Imagine: you’re a recently graduated student, receiving your diploma with a sky-high GPA. You’re all ready and set to start your career. You’re intelligent, ambitious and you’re heading to your first job interview with great confidence. You are well prepared, you have read everything there is to read about the company and you’re sure you have something to offer! However, the interview doesn’t go as planned. It turns out there are a lot of applicants for the job and you did not make the next round. Bummer. When you ask for feedback, they tell you that everything checked out from a theoretical perspective, but that they aren’t convinced by your level of soft skills. How did this happen?

Within academic education, there is usually little space (read: time and money) to train students in soft skills. We’re talking about communication skills which, in addition to other kinds of academic skills, have to be developed to pursue a successful career after graduating. You might have experienced a role play in one of your courses, and a presentation is usually part of the curriculum as well. However, you never followed a course (or even had any noteworthy guidance) that trained you in developing these skills. Even in social studies such as psychology or pedagogy, soft skills are dropped in favor of theoretical frameworks and statistics. Not exactly representative of the job that most students have in mind.

Skills shift

However, there is a noticeable shift going on: more and more universities invest in tools that allow for soft skill training, without it being time-consuming for the teacher. Most of the time, these online tools will help you to be more aware of your own behavior. In addition, there are also tools which enable you to actually practice the desired behavior in your own time and at your own pace in preparation for an internship, presentation or interview. You’re able to immediately reflect on yourself with the help of a checklist, but you could also ask fellow students for feedback. A teacher can be added as a coach to provide further guidance. This enables the students to make sure they head into a job interview, sales pitch or presentation well prepared.

Fun, interactive and educational

For example: Utrecht University’s Career Service department offers students the possibility to practice soft skills using video role plays. “Fun, interactive and very educational” as a student described it. Even within theoretical courses, practicing these skills is no unnecessary luxury. In the geography program, students practice their interviewing skills using video role plays. With great effect: “It gives you more insight into conducting an interview. The preparation was very useful as well.” This way, students are trained to communicate better and might just get the job of their dreams!

Curious about the experiences of teachers using video role plays in their courses? Read about it in our case study!

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