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There’s no doubt graduate employers value academic achievement, but the ‘soft’ skills you bring to a role are just as, if not more, important – like effective communication, the ability to work within a team and leadership capabilities.
Each year Graduate Careers Australia surveys employers about the skills, knowledge and qualities they look for in a new graduate. Recent results reveal employers demand a lot more than good marks and work experience.
More than half of all employers surveyed nominated interpersonal and communication skills as the most important selection criteria used to recruit graduates. Why? Skilled communicators are an asset to every industry because they work well with others, listen to instructions and know how to get their point across without being pushy.
‘To show employers you can communicate well it’s important to demonstrate that you’ve worked in groups and that you’ve undertaken a lot of presentation work,’ says Dr Steve Jaynes, Deputy Director of Deakin University’s Master of Business Administration.
Even if you plan on a successful career in an often solitary profession like computer science or scientific research, you’ll still have to work with people from time to time on the job – and employers will expect you to know how to get along with a range of people.
‘People who bring others together and navigate personality issues are very valuable,’ says Dr Jaynes. ‘Employers want to know how you’ve worked with and motivated others to reach a consensus and an optimal group result.’
A good cultural fit is one of the more elusive aspects of recruitment, though highly valued – 35% of surveyed employers nominated it as a key selection criteria when recruiting. This is because if an employee shares the same workplace values as an employer they are likely to stay in a job and have a long, productive relationship.
‘Be very clear about your understanding of the culture of the organisation and how you fit into that culture,’ says Dr Jaynes. Is the organisational culture more formal or informal? What behaviours and attitudes are valued and rewarded? What is the process for suggesting new ideas? If you think it’s a great cultural fit for you, make this clear in your application and interview.
Strong emotional intelligence is valued by employers because it helps people navigate tricky social situations and manage relationships. Those with good emotional intelligence have self-awareness and self-regulation skills. They can pick up on dynamics in social situations and modify their mood and behaviour to improve social scenarios and relationships.
Professor Andrew Noblet from Deakin University’s Business School says that graduates will benefit from having strong emotional intelligence in the workplace, particularly when going for a stressful job in a high-pressure environment.
No workplace is an island, so it’s no surprise employers want to hire graduates who can show they work well in a team environment. A good team player can collaborate, influence and compromise.
In this case there is an ‘I’ in team, because it’s crucial to explain in your job application or interview how your contribution allowed the team to achieve its goals.
‘Ask your teammates or teacher to provide an assessment of how you operated as a team member – what you did well, the roles you performed in the team and how others perceived you,’ says Dr Jaynes. Develop a portfolio of your team work and the roles you played.
You may be a long way off that coveted management position, but leadership qualities are valued at every level of the organisation. Strong leaders are motivated, positive, know when to follow instructions and when to show initiative.
And you don’t have to be in charge to lead well.
‘Sometimes the more effective leaders are those who don’t have formal power but have energy, enthusiasm and are respected by others around them,’ says Dr Jaynes. In your portfolio, document the roles you’ve played in team settings, how you managed interpersonal issues and how you helped achieved a result.
Deakin is ranked a top three university in Australia for graduate employability. Our courses integrate practical skills to prepare you for a real-world career and we offer a range of services to help you put your best foot forward in the job market.
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