This week’s question submitted by Leonelle Thompson, assistant dean and director of the Business Career Center at the University of Tulsa. The center is dedicated to providing job-seeking resources for undergraduate and graduate business students and alumni.
In my role at the University of Tulsa, I am responsible for helping students become career-ready. Career readiness, as defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, is “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.”
There is no doubt students graduate with the technical skills needed for the workplace, but recent national studies have shown there is an opinion-based gap between what competencies college graduates believe they have and the competencies employers are seeking in new graduates or individuals seeking their first professional job.
What competencies, in addition to technical skills, are employers seeking in graduates (both at the undergraduate and graduate level), as they transition from college to the workplace?
At the Rowland Group, I frequently encounter hiring managers who provide a detail of the key characteristics they seek when hiring. Many companies are willing to train new hires on some technical skills but often complain that individuals graduating from college do lack some soft skills they would like to have within their companies.
Here are a few of the common competencies I continually hear are lacking in new graduates:
Initiative. Some of the students entering the work force have never had a job previously. Many are unprepared for what initiative actually involves. Employees need to be proactive and ask questions such as, “How can I help?” Simple things, like preparing a checklist and taking notes during training, show initiative.
Team-centered thinking vs. me thinking. Rather than focusing on what the company can do for you, focus on what you can do for the company, during interviews and once hired. If an individual wants to succeed in their career, figuring out the company’s goals first can help them align their career path with the goals of the company. This is probably the No. 1 complaint I hear from employers about new graduates: they care too much about getting what they want vs. aspiring to be a part of achieving overall company goals. In fairness, companies may also be at fault, for not properly articulating their overall goals.
Solid communications skills. Knowing when to communicate via email, text and in person is valuable to every organization. Constantly utilizing one method of communication is not enough. There are times when a face-to-face conversation is necessary, and going to a supervisor or co-worker to talk can build relationships and enhance communication. Listening and asking questions to clarify understanding is also a necessary skill to apply at work.
Understanding the need for balancing flexibility with work responsibility. Deadlines and work responsibility will not allow for flexibility in every situation. Working remotely may be possible in some situations, but most jobs require being present to greet customers or to collaborate with other team members.
Patience. Young hires need to realize that learning a job and getting promotions takes time. They must seek to understand what is necessary to be promoted in an organization and leave unrealistic expectations at the door.
Lynn Flinn is president and managing partner of The Rowland Group of Staffing Cos., which specializes in the placement of accounting, information technology, engineering and energy professionals. Send questions for Leader 2 Leader to firstname.lastname@example.org.