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Good grades are just not enough anymore

As a child, were you ever told something along the lines of “go on, study, so that when you grow up you can become a [doctor/teacher/lawyer]”? While academic effort is linked to greater employability and a higher income later on in life, employers are generally no longer impressed by grades or university accreditations alone. More emphasis is being devoted to what is known as emotional literacy when evaluating prospective employees.

What is emotional literacy?

Emotional literacy refers to the ability to express one’s emotional state and communicate one’s feelings. Being emotionally literate therefore requires an individual to, for example, know their own thoughts, empathize with a colleague and learn to control their own feelings.

Research suggests that soft attributes such as emotional literacy are closely correlated with the employment of young students entering the job market for the first time. Why are employers, therefore, looking beyond applicants’ CVs when hiring?

Studies have shown that emotional literacy not only strengthens relationships but also encourages co-operational work and promotes the feeling of community.

The twenty-first century workplace is changing. It is no secret that the biggest losers of the Covid-19 pandemic were businesses without a continuity plan. Rapid technological change has meant that tomorrow’s ideal employee is resilient, agile, and adaptable in the face of change. Being emotionally literate goes a long way towards being able to handle a change of direction in your working career.

These skills are not only desirable for young people planning to join the job market in the future. A lack of emotional literacy not only increases the risk of an individual being left behind in a dynamic job market, but businesses also suffer from a lack of productivity as a result. It is logical, therefore, that businesses are trying to improve the emotional literacy of their staff through training sessions simulating real-life situations, while also seeking to hire new employees whose emotional literacy skills are already more advanced.

An unfortunate misconception of higher education is that the correlation between good grades and high employability is overestimated. With employers diverting their attention towards skills that are only obtained through personal growth and other extracurricular activities, universities are risking being left behind.

Instead, individuals focusing on emotional literacy during their formative years find their employability prospects to be greatly increased. Such soft skills include confidence, tolerance for stress, creativity, the ability to take initiative, the ability towards critical review, and empathy towards colleagues.

If we are to get university graduates ready for the world of work, their preparation needs to be more based on real-life situations within a work environment. This can be achieved through moving away from exam-focused assessment, and more towards case studies based on real-life situations. Targeted, individual feedback should be delivered to each student in a way to further help them improve critical analytical abilities, problem-solving abilities, decision-making, oral communication skills, negotiation skills, and planning skills – the skills which are most in-demand in the job market.

If you’re a student, imagining yourself in a work environment can seem scary. Make sure you are focused on something you are passionate about and you will be able to work independently and on your own initiative. Work on your emotional literacy by seeking your personal growth and by participating in extracurricular activities. Life can get stressful at times, so try to find stress-coping mechanisms that work for you.

And one final tip: don’t get too caught up in reaching top grades. They’re great, but nobody will care how many As you got in your A-level exams as long as you’re also equipped with a range of other skills.

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