Small talk is sometimes smart talk

It’s fairly well recognised that some of us have more of a knack than others when it comes to constructive nattering.  But now even graduates can have proper lessons in small talk, to help them in their careers.   The University of Liverpool has been offering graduate bootcamp courses which focus clearly on softer skills such as how to have an informal conversation.

‘Soft’ skills enable hard sell
The rationale is that, in a very tight jobs market, everyone needs to be up-to-speed with networking; but not everyone knows how to do it, or has the confidence to talk comfortably in every social setting. So social skills need to be developed quite overtly to level out the playing field.

That this inequity does still exist is demonstrated by the Sutton Trust’s finding in 2009 that, whilst only 7% of UK children receive a private education, the majority of people at the top of the leading professions went to fee-paying schools.  Somewhere along the line, it seems, they took the opportunity to present themselves in ways which led to their professional advantage.

Levelling the playing field?
Those who don’t have ready-made social networks are likely to find the odds stacked against them; indeed, they may not even be aware that social networking is going to help them in their careers and life trajectory.  Hence the efforts by Liverpool University, in partnership with the city’s Chamber of Commerce, to increase this awareness and sharpen the skills required to benefit from it – and thereby, they also hope, increase graduate retention in the Liverpool sub-region.

Obviously, this whole issue is bound up with the idea of social capital.  But who has access to that is a very hard-wired aspect of almost any society.

* Is it too late, for most people, to learn about small talk and networking after they have graduated?  Is this going to work, for instance, for young women who are more likely to take a career break quite soon thereafter?

* Could this idea be apllied earlier in the education of children and young people?  (Perhaps it is being applied already in some schools – especially fee-paying ones?)

* What are likely to be the major obstacles to the success of this attempt to establish a level playing field? And is there any way to overcome these obstacles?

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Posted on November 15, 2011, in Real-Life Examples and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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