By Amit Chauhan
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identified the top personal qualities that employers look for in college graduates. Understanding what these are, why they are highly desired and how to cultivate them can make grads much more competitive once they enter the workforce.
Whether you’re entering your first year in college, or are closing out your last year, you still have time to work on each personal quality that will make you a more marketable employee. Here are some ways to begin cultivating these qualities immediately:
Ability to make decisions and solve problems
Although employers expect to more closely manage recent grads and new hires in the workplace, they hire under the assumption that it will not be a permanent situation. Demonstrating the ability to make decisions and solve problems based on knowledge obtained over time in a particular role is a critical skill to demonstrate growth and competence in a job.
In school, you have a lot of important decisions to make and problems to overcome. Whether it’s deciding on a major, choosing a good course schedule, or dealing with a difficult professor, these are all experiences that will help you build this personal quality.
When you find yourself dealing with a difficult situation or coming to a decision, it’s wise to document what made it challenging, how you came to your final conclusion and what came of it. Not only proving you can make the hard decisions and solve problems, but also showing you learn from each of them is a key trait employers look for.
Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
Switching tone, demeanor and even messaging is an important skill to have in the professional world. While you may talk in a more informal, even joking tone with colleagues within the company, you need to know how and when to switch over to a more formal tone with clients and upper management.
As a student, become more aware of how you interact with peers, professors and friends. If you have the same tone for every interaction, you need to begin to cultivate an awareness of how you’re presenting yourself in formal and informal situations. From there, taking a more active role in listening and finding a good way to approach different personalities will help you become a much stronger candidate for the workforce.
Ability to obtain and process information
Learning doesn’t stop once you leave college. Once you enter the workforce, you are expected to stay abreast of everything from the latest trends within the industry, to the inner workings of the company you work for. Additionally, applying this information to your role is critical to offering value for your employer.
During your time in school, there is plenty of opportunity to obtain and process information. The key will be in how you transfer that information into your school work, your interactions with your peers and professors, and your professional experiences. Use this time to figure out how you consume information and then apply it to practical applications and situations in the real world.
Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
Working hard is important, but working smarter is even more important. As your responsibility grows within a position, you will need to be able to prove that you have the organizational skills to get everything done that needs to be. Additionally, the ability to differentiate between what tasks take priority over others is key in moving up the ladder and making sure you’re tending to the most important aspects of your role.
As a student, you have to juggle homework, studying, group projects, work and socializing. There is no question that you are naturally given the ability to cultivate planning, organizing and prioritizing in your everyday college life. So all you have to do to cultivate these skills is be aware. Pay attention to what comes naturally and what may be more difficult. For some, planning out their day and keeping everything organized is easy, but being able to know when to say no can be more of a challenge.
Ability to analyze quantitative data
If you’ve spent any time reading mainstream publications, the term “big data” has likely come up in a couple of the articles. In a world that is putting increasing importance on data-driven statistics, the ability to understand and utilize quantitative data has become a highly desired trait for employers.
What does this mean for students? Enroll in more math and statistics classes! Even if your strong suit is not math, you need to be able to contribute to and decipher the amount of data that companies are now capturing. Taking classes and possibly getting involved in study groups or pre-professional organizations focused on this topic will help you gain a more thorough understanding of how to look at the numbers and turn them into useful business insights for companies.
Taking time to identify your future career path during college is important, but you should also be aware of how you’re cultivating these important qualities and skills along the way. If you do that, you can be confident you’ll walk into the workforce much further ahead of the game than your fellow job seekers.
What are some other ways students can begin cultivating these qualities and skills to become more competitive in the workforce? Share in the comments!
Amit Chauhan is the CEO and co-founder of Recroup, an entry-level hiring platform that allows employers to find the right talent by getting to know the person behind the resume. Connect with Amit and the Recroup team on Twitter and LinkedIn.