The Skills You Have and the Skills They Want

The Skills You Have and the Skills They Want

"I've got no skills! How am I going to qualify for a job after I graduate?"

This is a common lament among college students, particularly liberal arts majors who don't see how their education will translate to the real world. But if you ever worry about not being attractive to employers, you shouldn't. First of all, nobody likes a whiner. A positive outlook and an air of confidence will attract employers, so it pays to keep your chin up.

More important, however, is the fact that you do have skills. You just don't recognize them.

College Teaches You Real-World Skills

Anyone who can write term papers, cram for exams, survive the roommate from hell, run a campus club, participate in sports or tackle other college challenges deserves a job and has demonstrated the ability to hold one. While there may not be an obvious link between what you're studying and the job you want, there's more of a connection than you think.

Let's say you're a philosophy major who wants to go into banking. Are you destined for failed interviews because you're prepared to discuss the meaning of life, while business and economics majors are prepared to quote Alan Greenspan? Not at all! The critical thinking and writing skills you've developed as a humanities major will make a great impression on prospective employers. Don't forget the negotiation and money management skills you demonstrated as treasurer of the philosophy club. And to further build your skill set, take accounting and economics courses or seek out a summer internship in banking.

The point is, a liberal arts education equips you with highly valued skills for the workplace. Except in fields requiring technical expertise, like engineering or computers, employers will hire you for your ability to think, communicate and get along well with other people. Then they'll train you. Of course, if you've already developed some job-specific knowledge through an internship, summer job or class, you'll be an even more attractive candidate.

Hot Skills Employers Want

Experts who study trends in hiring find that most companies, regardless of size or industry, look for the same basic skills when hiring. Believe it or not, you are most likely to develop these competencies during college. They include:

  • Critical Thinking: Seeing the big picture and being analytical; comprehending what you read.
  • Communication: Getting your point across effectively when writing and speaking.
  • Visionary Qualities: Brainstorming, looking to the future, setting goals.
  • Self-Motivation: Showing a willingness to take the initiative.
  • Proficiency with Information: Being inquisitive, curious and resourceful, knowing how to conduct research.
  • Globally-Minded: Understanding and showing an interest in other cultures and getting along with diverse groups of people.
  • Teamwork: Working well with others to achieve common goals.

Chances are, you possess a number of these key competencies. Once you realize you are very skilled, you'll be better able to sell yourself to employers as exactly the type of candidate they want.