In a bid to sharpen students’ soft skills and give them a chance to network in a virtual environment during the pandemic, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Faculty of Business recently hosted an online competition co-organised by Classified Post.
This event was the second part of the “Leap to Success Virtual Challenge”, which began with a series of workshops which introduced the students to key concepts and practices. In the competition phase, they had to complete a specific assignment and, after that, those who made the shortlist were asked to give a presentation outlining what they had learned from the overall experience.
This year’s winner, second-year student Amina Shalgymbayeva, took home a whopping HK$8,000 cash prize for wowing the judges with a presentation which eloquently explained how the online seminars had helped her gain clarity and focus in planning her future career.
“I feel truly honoured having had this opportunity to learn and grow and to prepare for what comes next,” she said. “Winning the Challenge, I feel more empowered moving forward and have a clearer idea of how best to explore my own potential and the world around me.”
One of the event’s key objectives was to make students understand the importance of soft skills in the workplace and not simply to focus on acquiring hard skills.
“The main thing was to trigger a conscious awareness of that,” said Dr Hazel Lee, faculty coordinator for student development at the Faculty of Business. “While a lot of students may have heard about this and know it’s important, they still need to ‘activate’ those soft skills, so they can use them effectively in the workplace and in unfamiliar social situations.”
The students selected to give a 10-minute virtual presentation were expected to highlight the soft skills they felt would most help them in future. Overall, the panel of judges, which included Dr Lee and Greta Kwong, senior director of group human resources at the Stan Group, was very impressed by the quality of presentations and felt the students had made the most of the opportunity to take part. They noted too that the leading contestants would have no trouble fitting in well in today’s fast-changing workplace environment.
“A lot of companies are now looking for people with a ‘transformation mindset’ who are ready to adapt,” Kwong said. “And it’s not just about digital transformation; you also have to think like an entrepreneur.”
She explained that roles are now more fluid. Companies are not just filling a job description, but looking for individuals who can create change and spur growth.
“You must be able to convince an employer of the value you can bring to a firm,” Kwong said. “For us, that is a very important element when we are hiring graduates. We are looking for potential high flyers and future leaders.”
As part of the event, students learned about pitching, networking, storytelling and personal brand building, as well as how to operate effectively in the whole new virtual environment sprung on us by Covid-19.
“I don’t think Zoom will go away soon,” said Dr Lee. She explained it is one aspect of the age of digital transformation, which will continue to change our lives at home and wherever we work. “So, the faster we get familiar with this, the better we will be.”
In response to such trends, Kwong noted that the Stan Group has offered to conduct more mock interviews on Zoom to prepare students for the online job interviews they must now expect.
“Those who are willing to test themselves in this way will have an advantage; they are training themselves to be better,” she said.
Ultimately, all the students who took part in the virtual challenge gained a lot, and had opportunities they might otherwise have missed because of Covid-19.
“This challenge gave me a broader perspective, as well as useful business insights from experienced professionals,” Shalgymbayeva said. “It provided valuable exposure and a chance to learn from different people with their own interesting stories.”