Let's face it: the job market is crowded with applicants. The best way to stand out is to demonstrate you have the skills and experience employers want. Even if you have not yet graduated, you can start now to develop the skills and experience that can land you the job later on.
Although it is important to have specific competencies appropriate to your profession, there are general skills all employers want in graduate recruits. Here are some that many job candidates forget, but that employers value highly.
1. Communication skills: Look at almost any job listing and you will probably notice that good communication skills are required. It is important to be able to speak and write clearly. Just as important, you should know how to listen attentively. This last is a skill many people have not mastered, so evidence of that skill will impress many prospective employers. When writing and speaking, you should be able to get your point across clearly and concisely.
2. Interpersonal skills: Can you work as part of a team? Can you also manage a group of workers, delegating tasks and taking responsibility for the result? If so, these interpersonal skills will take you far. The idea is to build strong working relationships with those around you, from those you might supervise, to clients, to your supervisors.
3. Business sense: No matter what business you are in or what company you work for, you should know that industry and your company inside out. If you can demonstrate a strong understanding of your company's goals and how it operates, you will set yourself ahead of other candidates.
4. Influence and negotiation skills: Sometimes it is important to be able to get your way, and other times it is important to negotiate an outcome everyone is happy with. Combined with the leadership skills above, this is a powerful skill for job candidates to possess.
5. Problem-solving skills: Employers are looking for candidates who can analyze a problem, look at it from many perspectives, and find workable solutions, all with little outside supervision. Mastering this skill will make you very attractive to today's employers.
6. Leadership skills: If you can manage a team, motivate, delegate tasks, and take responsibility for the outcome, prospective employers will be impressed with your leadership skills, even if your entry-level position is not in management.
7. Organizational skills: It is important to be able to prioritize tasks, and manage your time effectively. Meeting deadlines and juggling multiple projects or tasks are also important.
8. Resilience and self-direction: A self-directed employee finds motivation within herself to do a good job. She is able to keep going even when the going gets rough. If you can do all this with a smile on your face as well, then you're on the right track!
9. Crisis and stress management: Most jobs will have crises and stressful situations. It will be necessary to handle these with grace and calm.
10. Self-confidence: Remember there is a difference between self-confident and overconfident or arrogant. That said, though, it is important to have confidence in your abilities and in those around you. After all, if you don't have confidence in yourself, no one else will either.