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The 7 key soft skills every graduate job-hunter needs

They may seem simple, but their importance cannot be emphasised enough

Lizzi Hart
Thursday 14 January 2016 20:07

Are you soon to embark on your first graduate job hunt, or perhaps still hoping to find that perfect first ‘real job’, internship, or placement? Either way, you’ll definitely want to hone in on your employability to increase your chances. But what do we mean by ‘soft skills’? Essentially, they’re additional life and job skills many tend to overlook - and these are the main ones that count for a great deal in a working environment:

1) Verbal and written communication skills

After the analysis of 250,000 job adverts, ZipRecruiter concluded 51 per cent of said ads required good communication skills in a successful candidate. Now, if you’re not a writer or editor, this may come as a big surprise. Well, unfortunately for some - in a workplace environment - you need to be able to effectively communicate with your peers and management, be it in a verbal or written manner.

2) Confidence and assertiveness

Self-confidence can be developed, and doesn’t have to be a bad trait - more so a reflection of your own sense of self-worth. If you can confidently demonstrate your work is worth someone’s time, they will more likely agree with you.

Assertiveness needs to replace a non-confrontational approach - it will aid you better in the long-run, as you are upfront about your wants and needs - an admirable trait in a worker. Just don’t go overboard; there is a significant difference between confidence and arrogance, as between assertiveness and aggression.

3) Ability to manage time

You’ll have put this ability to the test during university (read: pulling an all-nighter), but with a stricter time-frame of 40-ish hours per week, you’ll need to adapt. Forget multi-tasking, and practise estimating how long a task will take you. Better yet, practice doing that task and recording the time it takes you. Plus, you need to figure out when your most productive time of the day is then, from here, you can plan your day accordingly.

4) Lateral and critical thinking skills

The ability to approach a problem from new and creative angles will see your value as an employee increase heavily. It is this way of thinking university will have prepared you for - just don’t be afraid to use it. As well as thinking laterally, questioning the way things work - and critically evaluating a problem - will also put you in a better position in the eyes of your managers. Learning how to think, not what to think, is the key to success.

5) Basic computer skills

No matter what your first graduate role will be, you will need to use a computer, and you will want to be seen as vaguely tech-savvy. Polish up on your knowledge of the basic Microsoft Office packages, learn some keyboard shortcuts, and learn how to describe the key components of a PC. The more you understand, the better you’ll be able to communicate issues to IT support and, in turn, become more productive.

6) Emotional intelligence and empathy

Attempting to understand others’ way of thinking or experiences is a hugely important factor to a) being a nice person and b) being a valued co-worker. By opening yourself up to the idea others could be right even if you don’t agree - and that their way of thinking comes from a different set of values and motivations - you’ll be more respected as a peer. How to begin? Start *actually* listening - and stop interrupting.

7) Ability to work in a team

You might have heard of the term ‘cultural fit’ because it’s a hot topic in recruitment these days. If a new employee could potentially ‘fit’ in with the current team, there is a better chance of them blossoming, working harder and more efficiently and, in turn, staying at the company longer. Now you can’t change who you are, but by building some confidence, and improving your communication (and listening) skills, you will in turn be seen as a better team player.

Twitter: @LizziYes

Lizzi Hart is a graduate from the University of Sussex and is a marketing assistant at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau

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