Gen Z is going to class to learn small talk

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The Future. Young people are so bad at professional networking that a number of collegiate classes are popping up to teach them the vital skill. While digital communication now comes second nature to the emerging workforce, shoring up soft skills for in-person small talk may decide whether someone lands a job or not.

Oral exam
Young people have a chitchat problem… so professors are putting together a syllabus.

  • Jana Mathews, a literature professor at Rollins College, started the Job Market Boot Camp to help students practice networking with alumni after finding her students severely lacked “interpersonal and communication skills” to succeed at job interviews.
  • Claire Ralph, a computer science lecturer at Caltech, started the alumni-networking event Tech Fest and the Dining with Teach event, “which pairs students and professionals for a simulated business lunch at a campus restaurant.”
  • Rachel Toor, a creative writing professor at Eastern Washington University, is going back to the basics of cover letter writing after finding her students were making them all about themselves and not about what they could do for the companies they were sending them to.

While there are various reasons why young people now stink at networking — despite doing it all the time — small talk in a professional setting is becoming a lost art. A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found only 54% of college seniors had “very/extremely proficient” communication skills.

It looks like we all need to find some time to get out there and shake some hands.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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