You may have good grades and a diploma, but that is no longer a guarantee that you will land a decent job. In addition, today’s employers want “soft skills.” They are looking for someone who can work well in teams, write and speak with clarity, adapt quickly to changing technology and business conditions, and interact with colleagues and clients from different countries and cultures. If you have the “soft skills” employers are seeking, you can easily differentiate yourself from other college graduates.
Soft skills are not the ones visible on your college transcript or in a job interview. Instead, employers are looking for a well-rounded person. To assess these skills, employers may observe you in role-playing exercises to see how you handle pressure and get along with others. They may prefer students who have already proven themselves in internships and co-op jobs while attending school. They may conduct contests that show how students solve problems and handle deadlines. In other words, getting a job today is likely to require more than a job interview.
While specific technical skills are still important, firms are seeking graduates who can think fast, articulate their ideas, engage in critical thinking and problem solving, handle pressure, and work in teams. Many employers find it difficult to find the right combination of hard and soft skills to make sure new hires succeed on the job.
Internships and co-op programs often give employers the information they need about a student’s potential to succeed and help to narrow the field of job applicants. For this reason, co-op and internship experience are rapidly becoming an important key to landing a good job.
Sponsoring competitions allow companies to see how creatively students solve problems, test their ability to handle tough challenges, and watch how they interact with others to ensure a good fit with company culture. Such contests students the opportunity to apply their skills to a practical issue and employers a chance to get to know them on a more personal level. The winners usually receive job offers.
By taking advantage of internships, co-op programs, and employer-sponsored competitions, students can test their technical skills, acquire “soft skills” that will make them more competitive in the job market, and make contacts that may result in a job offer.