Why having fun can help shape your teen's future
Don’t lose sight of how much learning takes place outside the classroom – especially at home. Academic qualifications are important, but it’s what students do alongside their studies that make them stand out from others, both on application forms and in interviews. This is especially true for teens, where there could be hundreds of applicants for the same place, all of a similar age, having studied similar subjects and possibly with similar grades. How do they differentiate themselves?
Why soft skills matter
Interviewers want to distinguish one candidate from another, and they're looking for qualities that indicate a student will be a good fit in their organization. Whether they're interviewing for a job, apprenticeship or a place in further education, they'll be looking for candidates that can demonstrate soft skills (sometimes called transferable skills). Soft skills are mostly gained through experience rather than classroom learning, and they are more aligned with approach than knowledge. Soft skills are highly valued because they are essential to doing well in business. The ability to work well in a team, communicate effectively, show curiosity, plan, organize, maintain focus, follow instructions, keep calm under pressure, and work to a schedule are some of the many skills that are sought after.
When students are able to demonstrate they possess some of these core skills, interviewers feel confident that these applicants already possess qualities on which to build successful outcomes and that it will be comparatively straightforward for them to develop the "knowledge" aspects required of the role during the placement.
How hobbies reinforce skillsets
Whilst it's possible to worry that your teen is spending their free time unwisely, what your teen does for fun helps shape their character and gives them essential soft skills that can only be gained through experience. Because soft skills are not industry specific and have equal worth in different job types, students that develop a strong set of soft skills have more opportunities to switch between different sectors to find the roles and industry that suit them best. This gives them a much better chance of following a career path - and ultimately finding a job - that is the best fit for them, especially if their first choice turns out not to interest them as much as they thought it would.
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Different hobbies – different skills
Different activities develop different skills. For example, team sports might harness commitment, good communication, collaboration, perception and teamwork, whereas solo sports might harness commitment, decisiveness, determination, independence and self-reliance.
If your teen has a keen interest in listening to podcasts and watching short videos, this might expand their general knowledge, broaden their interests, help them identify and explore their passions, whilst improving their skills in assimilation, comprehension, listening, research and prioritisation.
Bookworms will develop their language and communications skills, whilst demonstrating focus and a curious mind for trying new reads. Those that are keen to be in the limelight, perhaps making their own videos to post online, will become adept presenters, great communicators and have insight into holding an audience’s attention (very useful for work meetings later on in life!).
As well as soft skills, these non-academic interests encourage personal growth, developing capability and potential. This includes personal traits (or values) such as courage, honesty, integrity, kindness, loyalty, optimism, reliability and trustworthiness. There are numerous others; all are vital in creating rapport and aligning values with individuals and businesses alike.
Broadening their skills
The key take-away here is to identify what your teen enjoys and consider how that's building their skills. If they want to learn more skills, they can extend the interests they already pursue to broaden their experience (such as cooking for larger groups instead of cooking for one or two people) or broaden their interests to specifically target skills they'd like to develop that don't feature strongly in what they already do for pleasure (such as joining a book club if they love reading to capitalize on communicating with others, or taking up a team sport if most of their physical activity centres around solo pursuits).
As well as developing and demonstrating skillsets, their hobbies and interests give them a talking point to include in both application forms and interviews. This gives them an opportunity to showcase their unique perspective and experience, helping them stand out from other candidates.
Exploring a variety of hobbies and interests that appeal to all different personality types, our guide explains which hobbies develop which soft skills and why they're important. We also outline how your teen can demonstrate practical application of their values and soft skills during interviews.