For someone just 20 years old, Samuel Edwards has multiple achievements to cite on his resume.
Or, his four part-time jobs, including providing customer care for OneSupport, a service provider that helps consumers identify and address issues with computers, tablets, smartphones and other technologies.
That latter role — talking folks through troubles they’re experiencing with their technologies —requires lots of soft professional skills such as empathetic listening and problem solving, Edwards said.
“A lot of times people who call us have been the victims of scams, so they’ve lost money or data and they don’t know whom they can trust,” he said. “I have to build a relationship with them — help them understand what’s happened, help them feel better, help them figure out what to do next. By the end of the call, they’ve calmed down and I’m glad I’m there to help. I go to bed at night feeling good about that.”
PrepareU is a free, two-week, classroom-based program that teaches soft professional skills to entry-level IT workers. Skills covered during the class include perfecting one’s resume and job interviewing skills, developing a team-player attitude, understanding the roles of social styles and Emotional Intelligence (EI), and using active-listening and being persuasive.
PrepareU surveyed some employers after the pilot program to gauge their perspective about how well it worked. Although the sample size was small, 100 percent of employers said they would recommend PrepareU to their colleagues or employees. And when asked how well PrepareU helped employees perform their jobs, 100 percent said it had a positive effect.
The purpose of PrepareU was to give employees soft skills that would complement their tech knowledge and lead to promotions and pay raises throughout their careers, said Eric Larson, senior director of IT Futures Labs at Creating IT Futures.
“We hear from employers that their biggest challenge when it comes to filling vacant IT positions is not the lack of candidates with technical skills, but, rather, the lack of candidates with strong soft skills,” he said. “Employers value folks who can communicate tactfully and clearly, have a strong work ethic, and know how to provide customer service.”
In a separate survey, graduates of PrepareU reported significantly improved employment within six months, as well as higher wages. And 100 percent of graduates said they would recommend PrepareU to a friend or colleague.
Edwards is one of those PrepareU graduates who highly recommends the program.
“Every day, I use everything I learned in PrepareU,” he said. “And especially for someone my age — what an incredible opportunity to learn this information up front, instead of going through years’ worth of trial and error, which is how most people end up learning these skills.”
In hindsight, Edwards said, he didn’t know what a treasure trove of knowledge PrepareU would offer him. He applied mainly because the program was free.
“To be honest, I’m kind of a careful spender and free is free,” he said. “But I knew it was offered by CompTIA so it had to be legitimate; CompTIA wouldn’t sponsor anything that wasn’t good or real.”
In the class, he learned such soft skills as how to network professionally — “it really is all about who you know” — as well as how to identify the ways in which other people learn and communicate.
“I have never been in a more memorable class,” he said. “And I say that having loved high school; I would go back in a heartbeat because I loved learning in high school so much.”
Networking helped Edwards secure his current part-time job at OneSupport, as well as other part-time roles in sales and creating and programming narratives and computer games. He has even secured a role as a featured speaker at Ogden Speaking Academy.
“I really believe that the more kids my age understand early on the importance of soft skills in their education and career, the better off they will be,” he said.
For now, Edwards plans to continue his studies — not to mention one his soft professional skills — as he looks toward his future bright with opportunity.
“I am an eternally optimistic person,” he said. “Even if something negative happens, I feel optimistic about that because it’s an experience that you can learn from and evolve from.”