Author – Beth Caldwell, Head Blended Learning, English, India
It’s a common situation: you want to shine brighter in interviews or at work. You wonder how best to get the job or promotion you want. You want that ‘X-factor’ that makes you stand out. The solution could be simple: focus on adding 21st century skills to your skill set.
According to a LinkedIn survey, 57% of senior leaders say soft skills in business communication are more important than hard skills. Other than job-specific knowledge, the key skills needed in order to participate in a global economy and succeed in a rapidly changing work environment are known as 21st century skills. They include:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Communication and collaboration
- Global and cultural awareness
- Digital skills
- Leadership and personal development
Here are some things you can do to develop these skills:
- Be well-informed about your profession through Internet-based research for personal development and to flex your digital skills.
- Analyse ideas and concepts you read about: Think about the pros and cons of applying them in your own situation and develop your problem-solving abilities and creativity.
- Discuss ideas with colleagues or others in your industry, face-to-face or in the virtual world, to develop your collaboration and communication skills.
- Network with people in other states or countries for fresh perspectives and to build your cultural awareness.
- Build your communication skills by commenting on articles, taking part in online forums and making the most of video conferencing.
Taking an online course is a great way to advance your 21st century capabilities. They can help you develop self-motivation, time management, digital research and communication skills. MOOCs, for example, will expand your professional knowledge and provide global perspectives from other participants who join from around the world. The British Council offers range of MOOCs on the FutureLearn platform, including ‘How to Succeed in a Global Workplace’.
If you want to develop your communication skills in English, look for courses that focus on maximising opportunities for you to speak or write. A good course will develop your independent learning skills and offer practical learning activities based on real-life situations. At the British Council these skills are built into our course design. For example, our online myEnglish courses include communicative group tasks in live online classes – all under the guidance of an internationally-qualified and experienced teacher.
Whether independently or via a course, you will benefit from identifying and developing your 21st century skill set. With these skills in hand you can future-proof your career aspirations, stand out to employers and gain the advantage in the 21st Century workplace.
Join our free live online webinar and learn all about using online learning skills to get ahead in the global workplace.
Written by Neenaz Ichaporia, Academic Manager, Blended Learning
Do you want to speak more confidently at work? Many of our students feel the same:
- “I have good knowledge of my field. But because of my weak communication skills, I am not able to convince my customers. I can do better if I improve my skills in public speaking.”
- “I have obtained a higher position at work, but my English is too simple. Sometimes I find it difficult to explain some situations.”
- “I always have this feeling that my English is not good enough. Improving it will help me in my career by boosting my confidence.”
As English is the international language of business communication, professionals are looking to improve their speaking skills. There are three main areas to consider:
- Business communication skills
People lack confidence in speaking English when they don’t have enough chances to practice. If that’s you, don’t worry! You can improve your speaking by using online resources.
Improve your fluency
This is the ability to express ideas quickly and clearly. This does not mean talking quickly – that can be very confusing for your listener!
- Use the ‘You’re Hired’ series from the British Council Learn English website. It helps you learn skills for finding a job. Watch the videos and then practice the dialogue.
- To improve anything, you need practice. So, practise speaking out loud, even if you are alone.
- You can use the BBC’s Get that Job series. The activities and quizzes build your knowledge of job-related vocabulary.
Improve your business communication skills
At work, you may need to do different tasks e.g. making a presentation, attending a meeting, or answering a telephone call. It’s helpful to learn useful language and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of business communication.
- Listen to the free Professionals podcasts from the British Council to improve English for your career. These are useful for intermediate to advanced levels.
- Use the pause button and repeat whole phrases after listening. This will help you say them right and remember them.
- Note down new phrases you hear and use them in conversations at work.
- Are you a job seeker or a young professional? You can do the free short course English for the Workplace. This will help you with language to find and start a job.
Improve your pronunciation
Having good, clear pronunciation can help you communicate clearly and sound more professional. Here’s how you can learn the features of good pronunciation.
- Start with individual sounds. Practise these out loud to better say them.
- You will find phonemic script very useful. It’s used to describe the sounds of language (not the spelling). The British Council has a free phonemic chart to download as an app.
- Understanding phonemic script is useful when you’re looking up words in the dictionary. Most good dictionaries use this to show the pronunciation of words.
- Do you know which sounds you find more difficult? Listen to and practise these sounds out loud.
We hope you have found these tips useful and are motivated to go online and practice. This will help improve your speaking skills and confidence.
Sign up for a myEnglish Workplace course to boost your career prospects. This online course is delivered by expert British Council teachers. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn live from the experts! Register now.
Improve your speaking skills with online resources
What do you think is involved in speaking English well?
There are three main areas to consider:
- Communication skills
Which of these do you find most difficult?
People may lack confidence in speaking English because they don’t have enough opportunities to practice. If that’s you, don’t worry: There are things you can do to improve your speaking on your own, using online resources.
Improve your fluency
This is the ability to put your ideas into speech quickly and clearly. This does not mean talking quickly – that can be very confusing for your listener!
- Improving anything needs practice so you have to practice speaking out loud, even if you are alone.
- Read aloud every day. This exercises your vocal muscles. Just like any other muscle, they need a regular workout.
- It’s a good idea to listen first to what you are going to read aloud so you have a good model to copy.
- ‘You’re Hired’ series from the British Council Learn English website looks at skills for finding a job. You could watch the videos and then practice the dialogue.
Improve your pronunciation
There are several different features of good pronunciation; from being able to say individual sounds to saying whole chunks of speech.
- A good place to start is with individual sounds. Practising these out loud will help you to better say them.
- You will find phonemic script very useful. It’s used to describe the sounds of language (not the spelling). The British Council has a free interactive phonemic chart to download as an app.
- Understanding phonemic script is useful when you’re looking up words in the dictionary, as good dictionaries use this to show the pronunciation of words.
- Do you know which sounds you find more difficult? Perhaps saying ‘th’? By listening to and practising these sounds out loud, you can make improvements to your speech.
Improve your communication skills
Strategies for opening, keeping the conversation going and responding help you communicate more easily. Learning useful phrases to use in conversation is more useful than learning lots of individual words.
- Note down new expressions and use them often. If you don’t have a chance to say to them, why not use them in informal text chats on social media? Text chatting (e.g. WhatsApp) and spoken conversations have similar features.
- You’ll find lots of useful everyday expressions and other vocabularies in the British Council podcasts for learners. You can download the podcasts so you can listen and practice anywhere
- Use the pause button and repeat whole phrases when you are listening. This will help you to get used to saying them right and remember them.
- The British Council also has a soap opera ‘Big City, Small World’ which will help you to learn and use everyday expressions in your conversations.
- We hope you have found these tips useful and they have motivated you to go online and practice to improve your speaking skills and confidence.