When you’re looking for your first job and are starting to review job listings, you’ll see an interesting mix of requirements listed by prospective employers. Some of the requirements cover the most obvious parts of a job – such as reviewing financial statements if you want to be an accountant, or understanding how to take someone’s vitals if you’re applying to be a medical assistant.
Others, however, touch on more general topics such as leadership, collaboration and willingness to learn. Some of these types of skills you’ll need to become more employable are applicable no matter the career you plan to pursue after college.
Here are some skills that will help make you employable.
When applying for a job there are two types of skills you’ll be expected to have – “hard” skills and “soft” skills.
Hard skills are the skills that are specific to the industry and the job you plan to do. Employers’ expectations for hard skills will change depending on the level of seniority for the position – the higher up the position, the more advanced your skills need to be.
It’s possible you might not have an exact match for the hard skills requested in the job description. That’s okay – even if you might not seem like a direct match, you can make the case that your skills are transferable. In other words, if you were working for a private practice doctor or in a home healthcare setting, your skills might be fine for a position at a hospital, even if the day-to-day work is not exactly the same.
Soft skills are a combination of people and social skills that can be applied to any career no matter the industry. While soft skills sometimes are overlooked, they are vital to most positions, especially ones in which internal collaboration is important as well as interaction with the public, such as patients.
Common soft skills include effective communications, problem-solving, critical thinking, adaptability and leadership. For many roles, especially entry-level or junior positions, employers might be okay if you don’t have all of the hard skills they would like, as long as you demonstrate an ability to problem solve and an openness to learn.
You can learn both hard and soft skills in college as you prepare for a career in your chosen field.
Some students build their knowledge of hard skills during labs, projects or clinicals by using specific tools or equipment and practicing procedures meant for a particular position or field. Students can also learn the basics of a field during lectures and by taking quizzes and tests.
There are also chances in the classroom to learn soft skills during group projects, presentations and assignments. Opportunities for soft skill development include:
- Communicating with peers
- Using problem-solving skills to determine solutions
- Learning to accept feedback from professors and instructors
- Taking on a leadership role when working in a group
- Practicing time management by creating project timelines
Herzing University embraces the importance of soft skills, most notably through our P.R.I.C.E. of Success program. These lessons are woven into courses through assignments and interactions that students have with each other and faculty
Students in most fields will pursue internships or clinicals to learn on-the-job hard and soft skills that make them more employable.
For example, if you’re an intern in the project management field, you might work on an actual project on a project management platform. If you’re a nursing student doing clincials, you get to work with live patients instead of simulation labs.
You’ll also get valuable soft skills training in a work environment, including:
- Communicating with people who have different experience levels and preferences
- Organizing your workload and assignments
- Improving time management by prioritizing and meeting deadlines
- Building critical thinking skills through team brainstorms and direction from upper management
How Can You Market Your Skills?
Knowing how to market yourself is the next step to becoming an employable candidate. Here are some ways to do that:
Before writing your resume, decide which hard and soft skills are most important for your industry and potential employers. What have you learned that would be an asset to a company in an entry-level position, allowing you to start without much direction?
It’s easier to describe your hard skills. Soft skills, however, can be a little trickier to include without sounding too forced. The best way to demonstrate these skills on a resume is to provide examples, such as how you led a team of three to the desired result in a class project or collaborated successfully in an internship.
A resume that mostly showcases your hard skills can get you an interview, but that’s when the soft skills start to become more important. The employer will only interview you if you seem to have the hard skills required for the job. In the interview, you’re more likely to be asked questions that help a future employer determine your character, such as how you deal with stress in the workplace or how you stay on top of multiple deadlines.
You can show off your soft skills by:
- Providing examples of past work that required collaboration and leadership
- Sharing stories of previous experiences, such as stressful projects that required a cool head and calm demeanor
- Asking your interviewer questions to show your eagerness to learn and coachability
Prior to applying for a position or attending an interview, another great way to demonstrate your skills is by practicing and showcasing them on different platforms.
Create a portfolio of your work and continue adding to it as you complete more projects, internships and experiences. This can be a downloadable attachment that can be printed and shared with others or a professional website. By doing so, employers and other industry professionals can see not only your skills in the industry and seriousness of finding a position in the field, but they will also consider you a more employable candidate.
Also, create a LinkedIn profile that is a strong, online version of your resume and also includes key parts of your portfolio. The profile should include recommendations, in which your former managers, colleagues and instructors can provide more proof that you have exemplary hard skills and soft skills for your chosen field. By including important soft and core skills on your profile, you can help future hiring managers and human resources professionals see your full skillset as well as make it easier for them to find you via search.