Matt Sedlar is a senior career development coach at Herzing University. He has shared his knowledge and expertise with students to help them gain the skills and experience necessary to earn meaningful employment across a variety of career fields.
Have you ever wondered what skills employers want in new college graduates? Most people think having a degree is what gets you the job or career you want. While a degree is certainly valuable, it doesn’t offer an employer the full picture of who you are or why they should invest in you. Beyond your degree, there are a variety of criteria that employers look at when hiring someone new to their team.
A common misconception is that hard skills, like hands-on experience, training and education, are the only factors that secure a job. While these skills are certainly valuable, it’s important to recognize that soft skills are equally – if not more important – to hiring managers. While hard skills can often be taught, soft skills usually cannot. Employers want to know you have these unique, highly sought-after soft skills to do the job effectively and efficiently. These are also the skills that help employers visualize your potential and possible long-term career trajectory. Remember, they aren’t just hiring you for the job you are applying for; they want to see who, with sufficient experience, can be elevated into future roles.
Below are the top skills employers are seeking in college graduates.
1. Leadership skills.
Your employer wants to know that you can be a leader and help others on the team, that you are someone who can take charge, show initiative, and be a resource to others on the team. Being an effective leader allows the team to grow, exceed expectations and goals, and learn from each other. This is not only essential for the team, but the overall good of the organization as well. Employers need strong leaders to help them grow.
2. Teamwork skills.
Many people are asked if they are team players or if they prefer to work independently. Both roles support the larger organization, especially when working collaboratively. Being a part of a team is crucial to generating impactful ideas and making the best decisions for the team to move forward. It's important that we collaborate, work through challenges, and find solutions together. While disagreements among team members are natural, the key is to reach a collective agreement, supporting the greater goal.
3. Written and verbal communication skills.
This seems to be the most obvious when it comes to skills employers are looking for in college graduates, but it’s so easy to take this one for granted. We all know how important communication is, however, there are various forms of it. We need to be able to write effectively, whether that be on paper, in emails or in other formats. The words we use and how they are written go a long way in how it is perceived by a colleague. This goes for verbal communication as well. Employers are looking for professional communication when in the workplace. Your ability to clearly communicate your ideas and engage with others — plus having the confidence to do so — should be the same whether you are speaking with a janitor or the CEO.
4. Problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
These two skills are extremely important and are expected traits for most career-ready college graduates. Employers want to feel confident that they can assign you a task and that you'll handle it effectively. While it’s okay to ask questions to get your thoughts going, your manager ultimately wants you to use your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to come to a solution. When given a task, you’ll want to first analyze it, prioritize certain objectives and then execute. Make sure to think outside the box and examine all possible factors that go into the task at hand. Developing a strategy and plan will help the task go smoothly and will be completed to perfection.
5. Strong work ethic.
Employers want to know they are hiring a quality candidate who will come to work each day and give 110%. You want to show an employer that you have the determination, dedication, and strength to perceive in everything you do. Nobody likes laziness at work!
There are many skills employers are looking for in their next hire so it’s crucial you work to obtain the soft skills needed to be successful in your career. The five skills listed above all play a unique role in not only how you help your colleagues or team, but the organization as well. Employers are looking for strong leaders who possess the necessary soft skills to make the job easier and more fulfilling.
No matter your role within an organization, we can all help each other exceed our goals and become better teammates. As a college graduate, make these top five skills a must-have and you will have set yourself up for success across a long and meaningful career.
Herzing University is here to support employers and employees to flourish in the careers of their dreams. Our Career Development Services are made with students like you in mind, standing by to support you throughout your journey.