According to a 2013 study by American Express and Gen Y research firm Millennial Branding, managers have an overall negative view of young workers, and point to their lack of soft skills regarding communication and interpersonal interactions, time management abilities and willingness to work as a team.
But these skills are hard to teach in a classroom setting, and tend to come with office-like experience whether it’s from an internship, volunteer work, participating in student organizations or part-time jobs.
Here are five areas college students and recent grads can focus on to bolster their soft skill savvy and increase their chances for landing that first (good) job:
1- Written Communication: blogging, journaling, short story writing, school newspaper
The good news is that most college students and grads possess outstanding technical savvy and can pick up a company’s IT and software systems in a snap. Still, communication skills are the most sought-after skill set in any industry and any occupation. No one can write an effective business letter or even a professional email in 140 characters or less. Starting a blog on a relative professional subject, making a habit of writing in a journal or even taking a short story writing class are all ways to strengthen one’s written communication skills.
2- Interpersonal Skills: trade groups and associations, Toastmasters, MeetUp.com, mock interview session
Getting out and joining relative trade groups, associations, and even MeetUp’s are a great way to build solid interpersonal skills. By talking to and mixing with industry professionals and experts, graduates can get a feel for how the pros communicate and act. Toastmasters is one of the best ways to rapidly increase a person’s communication and presentation skill set. Most professionals will take an interest in any young professional who displays the will to learn and improve. A good career coach can also offer candid feedback (that friends and family may not) regarding interview etiquette and performance. College internships can offer a professional setting to help develop and hone soft/people skills and teamwork.
3-Leadership: volunteer roles, societies and clubs, extracurricular activities in school
One sure fire way to demonstrate professionalism and maturity is to take on leadership and community service-type roles in school and with local organizations. Most organizations have officers and committee members and many non-profits looks for good people to help promote their cause. Even taking on leadership roles in sports or clubs are worth highlighting in a resume and talking about in an interview.
4-Professionalism: mentor or coach can assist with proper attire, etiquette, body language
Developing a relationship with a mentor or enlisting the help of a good coach is a strong way to gain insight as to how a young professional should present themselves in any sort of a professional or work setting. Focusing on things like proper attire and especially etiquette and body language can give any graduate a leg up in the hiring process.
5-Time Management: Google Calendar, planner, demonstrate balance when in school
Professionals are prepared and have a strong sense of urgency regarding what tasks need to be accomplished in an expedite manner. Pros show up ready and well-organized. Demonstrating proper time management skills is an impressive way to convey professionalism and job readiness to any hiring manager. It’s mandatory that any young professional has a system of keeping appointments, managing tasks and projects, and for following up. If the preference is online, Google Calendar is a solid application. Planners are not passé and can be a powerful tool in helping a person stay organized. The other benefit of the Franklin Planner or Day Runner is that your appointments and to-do list are always in your purview.