Zig Ziglar, the world renowned motivational speaker, once revealed something interesting about what employers are looking for in candidates.

In one seminar, Ziglar asked executives from a variety of different companies to brainstorm a list of key qualities to look for in new employees. Each of them wrote descriptions of what they look for on a giant board.

After about an hour, they stopped to review what everyone wrote. And guess what they found?

Over 95% of the qualities listed were attitudes, not skills. They listed things like teamwork, strong decision-making abilities, and the ability to plan and prioritize. Research backs this up as well. According to LeadershipIQ, the most common reasons new hires fail are related to their lack of development in emotional intelligence, coachability, and motivation.

So to help you develop the soft skills necessary to perform strongly, there are three classes we recommend adding to your class schedule:

Public speaking

For most people, public speaking is the activity that they fear the most. In fact, research shows that it’s feared even more than death in many cases.

There’s a lot of generic public speaking advice out there. You’ve probably heard people say things like “no one in the audience is paying attention anyway”, or “just act confident.” But the truth is, none of this advice really helps.

The scary thing about public speaking is that many of us feel like if we stutter or say the wrong things, we’ll look incompetent in front of a crowd of people. It’s even worse if we’re speaking in front of people we like and respect. This is why generic advice about fixing your mindset just doesn’t work.

What actually works is understanding how to give a captivating speech. If you know exactly what goes into crafting a speech or presentation that people will find valuable, then you’re more likely to naturally feel at ease without having to calm yourself down.

In addition to that, communication skills happen to be one of the most valuable “soft skills” that employers look for in candidates. Check out your school’s business or English departments for these classes.

But if there doesn’t happen to be a class easily available to you, there are other options as well. There are tons of online videos where you can see firsthand the art great public speaking and deconstruct how the best prepare for a speech. For starters, here’s how a world champion public speaker puts together a presentation.

Persuasive writing

With so many online collaboration tools popping up, writing is how we communicate in the modern day. If you’re running any type of project, then chances are you’ll have to persuasively communicate your plans to your higher ups or the people you’re managing.

For example, you might have to get buy-in from executives at your company for a new piece of software. You may have to create a new business plan and present it to your boss. Finally, it’s possible that you might even have to manage contractors through tools like Slack or email. You need to be clear and be able to effectively get your thoughts across.

Every time you write something that isn’t clear, you end up wasting a lot of valuable time and resources, which can even result in you not being able to work on the projects you want to work on.

Writing is a key part of communication and taking a class on persuasive writing may show employers that they can expect crystal clear communication from you.

Introductory programming

Five or ten years ago, it might not have been so important to take programming if you were in a non-technical position.

But nowadays, practically every job is linked to technology in some way. In fact, not being able to code can be a pretty big liability in some non-technical jobs. For example, if you’re a designer and need to work with developers to design web products, your process might be a lot slower if you had to rely 100% on your developers for programming. If you’re a marketer, you might not be able to set campaigns live on your own without relying on developers.

Even if you don’t have to program anything in your job, it might still be important to be able to read code so that you can better communicate with your technical team.

If you know how to code, you’ll be able to save time and other company resources by handling some of the technical parts of your projects. In some industries, especially in areas like finance and tech, programming classes are even required by employers. As more and more industries are being disrupted by software, this will probably apply to other industries as well in the future.


Your technical skills are important, but employers know that most employees don’t fail because of their lack of technical skill. Most people are pretty competent when it comes to their job and what they need to do to be successful — where many fail is in their soft skills. And those are the skills employers look for.

By taking classes to improve your written and verbal communication, and rounding out your technical skill set by having a basic understanding of programming, you can prove to every company that you can be successful in their organization.



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