How Students Can Solve Hard Problems With Soft Skills

College is a time of growth and learning for students. One of the most important skills they need to develop is problem-solving. The ability to solve problems effectively is essential in today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, and frankly, it’s useful in both professional and personal life. And it's not just the ability to solve problems that are important, but also the ability to solve problems with others.

Collaborative problem-solving has become increasingly important in today's workforce, and students who develop this skill in college will be better prepared for the challenges they’ll face in their careers. Employers are actively seeking to hire people who can bring a variety of perspectives and experiences to their teams. Companies are realizing that diversity of thought can lead to more creative and innovative solutions. When people work together to solve a problem, they can bounce ideas off one another, challenge each other's assumptions, and build on each other's ideas.

While many colleges and universities are working to incorporate problem-solving opportunities into their curriculum, having tips and techniques covered in class isn’t enough. Soft skills are the foundation of effective problem-solving. For example, Forbes contributor Amy Blaschka writes “5 Ways To Use Soft Skills To Hone Your Professional Problem-Solving Abilities,'' and her list is full of soft skills:

  • Awareness. Being aware of the problems and people around you helps you anticipate and identify potential challenges.
  • Listening. Hearing both what is said and what is not being said.
  • Curiosity. Being willing to explore all possibilities with an open mindset.
  • Creativity. Allowing yourself and others to consider ideas outside the box.
  • Grit. Focusing on the overall goal of finding a great solution, even if it isn’t easy.

Organizations agree that they want employees to be able to solve problems. But these soft skills need to be learned and practiced. Higher education is the perfect environment to begin building and testing these skills among students because they are already experiencing real problems that need their attention.  

Empowering Students to Solve Personal Problems 

College life is advertised mainly as a time to make new friends, learn new skills, and find your future vocation. Along with that fun and excitement, college students also meet plenty of new, very real problems they must learn to solve independently. Many students are suddenly faced with increased independence, responsibilities, and choices. They may also find that higher education brings less exciting reactions and feelings. 

What are some of the scenarios that students might face?

Friends and Roommates

Dealing with new people (who are also dealing with a new environment) can be incredibly difficult. Whether students are worried about finding friends, concerned for the friends they do have, or struggling with decisions like joining student organizations or a fraternity or sorority, there are many people-oriented problems that students need to navigate.

Personal Health and Safety

From homesickness to personal safety, students are learning to manage their own mental and physical health. College is often when academic stress can lead to illness, while peer pressure and social stress can drive unhealthy behaviors like underage drinking and eating disorders. 

Academic Success and Time Management

The pressure to earn good grades and graduate kicks in early and students may hesitate to advocate for themselves or seek out tutoring and counselors to help them. Working on group projects can pose even more stress, with students unprepared to work as a team and address the social issues that will surface in that environment.

In short, college students are faced with problems every day. If higher education makes the effort to teach soft skills across campus early, the result will be students who are more successful in their studies and college life, as well as highly desirable new hires upon graduation.  

Teaching Problem-Solving Principles  

So many higher education institutions are teaching problem-solving to their students. But are they doing it in the most impactful way? Tips and techniques are helpful, but students need to be taught in ways that help them realize the value of these skills and are motivated to put them into practice often. 

FranklinCovey’s LeaderU programs are designed to help students across majors and programs build the soft skills needed to solve their current and future problems. With courses focused on trust, leadership, and unconscious bias, students have the opportunity to learn the soft skills that we know will help them to solve problems:

  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Building Relationships
  • Difficult Conversations
  • Decision Making
  • Leadership Mindset
  • Handling Feedback
  • Strategic Vision

Practicing these skills during college and university study will help your students be successful during their academic careers while simultaneously preparing them to be among the most desired and successful professionals in the job market. Don’t let your students be passive learners in this critical time; help them practice and grow their skills so they can graduate with confidence.

FranklinCovey’s LeaderU courses facilitate the personal and professional advancement of future leaders by offering a rich library of verifiable certificate programs. LeaderU Knowledge Certificates are industry-recognized as helping develop the career skills of today’s students and tomorrow’s employees. To learn more about the value-add of offering industry-recognized certificate courses to your curriculum, take a tour of the FranklinCovey Education LeaderU platform. 

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