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Skills All College Graduates Should Have

The skills needed to land your first job out of college

One of the most common questions heard by college graduates worldwide is likely “What are you doing now that you’ve graduated from college?” The current job market, while improving somewhat, is a big part of why college graduates are scrambling to find the right job for them; however, besides a better job market, the answer to landing a good job is having the skills necessary to succeed there.

Having a college degree is a start, but it may not be enough to get you your dream job. So what other skills must recent college grads possess, no matter where you’re looking for a job? Read on to find out:

People skills - It’s important for entry-level workers to be able to communicate clearly with other co-workers and be able to get along well, especially when working in teams is crucial. However, 52 percent of companies said recent college graduates were lacking people skills, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

“Decent interpersonal skills—the ability to converse, to make eye contact, to speak in complete sentences, to recognize one’s responsibility, to listen to another perspective—equal fairly decent job prospects,” says Lee Burdett Williams, the dean of students at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. “We need to be certain our students know how to give a good firm handshake, look someone in the eye and introduce themselves.”

Problem-solving skills - According to the same CareerBuilder survey, 46 percent of employers said that college graduates don’t possess good problem-solving skills. Problem-solving skills include traits such as making fast but efficient decisions to get the job done in a timely and competent manner, instead of relying on others to make the decision for them. The reason why it may be difficult for college graduates to do this?

“This is a generation that has been ‘syllabused’ through their lives,” says Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition for Enterprise. “Decisions were made for them, so we’re less likely to find someone who can pull the trigger and make a decision.”

Oral communication skills - It’s not surprising that a whopping 41 percent of employers say recent grads have poor oral communication skills, as it may be an effect of growing up in the digital age, where traditional face-to-face conversations aren’t necessarily the norm anymore. In addition, many recent graduates find it difficult to alter their speaking style when necessary—for example, speaking too casually when partaking in a serious conversation.

“Students can be a little too open and too friendly and that makes recruiters concerned about how they will handle things when they work with clients,” explains Michael Meredith, an assistant professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.

Leadership skills - It seems obvious that recent grads, right out of college, would need to work on their leadership skills, yet 63 percent of millennials still want to be a leader at their first job, according to a millennial leadership survey by The Hartford. However, their definition of “leadership” may not align correctly with an employer’s need, and that could negatively impact their ability to find a job requiring leadership skills.

“They define [leadership] not by title, status, or hierarchy,” says Emily He, chief marketing officer of office solutions company Saba. “They look for a direct linkage between what they’re contributing and the direct result of the company.”

Written communication skills - Being able to write and spell well are essential aspects of any job in any field. However, another possible detriment of growing up in the digital age is that many recent grads’ writing skills aren’t up to par for future employers. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 38 percent of employers noted that recent grads need better written communication skills to succeed in the workplace.

“Incorrect grammar, spelling and language usage can make a very bad impression. Using an informal style—relying on abbreviations, not using punctuation and failing to capi­tal­ize—does not come across as professional,” says Joyce E. A. Russell, the director of the Smith Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

If you’re a recent college graduate looking for a job, make sure to home in on these skills, which are necessary to landing that first job out of school.

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