Tag Archives | job skills

Image by Clicsouris, Wikimedia Commons

Image by Clicsouris, Wikimedia Commons

If you aren’t planning on working after college, feel free to disregard this article. On the other hand, if you’re not independently wealthy and have no desire to be a bum outside Barnes & Noble, then you need to make sure that you have both the hard and soft skills employers are looking for.

Admittedly, the skills gap is a complex issue, and that’s an understatement. With a variety of different factors, even experts disagree about how exactly to fix the problem. Some place the blame on inadequate school career centers, others on greedy businesses that are unwilling to invest in future employees, and still others point to the throngs of eighteen year olds enrolling in philosophy and music theory degrees. However, none of these factors are changing. Manufacturing industries identified the skills gap in 2001, but the crevice has only widened in 2016. Schools will neglect to inform students of all their options, businesses will always prefer to hire employees that they don’t have to train first, and students aren’t equipped to pick their own career path as teenagers.

So, where does that leave you? You’ve already taken the plunge and attended university, maybe for a less-than-relevant major. What can you do now to overcome this skills gap?

Have Demonstrable Soft Skills
A large part of the problem is a lack of “soft skills” like organization or interpersonal communication. And while you can certainly claim to have these in the interview, you likely won’t even get the interview unless you list an experience that displays these in some way. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I’m an English major, so I obviously know how to write.”

Instead, have tangible experience that you can use as an example. Ideally, this is some sort of internship, but not everyone has the time or the opportunity to pursue one during college. You can substitute volunteer work, extracurricular activities, or even a group project. If you don’t have anything noteworthy to use here, go get some experience! Volunteer for a non-profit in your area. Even if it’s just a bake sale for a local PTA, you can use it to showcase some valuable communication skills.

Include this relevant experience on your resume, and refer to it in your cover letters. Soft skills are difficult to test for, so there is a perception that they are less valuable. That is not the case, however; explaining a specific instance where you used some soft skills can lend you credibility.

Be Well-Rounded
While you might not be on the path to becoming a mechanical engineer or an electrician, you still need to have some hard skills. Take a science or math class as an elective. At the very least, be proficient with computers. Learning how to operate different software takes time, especially since programs are constantly updating, but it will give you an edge that other job-seekers won’t have. Additionally, learn the basics of coding and operating a search engine. These skills are easier than ever to pick up, but many neglect to do so, figuring they will never have to use them. This might be true, but having a knowledge base is a huge advantage when you have to adapt to a new technology on the job.

Being a quick learner is more important than knowing the intricacies of Program X 3.7, because Program X 4.0 will revolutionize your future industry in a few short months. If you are lacking certification in relevant fields or software, emphasize this point and be ready to back it up. Show that you have familiarity with the basics, at least, and are ready to learn more. This might require you to take a course on something common like spreadsheets or something specific like metallurgy. It’ll depend on the position, but the willingness and the ability to learn on the job should not be undervalued. Take time before an interview to think of a tangible example of this as well.

Do Your Research
This sounds obvious, but four out of every five college students graduate without a job lined up. Some of that is the job market, but many succumb to senioritis and think a few Craigslist searches at 2 am during finals week count as researching careers. Look into the job market well before you graduate and see what’s in demand. If there is an industry you would like to work in, contact a relevant company. Google might give you an idea of a general trend, but employers can zero in on the specifics. Ask what exact skills they look for in their employees. Know what qualities will make you a competitive candidate.

Additionally, learn what different qualifications you’ll need for various positions. You might find that the only real differences between two positions are a week-long certification and a significant pay raise. This is better to know sooner rather than later. It’ll be much more impressive when you apply for a job that you already have the necessary qualification for, instead of scrambling to acquire them before you’re hired.

While it might be tempting to blame the education system or employers for your predicament, this doesn’t solve the problem. Yes, you’re stuck in an awkward place where you’re being asked why you didn’t pursue a career that you didn’t even know existed, businesses are asking for two years experience for an entry-level job, and the job market isn’t that great to begin with. It’s not necessarily your fault, but it’s certainly your responsibility to overcome these hurdles. Especially with the ever-widening skills gap, jumping over these obstacles can be especially challenging, but far from impossible. You just need a running start.

This article was contributed by guest author Dayton.

Image by Shilad Sen, Flickr

Image by Shilad Sen, Flickr

You studied hard, did your work, participated in discussions, and earned good grades. This is self-promotion in terms of the college classroom. Self-promotion in the job market requires skills too, but they may not be so very different from those you’ve already mastered. Consider the following.

1. Know the field you want to enter
In university terms, this means assembling sources of information. Before sending in applications and setting up interviews, make a general survey of the businesses that interest you most. Consider their location, their structure, and the positions they offer. This information will give you confidence as you proceed.

2. Research your field by making direct contact with potential employers
If you were writing a paper for class, you’d start by gathering information. When preparing to promote yourself to a potential employer, you can ask those questions and seek more information even before sending in an application. Polite emails introducing yourself and asking intelligent questions form a first contact in the job-seeking process.

3. Review what you’ve learned and streamline your self-image
As you gather information about the jobs you want, consider how what you have to offer matches what potential employers are seeking. The overlapping features are those that you’ll most actively promote during the job search.

4. Develop a CV that reflects your intentions
Consider your current CV a “rough draft” for your next job interview. Using the information you’ve acquired through your research, prepare a final draft of the CV especially for this interview. The new CV will in turn be a rough draft for the next interview.

5. Prepare for the job interview
When writing papers for university, you were expected to develop a “thesis statement,” a position you were attempting to prove correct. Prepare for your job interview by creating a thesis statement about yourself and why you are a good fit for the job under consideration.

6. Be prepared to present yourself in a positive and objective way
You gave many class presentations at university. Good preparation and practice were the key. When you are called in for a job interview, access the same skills. Speak with confidence about material that you know very well: yourself and your abilities.

7. View your field from new angles
The job market is constantly changing, bringing new challenges and new opportunities. It may be that enhancing your abilities will help you meet those challenges more effectively. Consider enrolling in an MBA program online, for example, not only to add to your skill set but also to keep you up to date on the most recent developments in your field.

Self-promotion requires courage, commitment, patience, and practice, as well as self-knowledge and honesty. These qualities helped you during your college years, and will continue to do so as you emerge in the business world.

This article was contributed by guest author Lizzie Weakley.