TECHNICAL skills are always important, but on their own they are no longer sufficient for ambitious graduates seeking to build a successful career, an education expert has said.

Because in today’s constantly changing and fast-paced global environment, employers look for graduates who are resilient and can build long-term relationships with customers, colleagues, communities and other business partners. “The ability to get on well with people and actively build relationships among all role-players and stakeholders is now more important than before and absolutely essential for those graduates seeking to distinguish themselves in the job market,” said Wonga Ntshinga, the senior head of programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, one of the largest private higher education institution.

He said that while relationship-building comes naturally to some people, others have to work on it. “Whichever category you belong to, it is essential for all graduates to exercise their muscle when it comes to working well with your team, fostering cohesion and communicating effectively.” Ntshinga said there are four competencies that support the effective performance and career growth of graduates beyond their field of academic expertise. He advised students to start developing them as soon as possible, with the help of their institution’s support services if need be, and build on them after graduation.


“Effective communication is perhaps the most important competency to develop because it is one that is not readily replaceable by technology. “Communicating effectively allows you to build relationships, listen carefully, influence matters and build empathy,” he said.

Ntshinga said graduates should aim to use, as far as possible, simple language devoid of jargon when communicating with colleagues. “If you are in a technical field, use standard terminology and use the appropriate terms correctly. As a graduate, you need to learn how to clearly communicate your messages to your colleagues and management, as miscommunication has the potential to negatively affect even the execution of your work and projects.”

He said that it is essential that graduates understand they will work with multiple people across multiple projects. “Effective communicators understand how tone, body language and context change the meaning of words. Therefore, as a graduate, learn how to craft and package your messages, written and oral, in such a way that the message is clear and easily understandable, whether you are giving instructions to your team or explaining strategy to management.”

Interpersonal relations

Graduates must develop how they relate to colleagues, managers and customers. “Also called enduring skills or soft skills, developing your ability to build relationships will help you become tactful, diplomatic and eventually an excellent negotiator and mediator – all traits that are in high demand in our increasingly race, age, gender and culturally diverse workplaces,” he said.

Analytical savvy

The willingness and ability to solve problems in the workplace is a major competitive advantage, said Ntshinga. “Set yourself apart by trying to find solutions, rather than simply pointing out problems and waiting for others to solve them. When faced with complex problems, break the main issues down into smaller components, then start where you can.”

Business acumen

Do as much as you can to develop beyond your current position, Ntshinga advised. “You need to study and understand the trade of your organisation – its clients, staff and stakeholders. You need to demonstrate expert insight into aspects of the business outside of your area of expertise and understand the broader operating environment. “You also need to constantly develop your complementary skills. For example, do related short courses to remain competitive. By merely knuckling down and focusing on your daily tasks alone, you limit your resilience and ability to adapt to new roles if changes are introduced in the business.”

In today’s competitive environment, with many graduates competing for limited positions and career advancement opportunities, employers naturally look for graduates who can offer the full package and get on with the job from day one without needing to be micro-managed, he said. “If you are able to demonstrate your ongoing commitment to personal and professional development beyond the subject expertise you gained as a graduate, you will effectively boost your personal brand and position yourself well to advance your career.

“Well-rounded graduates who display the aforementioned traits are hugely attractive to any company looking to appoint those who can boost the strategic competitiveness of their teams, rather than just employing those who tick off tasks without demonstrating their commitment to growth,” said Ntshinga.

Supplied by Meropa Communications on behalf of The Independent Institute Of Education

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