Worried that you lack necessary experience, background or knowledge to help you secure a target position? Stop. Research shows that as the world of work transforms, employers seek candidates with a specific set of skills rather than specific majors or experiences. Although field-related knowledge may be required for some roles, what employers really want -- especially from recent graduates -- are skills that show you'll bring value in addressing real-world challenges.
Key findings of the 2018 Future of Jobs report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) indicate that demand will increase for proficiency in new technology as well as human skills such as problem-solving, creativity and persuasion. So if you are a college student wondering how to ensure a smooth transition from academia to the workforce, show employers you are already a person who has what the workforce of the future demands.
Below, I’ve listed ten skills that will look good on you regardless of your background and positions you target.
To convince employers you have what it takes to perform in a real-world setting, demonstrate the ability to solve complex problems. As the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) confirms, critical thinking/problem solving has come up as the top skill employers look for in college graduates three years in a row. To gain and enhance that skill, consider engaging in activities like case competitions or pro bono work. Employers are not thrilled with candidates who’ve demonstrated ability to earn high grades; rather, they want to see that you understand your target industry and have ideas on how to address its most pressing challenges.
Collaboration in A Multicultural Context
Teamwork has long been an expected requirement by employers, but in the 21st Century, they want you to collaborate with teams from across the globe. Not wanting differences in communication style to stump your growth as a professional, demonstrate that you have cultural awareness and understand that different people approach work situations differently; you cannot expect to use what works in your culture to successfully function in another. To succeed in an increasingly global workplace, show that you are someone who understands different work styles and can successfully navigate them.
Excellent oral and written communication skills appear regularly in job descriptions, and you may be tempted to dismiss the mention as a necessary filler. Don’t make that mistake. Being able to deliver effective presentations and to clearly articulate ideas, concerns and requests in a written format are abilities that will make you stand out. In fact, they can speed up your advancement. Effective communication skills are imperative for success in any role and manifest differently depending on context. As you prepare application materials and practice for interviews, clarify what effective communication looks like in your chosen field. Are you expected to negotiate and persuade? To write and communicate online? To listen actively?
Employers look to hire professionals who are organized, take their responsibilities seriously, commit fully to any project thrown their way, value their colleagues’ time and deliver within deadlines. Your work ethic reveals your dedication to the role you’ve been assigned, your employer, and your team. Being a reliable colleague who adheres to the ethical standards of your field makes you an indispensable asset. Keep in mind that professionalism doesn’t equal perfectionism. Although you are expected to perform at your best, you are also expected to own up to any mistakes and show that you can learn from them.
An interview question every candidate dreads is the one inquiring about an experience facing failure, obstacles or ambiguity. Employers are curious to understand how you react when things don’t go according to plan, when challenges prevent you from approaching a situation as you’ve always done. They are curious because setbacks and changes are inevitable in dynamic work environments. Demonstrating that you are able to adapt to shifts in your field, embrace uncertainty and bounce back from failures make you a candidate employers would appreciate.
LinkedIn data reveals that the skill companies need most in 2019 is creativity. “Software companies don’t just want someone who can write code, they want someone who can dream up new softwares to fix old problems,” writes Paul Petrone, senior editor at LinkedIn Learning. Creativity makes you a more efficient employee as it allows you to approach complex problems creatively, to adapt to industry shifts in an innovative way and to challenge the status quo. Sir Ken Robinson, author and TED speaker, agrees and argues that to prepare for an unknown future, one needs a curious and innovative mind.
Understanding and mastery of digital tools and platforms is a sought-after skill, and it’s integral for success and advancement in any role, not just tech ones. Digital literacy establishes you as a young professional who knows how to both create and evaluate digital content. It’s not just about being familiar with new tech tools and social media platforms; it’s about being able to navigate those in a strategic, intentional and professional manner. To effectively solve problems of today and the future, position yourself as a professional comfortable with existing technology and curious about emerging ones.
Students often say they look for internships and jobs that offer training to help them become professionals, and I have to remind them that most employers are looking for professionals who’ve already shown a potential to be effective leaders. Employers want candidates who take initiative and step up when issues arise. An important aspect of leadership is embracing an empathetic approach to engaging with people. As you prepare stories to show leadership potential, consider experiences that present you as someone who values other perspectives and respects engagements that bring about positive impact.
In Give and Take, author Adam Grant shares stories and research to show how establishing yourself as a giver, a person who notices others’ needs and offers help, is the ultimate step on the road to career success and advancement. Beyond individual interactions, giving back in the context of service can show you as a professional whose values align with those of many top employers. Social impact has become an important aspect of how companies operate, and demonstrating dedication to community involvement will help you stand out as a candidate.
Whether it’s collaborating with a diverse team or adopting emerging technologies, you need to continuously learn if you are to remain competitive. As the WEF’s 2018 Future of Jobs report reveals, employers expect a significant shift in skills required to perform most jobs. To remain employed in the future, you must be an agile learner. To show yourself as a candidate ready for the constantly evolving world of work, emphasize your excitement to keep learning. Lifelong learning is not some fluffy aspirational goal; it’s an absolute must.
To find opportunities to help you gain or hone the above skills and to practice sharing stories that highlight you have those skills, consider connecting with student services and career staff on your campus. In addition, although having the above makes you a worthy candidate, you still need to work on articulating how the skills will help you bring specific value to opportunities you target. It’s not enough to simply state you have the above; rather, you want to show employers you’ve demonstrated these skills through the stories you tell.