Ahhh, spring. When thousands of tassels get moved from right to left on mortarboards across the country. For some, graduation may be a little further off, but the question all college students need to be able to answer is, ‘Do I have the skills employers are looking for?’ While you may feel confident that you do, according to PayScale, only half of the over 60,000 hiring managers they surveyed agreed that new grads have the necessary skills to be successful. Today, we’ll focus on two hard skills and two soft skills that are in demand.
Hard Skills to Hone
These are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify and that you typically learn in the classroom or through books.
- Writing Proficiency
Not long ago, a solid grasp of basic grammar and writing etiquette were the norm. Then the age of texting, emoji’s, and other shorthand ways of communication began taking over. While they can be useful in certain contexts, they have yet to completely take the place of knowing how to effectively write a letter or proposal. Remember, as an employee, you represent the company and must be able to ‘speak’ to your audience.
Hone this Skill: Start by reading more. Think about authors or columnists you admire and study their work. By reading well-structured essays or articles with clearly-thought out arguments, you expose yourself to a higher level of writing. This will make you more aware of what you’re writing and how it resonates with your audience. Matching your writing style and tone with your audience should always be top of mind.
- Public Speaking
Again, you represent your company. Being able to articulate well in front of others conveys confidence and authority. It also gives you more visibility with management. The more they see you, the greater the opportunity for you to become the go-to guy or gal when an important project comes up.
Hone This Skill: Prepare and practice! Make notes on what you want to say, stand in front of a mirror, and practice. Pay attention to how you stand, your facial expressions, and voice inflections. Practice in front of a mock audience to help get your presentation as comfortable and natural as you can.
Soft Skills to Showcase
These subjective skills are harder to quantify, but ones employers are starting to put more emphasis on. Often referred to as ‘people skills,’ soft skills demonstrate how you relate to and interact with others.
- Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
These skills help employers view you as an asset. The ability to tackle a challenge head-on by offering tangible solutions signals to employers that you are proactive, not passive. Even if you can’t fully solve the problem, be willing to offer ideas and possible solutions to show you want to be part of the answer.
Showcase It: Think outside the book, or classroom if you will. In-class scenarios are meant to give students practice, but the real world is rarely so cut and dried. So, gain experience by joining an on-campus organization or volunteer in your community. Better yet, snag an internship so you can learn from your rookie mistakes.
- Attention to Detail
Details matter. For example, thanks to a missing comma in a state law, a Maine company now must pay millions in overtime to its drivers. Every aspect of your job matters. As Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Wooden famously said: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
Showcase It: When sending out donation letters to sponsors, use quality paper, ensure it’s properly addressed, and has been spell checked. At your internship, consistently deliver quality on every task you’re given—especially the tasks that seem mundane or unimportant.
Share in the comments whether you believe your skills are workforce ready and why.
Photo Courtesy of: Håkan Dahlström