Girls like guys with skills… And so do employers

In early 2012, The NY Times reported more than 30 percent of American adults now hold a Bachelors degree. This number is now up almost 5 percent from 10 years ago (see full article here).

So the question is… In a decade where Bachelors degrees are a dime a dozen, how do you separate yourself from the pack to employers?

    1. Have Good Skills

Remember this scene from Napoleon Dynamite where no girl would want to date him because of his lack of skills?

Napoleon Dynamite: Well, nobody’s going to go out with *me*!
Pedro: Have you asked anybody yet?
Napoleon Dynamite: No, but who would? I don’t even have any good skills.
Pedro: What do you mean?
Napoleon Dynamite: You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.

Employers are searching for candidates with a varied skill set. Take advantage of courses that specialize in certain programs and software that are specific to your major. If you are employed, sign up for any training that will expose you and teach you something new. When applying to internships, chose opportunities that give you the most exposure. Start-up companies are usually a great place to intern. They lack the resources most established organizations do and therefore allow you to wear many hats. A few good resources to find internships at start-ups are www.greenhornconnect.com and www.ventureloop.com.

A lot of job postings include skills that they consider “a plus”. Think about it:  If you are the plus, you become that more attractive to the employer!

     2.  Responsibility – What’s that?

Believe it or not, employers still use personality tests as a way to assess a candidate during the hiring process. In fact, psychological testing of job candidates has increased as employers have been more careful about who they are hiring (find out more here). Even though you can’t really cheat through a personality test… you are who you are. It is important to stress to employers that you versatile and that you are eager and willing to take any project that comes your way. During the first few months of my job, the CMO tasked my department with a high-profile project. Since I was new, I got assigned the bulk of the project. The project was extremely difficult as it required expert knowledge of SharePoint and XML coding (By the way: I was a Marketing and Finance major). I didn’t know much about either. With a lot of persistence and a lot of YouTube video tutorials, I was able to complete the project. That one project has paid dividends and then some.

A record of increased responsibility is a key indicator of a great candidate and will help you further your career. It is always important to show your progression during an interview and on your resume.

3.  Can You Hear Me Now? – Clear Communication    

As we learned from the “Verizon Guy”, not much is more annoying than spotty cell phone reception. Our  frustration in this case is caused by the disruption of clear communication.

Gen Y is more challenged when it comes to effective communication because of their reliance on technology. Texting, instant messaging, and e-mail have replaced traditional phone and face-to-face conversations. It’s no surprise that studies done over the last 5 years have shown that although employers are impressed with Gen Yers technical skills; they are somewhat disappointed with their communication and interpersonal skills. In 2007, the Australian IT reported:

“Some 48 percent of the SME owners were disappointed by Gen-Y communications skills, and 37 percent complained of a lack of acceptable professional skills.”

Even with the shift in the way Gen Yers communicate, employers rank ability to communicate as one of the most important skills/qualities in a candidate (NACE – Job Outlook 2012 Survey).

So, how do you improve these skills? Anything that separates you from your phone and computer. Clubs, intramural sports, the dining hall…  basically any opportunity to talk to people face-to-face.

Business communications classes are also helpful and can benefit to any major. Since more people fear public speaking than death… the more you can practice, the better.

Internships can get you acclimated to communication in a corporate environment. Studying abroad can help too. It gives you the chance to communicate with people in a different country, who have a different culture and who possibly speak a different language.

 If you know what employers are looking for and how to convince them you have what they want…your message will be loud and clear that you are an ideal job candidate.

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