Soft skills: these soft skills so sought after by employers and so present in our youth

Emmanuelle Werner Gillioz


We hear a lot these days soft skills, those social or behavioral skills that, recruiters say are becoming increasingly important in the job market. Whereas in the past, only technical or hard skills were considered, employers are now looking for people who are able to integrate into teams, build relationships and make a postive contribution to the company's culture and values. Employers know that the well-being of their employees is a performance lever for their company.

In the T1 2021 Job Index of the Adecco Switzerland Group, Monica Dell'Anna, General Manager of the Group, notes that "anyone looking for a new job must not only have good professional skills, but also the corresponding social skills". For her, it is all the more important to invest in training these skills as they are transferable from one job to another.

Soft skills, social skills, soft skills... But what exactly are we talking about? Being able to communicate well, having good interpersonal skills, knowing how to use diplomacy, but also being cooperative, helpful, knowing how to work in a team, being able to adapt, are some of the descriptions that can be found in the specialised articles on the subject.

There is a pool of people in Geneva who have these skills, and we see them everyday in Yojoa. Most of the young people we support arrived in Switzerland at the end of a migratory journey, alone or with their families. Through the ordeals and situations they have experienced, they have developed a remarkable resilience and willpower. During their journey they have had to find solutions, think on their feet, be creative, take risks and help each other. When they arrived in our country, they had to adapt, learn, understand, discover, dare, get by, and leave their comfort zone to build a future. They had to move forward at an age when they were still in the process of constructing their identity1, just like their contemporaries born in Switzerland, who are developing at a different pace, in a different reality.

How can we promote these skills to employers? How can we highlight the story that the CV does not tell? How do we move from the status of 'young migrant' to 'young talent with migration experience'? So many questions that Yojoa is trying to answer.

When we started preparing young people for job interviews, we realised that they were not aware of the strengths they had developed throughout their lives, let alone how they could add value. This is a competitive advantage in the job market.

In the spring of 2022, we developed a series of social skills workshops with our partner Refugee Voices to help young people identify their strengths, build their confidence, reclaim their history in a positive way and develop their 'professional pitch' to make a difference to an employer.

Following this training, the young people reviewed the way they presented themselves in job interviews, focusing on the elements that made them unique.

One participant explained that she was a responsible person who, since the age of 15, had taken care of all the administrative procedures in her home, systematically providing translation during meetings between her parents and the various government agencies.

To illustrate his empathy, another young person described the loneliness he felt during the two years he spent in a refugee camp in Greece when he was only 15 years old. When he arrived in Switzerland, he decided to do what he could to help those around him, knowing only too well the feeling of being left to fend for oneself.

A third participant appealed to the human resources manager of a large bank by telling him about the eleven operations she had undergone since birth, the doctors' dramatic prognosis that she would never be able to walk again, and her determination to regain her mobility.

Determination, empathy, a sense of responsibility, all soft skills sought by employers and very present in many young people with atypical profiles.

In a rapidly changing world where uncertainty is the norm, where the workforce must constantly adapt to meet present and future needs, is it not time to harness the skills of people with different careers precisely because they are unconventional?

Bringing in talent with different perspectives and experiences increases our chances of innovation, because these people's different perspectives allow us to widen our field of vision and consider other possibilities. As Pablo Picasso said: "There is only one way to see things until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes".

Most of the young people we support are now between the ages of 18 and 25. Many arrived in Switzerland at the age of 15-16 without their families and living independently (in shared accommodation, on their own or even in hostels).