. This significantly helps me stay ahead in the career than what I have directly learned from acquiring a degree.'

Many other professionals who used to participate in debates, business and idea competitions have voiced that their extracurricular competitive activities have helped them think clearly and logically. The logical and quick-thinking ability helped the managers to make smart decisions in their workplaces and build an excellent reputation for those particular abilities.

The students who serve on the executive committees of different clubs in their high schools and universities tend to pick up the managerial qualities from an early age which help them get an edge in the real work environment. For example, at St Joseph Higher Secondary School, Dhaka a teacher moderator of the cultural club was asked if students working for that particular club had any detrimental effect on the academics. The moderator gave an exciting reply which was corroborated by some statistical data. Since a rule was made in the club that only the students who can reach a certain threshold in their academics can get a post in that particular club, the students became more careful about their studies and club activities cutting time from other activities. This helped the students fix their priorities and work for them. It taught them work-life balance. Moreover, it helped them manage stress better by being proactive. Although it is true that not every student who aspired to be an efficient club worker could be one, it helped those students to be aware of their limitations.

Often there is a mismatch between a student's academic results and real-life achievements. High achievers who have received straight A's in their academics tend to believe that real-world judgments are made on the basis of equity which is not always the case. The evaluation and rewarding procedure of the real world are much more complicated where soft skills like networking, team work and group managing bring many opportunities that academics alone cannot bring.

Therefore, instead of creating a rigid environment in the institutions which lead hundreds of students nationwide to get depressed and lose faith in themselves, focus should be  also on encouraging students to build and pursue dynamic interests, attain cognitive flexibility and enhance skill building capacity. Academic coupled with diverse non-academic skills such as-soft skills can help anyone showcase their work with more efficiency and certainty.

The writer is a first year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. He can be reached at

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