Congratulations! You’ve made it through college, and you have a degree to prove it. Now, all you need to do is apply for your dream job and wait for an offer, right? Sadly, no. It is more involved than that.
Undoubtedly, college life was demanding and taught you a great deal. Despite this, there is probably still a lot to learn before you can get into the career of your dreams. The transition from college to employment can be tricky.
There’s a set of critical skills employers are looking for, and these skills may not have been your focus, primarily if you’ve been concentrating on turning in essays and exam revision.
There is good news! With a little time, you can quickly tackle these areas and be able to demonstrate that you have what your ultimate employer wants.
Here are the five new skills that new grads need to kick-start their career, and how to work on them:
1. Superb Interpersonal Communication
College was all about you: your learning as an individual and your ability to demonstrate what you have learned. Being an employee is different. No matter how senior you are, you are part of a team, a piece of the company jigsaw.
For this reason, the ability to communicate, and to do it well, is entirely vital.
Communication isn’t just about being able to put your case forward concisely and eloquently; studies show 90% of communication is nonverbal. Messages are given via body language, facial expression, and tone of voice as well as through words.
Many of us are confident chatting with family and peers. This kind of talk is familiar, unstructured, and informal. You may feel comfortable talking with people of the same generation or similar background to you. However, the world of work takes you out of this comfort zone entirely.
As an employee, you may face dozens of customers every day, relate to people from all walks of life, and understand and take into account their concerns. You may need to work closely with a team to complete an important project. Or you may need to persuade others of the benefit of a product or service.
Take time now to work on your interpersonal communication skills – to perfect your ability to read others by taking the time to converse with people in multiple situations. Empathy and compassion are essential elements of successful communication so consider where you can find the chance to work on these skills.
Temporary, part-time or volunteer work can offer fantastic opportunities. Choose openings that take you out of your comfort zone, perhaps working with kids or seniors. A wide variety of communications experience will look great on your resume.
2. Succinct Written Communication
If you thought that was it, having learned to write when you finished grade school, you might be mistaken. Impeccable written communication is vital in the world of work: you will need to communicate with colleagues, customers, and perhaps even the public through the written word.
Thanks to the Internet and online communication, there are so many outlets for writing that are vital to all businesses and professions: reports, email, direct messaging, blog posts, web pages, and social media, to name a few.
In any graduate profession, you’ll likely be involved in these. In fact, according to a recent NACE survey, excellent written communication is a vital skill 4 out of 5 employers look for in their potential employees. You do need to be able to write well.
Journalism may not be your chosen field, but whatever your goal is, you need to be able to make a written point clearly and eloquently. Correct grammar, punctuation, and proper spelling are essential to demonstrate your attention to detail.
One way to improve your written English is to read and to read widely. Reading a variety of styles and observing the types of structure, vocabulary, and style used by writers will help you emulate their work.
Understanding a range of fiction and non-fiction should help to improve your vocabulary and syntax. Look for practical opportunities to write for an audience too. These include starting a blog or contributing to a newsletter.
3. Honed Critical Thinking
Through smartphones and the Internet, we are continually streaming information. In fact, Humanity has never before had to deal with such a large volume of media on a daily basis. Your ability to deal with this is vital. You need to be able to evaluate information quickly and critically.
You need to be able to form your own informed, knowledgeable opinions and arguments. This ability is called critical thinking. In the graduate world, employers are looking for candidates who can absorb relevant information, think critically, and evaluate and solve problems.
It is vital for graduates to be able to think critically enough to identify and evaluate different arguments and see that there may be bias, misinformation or alternative ways of looking at the subject. In a professional environment, this will enable you to construct responses and solutions to move forward.
Developing an interest in politics and debating is the right way to work on these skills. Spend time discussing issues with lots of different people and allow yourself to challenge your assumptions. Read lots of great books too to help broaden your horizons. This should allow you to perform better in the application and interview for your dream role.
4. Lots of Initiative
The initiative is in high demand no matter what field you want to pursue. So, to graduate employers, applicants who put themselves forward and willingly show effort also showcase responsibility. This is an important trait. It shows that an applicant will work hard to ensure the best outcomes.
Demonstrating initiative shows the beginnings of leadership skills too. Ambition is about making decisions and taking ownership of a situation. This person will not need to be micromanaged and can help engage others.
To practice this skill, look for opportunities where you can get a handle on something that interests you and show you can make the most of your knowledge and skills. You could start a micro-business or begin writing a blog.
5. Being a Team Player
Over 82 per cent of employers questioned in the NACE survey say they search for evidence of team players when sifting through résumés. In employment, very few people work exclusively by themselves. Their role is nearly always part of a bigger workflow picture, where colleagues are of equal importance to the finished results.
However, as a college student, you will have mainly been working alone on essays, projects, and other assignments. Thus, it can be tough to gain much experience of teamwork during your college years.
So, above all, you need to show evidence of teamwork on your resume. Contributions to sports teams, music and drama ensembles, political or charity campaign groups can all show that you’re a team player.
If you don’t have anything like this to put on your resume, it’s never too late to take up a new hobby or interest that might change this.
While the employment world changes rapidly, these five skills will never go out of fashion with any employer. If you hone these skills, then not only will you have a higher chance of landing your dream job, but you will also flourish in any career you pursue.