It's important for those new to or entering the workforce to listen to what their future employers are saying, and work on the skills that will help recent graduates be a success in any organization.
We recently published a post on steps hiring managers can take to help ensure a successful recent graduate new hire. In that post we highlighted areas of apprehension for hiring managers when it comes to the skills and workplace readiness of new grads, citing people and problem solving skills as the two biggest areas lacking in this population. While it is important for hiring managers to understand their new hires and look at their potential, it is equally important for those new to the workforce to listen to what their future employers are saying, and work on the skills that will help you recent graduates be a success in any organization.
The Skills Gap: What Hiring Managers See as Missing Skills
Payscale.com recently released the 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report. The report draws upon survey results from over 63,000 managers and gives a unique look at the skills they see are missing from the recent graduate talent pool.
According to the report, 44% of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill (a clearly defined and measurable skill) most lacking in recent graduates. Public speaking came in second (39%) and data analysis rounded out the top three with 36% of managers citing this as a gap.
As for soft skills, or those unquantifiable character traits and interpersonal skills that help facilitate relationships, managers found critical thinking/problem solving as the number one skills deficit with 60% citing it as an issue. Attention to detail (56%) and communication skills (46%) followed.
What makes these results even more interesting is the vast difference between how recent grad's perception of their workplace readiness differs from that of their potential employers. 87% of recent grads believe they have the skills and are ready for full-time employment, while only 50% of managers agree.
So how do recent grads bridge the gap?
Tips to Enhancing Key Hard Skills
Effective writing skills are critical to success in just about any field. One way to understand effective writing is to know the rules, and my rule book is The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. I keep a copy of it on my phone for quick answers to just about any writing question. When developing writing skills is it also important to be a reader. If you know what industry you would like to work in, start reading articles specific to that industry. You’ll learn important industry vocabulary and how ideas are organized in that particular field.
Public speaking is a difficult skill to master. While there are many ways to set yourself up for success, like writing out the speech and practicing it out loud, some curve balls can really get you off your game. Consider an organization like Toastmasters International to help you gain public speaking confidence or try a local improve/stand-up comedy class for a different approach to feeling comfortable in front of an audience.
The work world is full of data and the sources of data keep expanding. To be successful, recent grads will need to understand how to collect, format, interpret, and present data. The first step in data analysis proficiency will be to get very familiar with Microsoft Excel. It is pretty ubiquitous throughout the business world and offers a lot of tools to help organize, analyze, and present data.
Tips to Enhancing Soft Skills
Developing soft skills such as critical thinking, attention to detail, and communication is a bit different than the techniques used for improving hard skills. With hard skills there is a focus on being able to complete specific tasks, like write a brief, deliver a presentation, or present your findings. Improving soft skills is more about developing positive habits.
Soft skill improvement requires actively thinking about how you complete tasks and developing your own processes that will allow you to be a better critical thinker, pay closer attention to detail, and to be a better communicator. One method that seems to help across many soft skill areas is planning. When approaching a new project or even in your day-to-day work, set up a plan of attack for yourself. Ask yourself questions about what the project is supposed to accomplish, who else you’ll need to engage to complete the project or task, and potential roadblocks.
With a plan in hand, you’ll be able to think critically about the actions you’ll need to take and have a framework for decisions. You’ll understand the other players and have the time to think about how to communicate project needs effectively and ahead of time. Finally, taking the time to plan will give you an opportunity to think out all aspects of the project or task so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Having a thoughtful approach to your work is a fantastic habit to build and will help build the soft skills managers find so lacking in their recent grad hires.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated to include recent events.
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