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According to Google Execs, The Most Important STEM Skills

April 4, 2018

No surprise that schools and parents are heavily focused on STEM skills these days. Careers in STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, grew 6 times faster than the number of non-STEM jobs in the last decade, while paying an average of 29% more than non-STEM careers. While majoring in a STEM field isn’t for everyone, pursuing a STEM field is likely to put students on a path to better job security and financial stability. Provided, of course, they are good at their job once they get there.

Interestingly, though, two internal studies of workplace success at Google suggest that the most successful workers aren’t the ones with the superior STEM skills. Rather, they are those with good STEM skills and some combination of strengths in 7 other “soft skills” which enables them to be far more productive than their superior STEM colleagues. Google’s results are consistent with the data from the 2016 Job Outlook survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. If these are the skills Google and top employers are seeking, it’s a safe bet that’s also what college admissions officers are looking for.

Here’s the list of key skills Google ranked in order of most important to least:

google STEM skills

If your mind is already racing to figure out how to add these skills to your curriculum, you might want to pause. These really are not skills that can be explicitly taught like a lesson in physics or statistics. Rather, they are skills that need to be proactively cultivated and nurtured over time. The goal is to  heighten students’ awareness of the importance of these skills and provide them ongoing feedback on how they can grow and improve.

Here’s a quick and effective approach to developing the “Google skills”:

You can do this as a class, in small groups, or individually. The initial brainstorming and goal setting can often be done in half a class session and monitoring shouldn’t take more than a few minutes at regularly scheduled intervals.

  1. Start by picking one skill.
  2. Have students brainstorm specific examples of when they use this skill. This could be anywhere: in class, at home, on a sports team, or during group projects.
  3. Based on their brainstorming, have them identify how and when they will use that skill to be successful. Be as specific as possible. Set a goal, a time frame, and a mode to evaluate if they were successful. (Try this goal-setting strategy which links to a goal setting template.)
  4. Keep in mind that it can feel really hard to improve in these “soft skills,” especially if students haven’t had a lot of opportunity to practice or get feedback on how they’re doing. See below for a list of strategies that you or your students can try for more structured ways to apply these skills. Remind students that as they practice using the skill, it will feel more natural over time.
  5. Set specific intervals to check in on goals and ensure success. If you don’t set aside specific time to reflect on progress and adapt, students are less likely to try or improve.
  6. Over time, follow the same approach to work on all skills. Keep reminding your students that all of these skills evolve and improve with experience. Students should always be working on them. Especially if they want to work at Google some day!

Strategies to Develop the 8 Google Skills:

Google Skill Mindprint Strategies
being a good coach: Peer Teaching; Group Work
communicating & listening well: Better Listening, Start with Purpose
possessing insights into others: Group Reflection; Mix Up Project Roles
empathy of one’s peers: Nurture Empathy; Brainstorming
being a good critical thinker: Brainstorm before Solving; Comfort with Ambiguity
problem solving: Flexible Thinking Skills; Think Aloud When Solving
connections across ideas: Know, Wonder, Learned Chart; Visualization
STEM expertise: Spatial Perception Skills; Abstract Reasoning Skills

Need more strategies? They’re all here and they’re all free.


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