Graduation is at hand and college students are heading out into the world to start their careers. You have a degree, but do you have the soft skills that potential employers are looking for? You learn a lot in college in many subjects, but employers say many college graduates lack specific soft skills that are needed in the workplace.
Research shows that only 15% of ones success is determined by hard skills (technical skills, your degree), while the remaining 85% of your success depends on soft skills.
Soft skills are the everyday skills that allow you to perform well at your job. Below you will find a list of some of the soft skills most desired by employers.
“A person who is able to maintain a 3.0 average and either plays a sport or has a leadership position in a club or organization, maybe volunteers with a community group, that’s a person you know is going to be able to live up to the tasks we face in our business lives,” said Dan Ryan, director of career planning and placement at the University at Buffalo.
The Number One Soft Skill
A recent survey of corporate recruiters ranked communications skills (speaking, listening and writing) as being one of the most desired skills. You may be a charming and likeable person who gets along well with everyone, but how well do you communicate? Can you stand before a group and give a short, clear and organized presentation?
It is important to be able to communicate your message even in one-on-one conversations. Speaking, listening and writing are communications skills that are needed every day in the workplace and is one reason it is the most valued soft skill.
College Students Lack Time Management Skills
Another important skill that college students seem to be lacking in is time management. Unlike high school where your teachers structured your assignments and your time was scheduled to the minute, in college you have less class time and you are responsible for getting the work done. With this freedom comes responsibility and some college students do not manage their time very well.
In the workplace time management is essential. Time management requires that you do planning, delegating, scheduling, goal setting, prioritizing your work, to-do lists, tasks lists and more. Time management is about increasing your efficiency and productivity, while eliminating distractions and procrastinations.
Desired Soft Skills
It’s important that you are knowledgeable in your field: an engineer must have engineering knowledge; an accountant needs an accounting background; a nurse needs a medical education. Your GPA is indicative of what you have learned in your field. More than half of employers recognize this by screening applicants by GPA, using a cutoff of 3.0. Add an internship or two in your field and you show an employer that you’ve tested your new knowledge.
However knowledge alone is not enough. Soft skills are required to put the knowledge to use and to get the job done. Surveys have shown these to be the soft skills most desired by employers.
- Face-to-face communication skills
- Writing skills
- Presentation skills
- Teamwork skills
- Interpersonal (gets along well with others) skills
- A good work ethic
- Time management
- Multitasking skills
- Able to meet deadlines
- Knowledge of business etiquette
Other Soft Skills
These are the desired soft skills, but by no means is a complete list. There are many other soft skills that are valuable in the workplace.
- Negotiating skills
- Motivation (yes it is a skill)
- Decision-making skills
- Problem solving skills (very important)
- Professional etiquette
- Able to teach others
- Professional attitude
- Analytical skills
Improving Your Soft Skills
College students tend to think a high GPA and a degree will ensure career success. While a good GPA is an indication that a college student can work hard and perhaps manage their time well, you need soft skills to be successful in the workplace.
While in college if soft skill courses or seminars are offered you should attend them. They are as important as your degree or your GPA. Other ways to build your soft skills in college include internships, a good job history and project oriented courses. Clubs and organizations, particularly leadership organizations can help. On-campus jobs such as a college newspaper or other job that puts you in a real world work environment will let you develop your soft skills.
“The best candidate isn’t always the person with the highest GPA,” said Kathy Hatem, vice president of resourcing and employee relations at HSBC. “You look at balance, involvement in all areas: education, work experience, internships, extracurricular activities.”
Try hitting the library and read some books on some of these soft skills. While you can not put them in a resume, they will help you start building your soft skills as soon as you start your job. Don’t think once you graduate you will not need to learn more. Throughout your career you should improve your soft skills, professional skills and technical skills. Doing so will help you move up the career ladder to success.