While the concept of T-shaped skills is not so new, it is now more important than ever. Over the past decade, research has emphasized the need for today’s young professionals to possess deep disciplinary knowledge along with a keen ability to communicate across social, cultural and economic boundaries. These “T-shaped professionals” are in high demand for their ability to innovate, build relationships, advance research and strengthen their organizations.
Currently many college and university graduates are trained to be productive in one field, but employers are placing increasing importance on skills that reach beyond a single discipline or focus. Upon graduation, students should be able to handle information from multiple sources, advance professional relationships across different organizations, contribute innovatively to organizational practices, and communicate with understanding across social, cultural, economic and scientific disciplines. Tomorrow’s workers will build their careers in a globally interconnected and constantly changing world with smarter technologies in an effort to effect positive global change.
A T-shaped skillset must constantly become broader (- general knowledge) and narrower (| specialized knowledge) as the world becomes more complex, nevertheless having T-shapes skills is one of the biggest competitive advantage you can have in the creative society when contributing value for the markets or when achieving your goals.
Large employers like IBM, IDEO, and Cisco are spearheading initiatives to hire “T-shaped professionals.” This concept contends that the ideal employee possesses a number of soft skills that allow him or her to collaborate (the “T-top”) as well as unmatched knowledge of a skill, process, product, or body of work (the “T-stem”). Employers like IBM are experimenting with ways to scan and code an applicant’s resume to assess his/her “T-score.” A study abroad experience, for example, may indicate cultural sensitivity, while a leadership role in a student organization may demonstrate management ability.
Jim Spohrer, Director of IBM University Programs, speaking about why industry needs T-Shapes:
- People with different specializations and experiences find it difficult to talk to each other,
- To solve complex challenges and speed up the rate of discoveries, people from different disciplines must communicate with each other efficiently and pool their expertise effectively.
Today technical skills are most important but the soft skills are critical as rated by senior executives in the 2014 study “Closing the skills gap: companies and colleges collaborating for change” by The Economist Intelligence Unit (in order of importance): critical thinking, collaboration, communication, technical skills, and adaptability.