The Next Step

Posted: May 16, 2012

So, you got the message that it is important to select a college major and/or career that you LOVE, instead of the one that you have heard “will get you a job.” Those guarantees just don’t exist.

These days, it’s all about self-marketing. When you apply for a job, you are marketing your knowledge and skills, not your college major and not your personality.

There are pages and pages written about the skills that employers seek. Here is a compilation of the 10 most-often listed skills that employers list as vital in their candidates:


Verbal communication skills. You need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate with co-workers, the public and supervisors. This is often evaluated based upon your initial interview.


Strong work ethic. An employer is looking for a candidate who is reliable, takes initiative and works hard. You need to talk about how you can work independently, will arrive on time and fulfill your commitments.


Teamwork skills. The ability to work effectively in a group is key to success on any job. You need to possess (and to communicate to an interviewer that you possess) solid listening skills and the ability to speak knowledgeably while also maintaining a commitment to the team and voicing your opinion.


Problem-solving skills. This skill is most imperative yet least understood. “Problem solving” is another way to say “mental agility.” A successful candidate knows how to quickly distill the key issues and relationships in complex situations. Interviewers amay offer possible scenarios and then ask how you would resolve the issues.


Writing skills. Employers don’t mess around with this. Some interviewers may ask for a writing sample to see if you can organize and share ideas. Evaluation starts with your cover letter and resume.


Math skills. This is more in demand in some positions than others, but often, candidates must demonstrate an understanding of applied math, as it relates to business. Math skills help people understand the effect of their actions and the revenue they influence.


Initiative. Initiative is readiness and the ability to take action. It is important to convey your passion for the organization and its success by your willingness to offer expertise on new projects or to volunteer for tasks that interest you.


Emotional intelligence. This is the measure of your ability to understand and deal with your own emotions, the emotions of others and how to properly act on those emotions. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into several categories: social skills, social awareness, self-awareness, and self-management.


That special something. Though difficult to pin down, many employers list this. They are looking for people who are distinctive. That might be someone with leadership experience such as starting your own business, being president of a civic organization or school club or captain of a sports team. It may mean people with intellectual curiosity who have done something special such as studying/traveling abroad, putting themselves through school or starting a club or charity. Another way to set oneself apart is to know about world issues. Sixty-five percent of Fortune 1000 executives think knowledge of other cultures and international issues is absolutely essential or very important to be ready for a career.


Attitude. Attitude is so important that it rates its own category. You have to have passion for what your employer does, and an interviewer can spot it when you can explain with conviction why your particular skills are so important to a company.


Of course, this list is not rank-ordered. Some skills are more important in particular careers than in others. The point is that you identify and then practice describing your skills.


Margee Greenfield owns CollegeBoundDirections in Bridgewater. She has nearly 40 years experience as a college advisor and counselor.

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