DYV06: Professional skills employers are looking for

In my last post I highlighted the need for students to understand the common traits and habits of successful people. In this post I want to review what professional skills employers are looking for from recent graduates. It’s no secret that today’s job market is extremely competitive even for the best and brightest of college graduates to land that dream job upon graduation. In order for college students to market themselves and better prepare for today’s challenging marketplace, they should consider engaging in one or internship programs. Doing so can help students develop and polish up the professional skills employers are looking for from recent graduates.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’s (NACE) Job Outlook 2011 survey:

“…college graduates looking to crack the still-tight job market need to hone their verbal communication skills.”

This confirms a trend that has been consistent for the last several years. As Matthew Stewart pointed out in 2006,

“Next to analysis, communication skills must count among the most important for future masters of the universe.”

Additionally, college graduates also need to demonstrate a strong work ethic, teamwork skills, analytical skills, and initiative. Participating in an internship abroad experience can help students polish each of these professional skills and position students better as they enter today’s hyper-competitive job market. According to another NACE study,

“New graduates who took part in an internship program are more likely to have received a job offer than their peers who decided to forgo the experience.”

It is important to remember that when students participate in an internship they need to talk to their supervisor, other colleagues and, if the position allows itself, clients. Learning to communicate with various constituents in an office setting is far different then communicating to peers electronically or on campus.

Regardless of major, all students should consider an internship, and if possible, an internship away from campus so they can work on developing other traits and habits of successful people. Whether students are majoring in engineering, nursing, psychology or anything in between, there are numerous opportunities for students to engage with professionals from around the world and, by so doing, they can help polish their professional skills.

Note: The ABCs of Marketing Yourself is now available as an e-book.  Click here for more information.

“Discover Your Value (DYV)” is a 14-part blog series that helps individuals learn how to communicate their value to others with an emphasis on their international experience. Michael Edmondson, Ph.D., is the Director of Marketing and Recruitment for The Philadelphia Center. He and Peter Abramo, Ph.D., are the authors of The ABCs of Marketing Yourself: A Workbook for College Students, upon which this series of blog posts is based. You can follow Michael on Twitter at @ThinkActGrow.

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3 Responses to “DYV06: Professional skills employers are looking for”

  1. Rachael
    Tuesday, 25 January 2011 at 2:37 #

    While I agree that internships are definitely an important thing to have during your time in university, and I am a huge supporter of study abroad (did it three times!), I don’t think it’s necessarily true that doing an internship abroad will give you a leg up on the competition unless you are applying for jobs that directly relate to that country or region.

    For one, in many industries there are often many very specific, integral parts of the job/industry that vary greatly by country. This applies to everything from law to communications. Someone who has done an internship in the industry in your home country might appear to have better or more relevant skills and experience for a real position in your home country later. You also might have a better chance of getting an internship with a company that people actually know of, which will generally make you appeal more to another company looking to hire you.

    I personally did an internship in Australia (in PR) and it certainly didn’t seem to help me when I was applying for jobs after graduation. I also went through a program and found that about half of the participants had great, involved internships where they learned a lot and the other half were glorified receptionists, learning very little and getting to do even less.

    However, I do think an internship abroad is still a great experience to learn about a new culture from the inside out and expand your communication skills (though I think you can gain this from study abroad, too, often at a cheaper price). It can also be a good opportunity to network and may be very helpful if you do choose to travel, live or work abroad again.

    My internship in Sydney at least led me to realize how much I liked it there, and I am actually just finishing up a year of working in Australia, which has been a fantastic experience. I had 10x more work opportunities here than I did in the US (the “GFC” has barely hit Oz), and I know I’ll feel much more confident looking for jobs when I return to the States with all the experience I have racked up here. I went from lowly intern to Marketing Manager in just a year, and I know that will be a huge advantage when I return home.

    • Michael Edmondson
      Monday, 31 January 2011 at 8:22 #

      Dear Rachel,

      Thank you for your comment and insights. Please allow me to address them one at a time:

      1. I 100% agree with your statement “I don’t think it’s necessarily true that doing an internship abroad will give you a leg up on the competition….” My entire blog series, which I recommend you read from beginning to end, is about so much more than participating in study abroad or getting an internship. The Discover Your Value blog series is so unique and powerful that students need to understand that participating in a program in and of itself will not help them unless they truly learn, and work hard, at translating that experience into a compelling story so others can better understand the value it offered both professionally and personally.

      2. It is true that sometimes U.S. companies will not care if you interned abroad no matter how powerful the name of that company where you worked. That being said however, it is up to the student to create a clear, concise and compelling story that will make prospective employers care. Once again, as I stated in point #1 above, it is not the experience that counts but how one translates that experience into actionable intelligence that matters and thus what the Discover Your Value blog series is all about.

      3. Regarding your Australia PR internships, it’s unfortunate that it did not help you but I recommend that you think differently and ask yourself what skills did you acquire while participating in that program? Remember, this requires you to shift your thinking from experiences to acquired skills. If you read The ABCs of Marketing Yourself: A Workbook for College Students, this will help you truly understand how to do this. You can also view web sites from students who completed the process described in the workbook at http://www.workbooks4life.com.

      I have been teaching on some level for over 20 years and the one constant has always been a feeling that students believe that participating in an experience will automatically generate desired outcomes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Succeeding today requires a great deal of effort, self-assessment and effective thinking in order to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive and ever changing global economy. Best wishes and feel free to email me directly for future correspondence or follow me on Twitter @workbooks4life or @thinkactgrow.

      Dr. Michael Edmondson


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