Apparently there is a large gap between employers and recent graduates when it comes to what applicants think they are worth in the job market. That’s a problem. Read here for further details but in a nutshell, 40% of employers say that most entry level job applicants don’t have the basics skills required to fill the position. Ouch. Furthermore, employers give more weight to “soft skills” (e.g., communication, critical thinking, professionalism) than academics when hiring new candidates yet students did not recognize these skills as being very important for job advancement. Oy.
So what can you do as a student or new grad to avoid this little problem? Being able to translate your academic experience in a way that is relevant to the employers will be your best bet and increase your chances of clinching the job.
1. Research- You can’t know what is relevant to that particular employer until you understand the job itself and the industry. That requires planning ahead and a bit of research but it is a critical step. Be current on industry/company trends and news. Look at the job posting to see what skills they are specifically asking for. Once you understand what the position requires and what is important to the employer/company, you have a better chance of actually addressing these in your resume, cover letter, and interview.
2. Market yourself- Now that you know what skills and qualities are emphasized and are needed for that job, find a way to communicate your fit. Is it highlighted in your resume? Perhaps you worked on a class project that required you to do some of what they are asking for. Use the same keywords in your resume and cover letter. Are there examples from your time on campus you can use to illustrate soft skills? Since soft skills are behavioral, it is a little more difficult to illustrate than hard (technical) skills. Just saying that you have excellent communication skills doesn’t do much for the employer. Everyone will say that they are strong communicators but few people actually are. Giving an example to prove that you possess this skill is more powerful. Need help on how to do that in an interview? There is a handout for that on our CCD website.
3. Gain the necessary skills- If you realize that you don’t have a skill that will be critical for the job, do your best to acquire it. You may have to be proactive to do this. If most of the jobs you are interested in require knowledge of a specific kind of software or experience with leading projects, gaining this knowledge before hand will give you an edge again other candidates. You can take outside training or specifically ask a mentor to learn something more technical if it is not already provided in your courses here. Also, look at student groups and volunteer opportunities as a venue to gain leadership and management experience. Raise your hand if they are asking for group leaders so you can stretch your muscles and gain stronger soft skills.