McKinsey is offering you a chance to learn soft skills that will move your career upwards

Strive Karadzangare | November 19, 2022

Have you been itching to acquire the skills that will leapfrog your career or get you a job one day? Well here is some exciting news; McKinsey inviting applications for its Forward program, which is a free, six-month online program aimed at equipping talented young people, with the necessary practical skills to succeed in the future of work.

Applications are open till 28 November 2022. APPLY HERE

Never heard of McKinsey, Who are they?
My research has told me that they are a business consulting firm. But more significant to their reputation is their ability to groom young talented people to be leaders in their respective fields even after they depart from McKinsey.

Which skills will you learn?
They promise to impart you with highly sought-after skills that help you to;
- Communicate with impact to move your audience into action.
- Be adaptable, and build resilience and emotional awareness to work successfully-both independently and in teams.
- Turn complex business challenges into opportunities using structured and creative thinking.
- Apply agile ways of working and spot opportunities to use data and technology

Who is eligible to apply?
Anyone who is:
- Currently employed, self-employed, or in between jobs
- Has no more than five years of formal work experience
- Has completed post-secondary education (for example diploma, associate degree, undergraduate degree)
- Has a good command of the English language, as the program will be conducted in English
For more information on the program visit:

Note: Very sorry to anyone who is still in school or college undertaking their undergraduate degree, this opportunity is not for you. Nevertheless, please read to the end of this article to see why opportunities like these are great for your career. In time we may be able to share with you new opportunities in which you are eligible to participate.

Why is the program important, given the global context of employment and education
There have been a lot of controversial talks that going to university or college is a waste of time and money. For those who are against the education system, successful college dropouts such as Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, seem to be the perfect examples of how to make a killing in life without a degree. Well, that's just one of the more extreme sides of the argument. However, a more seasoned argument would emphasise that although the institutions of higher learning seem to be offering a lot in terms of skills development, but they also seem to be leaving out a lot in terms of preparing students for their future careers. Therefore, for many employers, a first-class degree is no longer the guarantee that its holder is the most suitable candidate for the job.

With Google as one of the pioneers, many companies are now defaulting to the criterion of hiring candidates who have certain valuable skills, instead of focusing on their degrees only. Although at first Google's hiring approach initially focused more on hard skills such as STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), they later softened their approach to accommodate soft skills. They realised that strong interpersonal skills were more important that the "harder" STEM skills. So according to Ikenna Odinaka, (on AfterSchoolAfrica), there are about seven most valuable skills that top companies now look for in candidates, which are;
1. Leadership and coaching ability: Which is about being able to transfer knowledge to others and getting things done.
2. Communicating and listening skills: Being able to effectively interact with other people in and outside a team to achieve set goals.
3. Social awareness: This is about being able to put yourself in others’ shoes and understanding that people are people.
4. Learnability: How quickly you can learn what you need to know.
5. Critical thinking: Ability to objectively analyze and evaluate issues to form a judgment.
6. Problem-solving: This involves your ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems
7. Connecting complex ideas: This is the ability to identify connecting grounds between isolated concepts and make meaning of it.

While universities offer or claim to impart these skills, they either are not doing their best in imparting the skills or the students are simply just not engaged. I will explain giving an example of the Communication and Listening skills part. In Zimbabwe, for example, many Tertiary institutions offer a course on Communication skills. However, what usually baffles me is that the skill is imparted in a "sedating-lecture" format. Many students who often had to brave through these lectures or slept halfway through can testify. I for one believe that for the skill to be effectively imparted, the delivery has to be engaging and the students have to participate in interactive sessions that can bolster their ability to communicate with confidence.

And so because students are disengaged from their lectures, they only lose insight into the value of the skill they are being taught and they end up doing the course out of a sense of duty. That is just one example of a skill not properly imparted in our tertiary institutions. But the gaps left by that missing or unpolished are not difficult to notice in the workplace. That, compounded with the effect of the other missing or unpolished soft skills only but makes the situation even worse. That is why several companies are making the shift to hiring people who somehow developed those skills. That leaves a question, how does someone develop those soft skills? And whose responsibility is it to impart those soft skills?

Answering those questions, in brief, we can develop soft skills in a variety of ways. For example, some have been fortunate enough to be raised in families which valued and imparted those skills unto them since infancy, some were fortunate enough to learn at schools that emphasised the acquisition of those skills and well, some got a chance to acquire those skills by attending various social gatherings be it religious, cultural or extracurricular. Often interesting is the group of people who acquired them through their initiatives, for example by attending personal growth seminars.

From the last group, we learn that while it may have been convenient to be handed the skills on a silver platter since infancy, it is still possible for one to actively and consciously develop these skills. The McKinsey Forward Programme is therefore a perfect opportunity for you to practice self-driven acquisition of those critical soft skills.

How will you benefit and how have others benefitted?
Pertaining to the benefits that you will likely obtain, one definite thing that you will gain is the ability to connect with brilliant young people with similar and even bigger ambitions than yours. From what I heard from a young professional who is enthusiastic about these programs, being in constant interaction with such trailblazers will help you to soak up an amazing mindset, even beyond just learning some helpful skills. And as a matter of fact, many employers in formal employment settings are looking for a potential candidate with a great mindset.