Freshly minted degree in hand, many new graduates are eager to share the fruits of their educational labors and join the workforce. There’s just one small problem they aren’t anticipating: college mostly focuses on teaching the hard skills, the nuts and bolts, of how to do a job. Sounds important right? Well, it is… but so are soft skills. These are all too often the skills new grads need. According to recent studies, 87 percent of new college graduates feel completely prepared to take on the workforce, while only about 47 percent of employers share their confidence. Bridging the “skills gap” is a must for job seekers who want a competitive edge. Here are some of the most commonly sought-after skills new grads need and how to effectively master them before diving into the workforce.
Most people labor under the delusion that communication is centered around conversation, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A large part of effective communication is actually based on listening, not speaking. Active listening not only aids in comprehension, but also makes the speaker feel valued. This goes a long way in boosting morale amongst coworkers and ultimately increases productivity. Unfortunately, this soft skill isn’t inherent even in seasoned members of the workforce. Some people naturally have better communication skills than others, but that’s not to say these skills can’t be learned. Since around 46 percent of employers feel new grads lack these advanced communication skills, it can be highly beneficial to showcase your active listening skills during the interview process.
Additionally, taking a communications class may help give you an edge over the competition. Keep in mind, communication isn’t limited to speech– written communication is equally important! Taking a professional writing class can help ensure that your words concisely deliver necessary information without coming off long-winded.
Leadership skills are not only an asset to a future employer, but also to the individual who has them. They are beneficial in both personal and professional settings. Proven leadership skills not only help new grads land their first job, but also help them advance through the corporate hierarchy once hired. Employers like to see grads who are go-getters willing to take initiative and inspire others to do the same. Taking ownership and mastering soft skills will not go unnoticed among coworkers or supervisors.
If you aren’t a natural born leader, don’t worry! There are many ways to gain experience in leadership while at college. Student government offers students a chance to learn and hone leadership abilities. Additionally, joining a club and learning to lead individuals with similar interests is greatly beneficial for increasing leadership skills that will translate effectively to the corporate world.
Teamwork seems like an obvious skill to have, doesn’t it? Sadly, not everyone knows how to work productively within a team. The person who is only worried about their own advancement will not work effectively as part of a team, and ultimately, will not have the company’s best interests at heart. Employers know the combined efforts of a team far surpass the efforts of individuals and they actively seek out individuals that understand they are only as strong as the weakest link in the company chain.
Most people already have teamwork experience from school projects, sports or previous jobs. Showing interest in community service and volunteer work (where you join out of volition and not out of self-interest) will help you stand out as a team-oriented candidate ready to help achieve collective goals for the good of the company and its employees.
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
Employers look for candidates who can think on their feet and make decisions on the fly while keeping the company’s best interests at heart. If you can show an employer you are capable of keeping your composure in stressful situations, they are likely to see you as a more qualified candidate ready to join their team. Many college courses encourage this type of thinking; the rest comes from practice and conscious effort. Ask questions, seek answers– even if it means a little extra legwork– and take the time to reach your own conclusions.
Ideally, the best way to develop these skills is through real life experience. Internships offer students and recent grads a chance to work in their chosen field while applying critical thinking and problem solving skills in a learning environment.
The key in any job search is to set yourself apart from the crowd. Degrees are great, but they only get you part of the way there. Keep the idea of soft skills on your radar to help set you apart from the latest crop of candidates. Now get out there and show them that you have the skills new grads need!
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