As a college grad looking for entry-level jobs, it is important to demonstrate a wide variety of skills, both specific to your degree or job and “soft” skills. Soft skills are those that underpin academic work but are not necessarily taught as part of educational achievements.
Recent research undertaken by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that soft skills most valued by employers are leadership, initiative, communication, and collaboration. When writing your resume, it is important to promote these skills as part of your overall accomplishments. Let’s look at how you might demonstrate these important soft skills so you stand out in the application process.
One of the most important yet often overlooked entry-level job skills is leadership. It may be that you led your debate team, were captain of your baseball team, or spearheaded a volunteer campaign. If so, it is important to include this on your resume or cover letter. Highlighting the times you lead a project or team can only help you.
Initiative, the ability to undertake tasks without being instructed, is a fundamental part of the working environment. It is also linked to leadership, where an individual is prepared to take responsibility for others, to plan, and to see how their actions impact other people, the department, or the organization. Think of examples where you took the initiative. These can often be tied to times that you were a leader, or perhaps it was a time that you grabbed the reigns in order to make sure a portion of a project was improved that no one else wanted to put more effort into. Showing initiative is a prized skill to have so don’t neglect to include it.
Many employers struggle to find college graduates with good communication skills, as communication skills are seen as some of the most important entry-level job skills. Communication covers a variety of skills from the ability to speak clearly to being able to write in business-appropriate language that clearly conveys a message.
It is a good idea to study your own speech so you can understand and correct any colloquialisms you may use without realizing it. For example, saying “you know” and “like” constantly while explaining yourself does not illustrate good communication skills. Work on your speaking voice to ensure you speak in an appropriate and confident way. Understanding appropriate business communication is an acquired skill, and the sooner you start working on it the faster you will improve.
Collaboration, the ability to work as part of a team or group, is a fundamental job skill. All employers hiring for entry-level jobs expect their employees to be able to collaborate with others, whether that be on a team or in a more global context. Remember that even though leadership and initiative are prized skills, it doesn’t mean you should monopolize a work group or expect everyone to only work your way. Being a good co-worker can help you build valuable social capital with co-workers that will come in handy as you grow as a professional.
These are the top four soft skills, according to NACE. But they are not the only entry-level job skills that employers value. Other skills include critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Being able to look at a problem, evaluate data and information, create innovative solutions, and understand the issue in a global context are also important skills. These are skills that you can, and should, develop and promote on your resume and cover letter.