The dynamics of landing a job have changed with the advent of social media and other new technologies.
Take newspaper reporters, for example. Savvy editors now position reporters as brand experts in their respective beats, like education, travel or tourism. As part of their workday, reporters are expected to craft a brand identity and cultivate a following on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to draw readers back to the newspaper's website -- and the number of Twitter followers a reporter has can directly impact his or her chances of getting hired.
Although the ideal skill set for job seekers varies by market and by industry, polishing the skills outlined below by experts in education, recruitment and business might help recent graduates land their first big job out of college.
Shifts in the workplace
Bill J. Bonnstetter, co-founder and board chair at Target Training International of Scottsdale, Arizona, has seen a slow but steady shift in the workplace from employees with calculable and definable skills like typing, finance, nursing or customer service to less-tangible skills. That shift is most prevalent in the tech sector, where workers must continually learn new technologies and trends to remain viable.
"Because of the rise in tech jobs, intangible work, which requires skills such as continuous learning to keep up with the newest tech system, database or solution, flexibility and analytical problem solving became the new normal and integral for workplace success," Bonnstetter said. "In addition, given the influence of the Millennial generation and the tech- and start-up-driven culture of a team approach to work, it has increased the importance of interpersonal skills and teamwork, as well as leadership skills in the workplace."
It's not enough anymore to simply be highly proficient in your work, whether you are a good news writer or an IT troubleshooting expert. Just as reporters are expected to build themselves into brand experts for their beats, tech workers and others often are expected to lead projects, cultivate new ideas and implement them, often in a team setting.
Those expectations a list of new job skills -- strong written and interpersonal communications, effective leadership, creativity, networking and marketing through social media. Many of these skills can be developed while still in college by taking the right mix of classes, through internships and by paying close attention to the new demands of the workplace.
"Job candidates' knowledge and experience doesn't sell to employers until skills are attached to them," Bonnstetter said. "The trick for recent college graduates is to communicate clearly that they possess these soft skills -- the skills of the future."
The 4 ideal skills for job seekers
Below is a list of job skills that have become essential to workplace success across many fields and industries:
Monique Anair, chair of computer science, film and engineering programs at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico, has taught tech for a decade and has conducted studies on essential career competencies for students entering contract labor or freelance positions -- and many high technology and social media jobs are staffed by consultants or freelancers. Anair interviewed 400 Santa Fe Community College graduates, discovering that the top five grads who earned between $35,000 and $100,000 were those highly proficient in their uses of social media and marketed themselves as experts in their fields.
"In contrast, the students who refused to use Facebook or other social media were unable to maintain employment," Anair said.
Where to get the skill
Using data gathered through Anair's research, Santa Fe Community College implemented social media networking as part of its core focus on skill building for students. Many students are going to be familiar with social media going into college.To increase effective use consider taking some marketing or branding courses as electives or certificate-based programs at community colleges or online schools.
Leadership consistently comes up as one of the main skills job seekers should have in hand before starting their search. A 2014 survey of employers from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that a full 78 percent of respondent organizations have leadership as one of the primary skills they're evaluating new candidates for.
There's various ways for students to hone leadership during their college careers. As one example, Southeastern College in Florida hosts monthly leadership seminars through the Leadership Distinction Program for students to help them develop one of the most crucial professional skills they need to succeed in the workplace. The seminars focus on building different leadership styles to effectively motivate a wide range of employees, as well as professionalism, networking and civic responsibility.
How to get the skill
Students can hone their leadership skills in college by taking management, leadership and professional development classes either as part of their degree path at their university or online through many different colleges.
Tara Goodfellow, managing director of Athena Educational Consultants, a career and college coaching firm based in Matthews, North Carolina, points to a clear shift in the way students and employees communicate with each other due to technological advancements in education and the workplace.
"Graduates communicate via machine versus in person," Goodfellow said. "This gets them through school, but it's a different ballgame in the real world."
Though email is an effective way to communicate in the workplace, employees still need to clearly communicate with their co-workers and managers face to face. Goodfellow works with students to help them polish crucial communication skills by securing in-person interviews and developing a 30-second "Tell Me About Yourself" speech.
That speech, and the focus on strong interpersonal communications skills, can serve students throughout their careers, Goodfellow said. "Graduates are now estimated to have 16 different jobs throughout their careers -- this just reinforces the need to have strong interpersonal skills."
How to get the skill
Most colleges offer interpersonal communications coursework as part of their communications degrees. Students can learn the various verbal and non-verbal elements of communications, as well as processes that guide human interaction and relationships -- knowledge that can serve students well throughout their work and personal lives.
Sherry Heyl works as director of the Sensei Project in the Atlanta area, and formerly worked as a recruiter for many years. When a recent position came up, Heyl reached out to her recruiter network and got more than 100 resumes. Her top candidate for the job was referred by three people in Heyl's networking circles, but that candidate landed a job before she could finish interviewing with Heyl. The next leading candidate was hired because she had developed a strong social media presence by working on several self-directed campaigns.
How to get the skill
Getting a job in today's market can be easier for students already connected to the business community through sites like LinkedIn and groups on Facebook and Twitter. There's still value in attending local chamber of commerce business mixers, but networking today means being involved in a wide array of digital medium.
Other skills to pursue
This list of job skills is just a small sampling of key abilities job seekers need to land their first job out of college and to succeed in the workplace. In the past, it was enough for students simply to have mastered skills such as reading, writing and math, a college degree and a high grade point average, said Robyn Dizes, director of career development services at Peirce College in Philadelphia.
Today's job seekers, according to Dizes, should also be good at:
- Critical and creative thinking
- Problem solving
Students also should be technologically proficient across a variety of platforms, Dizes added.
Getting a job in a tough market requires job seekers to stand out from the competition. Building the list of job skills listed here and highlighting them on resumes and during the interview process just might help candidates score a career-defining job.
If you're interested in finding out more about where you can acquire the new skills employers are looking for, check out the school listings below, or use the search tool on the right to get matched to a school near you.
"Job Outlook 2015," National Association of Colleges and Employers, November 2014
Interview with Bill J. Bonnstetter, Founder and Chairman, Target Training International. Interview conducted by Robert Sabo, November 2014
Interview with Monique Anair; Chair, Film, Computer Science and Engineering programs. Interview conducted by Robert Sabo, November 2014
Interview with Tara Goodfellow, Managing Director, Athena Educational Consultants. Interview conducted by Robert Sabo, November 2014
Interview with Sherry Heyl, Director, Sensei Project. Interview conducted by Robert Sabo, November 2014
Interview with Robyn Dizes, Director of Career Development Services, Peirce College. Interview conducted by Robert Sabo, November 2014