Want a Good Job After Graduation?

Polish writing, public speaking skills

community college graduation rates
(Image: iStock.com/skynesher)

What’s the No. 1 hard skill hiring managers want to see in new hires—but don’t? Writing proficiency, according to a new report from PayScale, a provider of on-demand compensation data and software, produced in partnership with Future Workplace, an executive development firm.

The No. 1 soft skill? Critical thinking or problem solving.

The report reveals that nearly 90% of recent graduates feel well prepared to succeed in the workplace; however, only half of hiring managers agree.

As the mother of a 2015 college graduate, I agree with the hiring managers. My daughter is bright, energetic—but still essentially green.

Helpfully, the report, Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy, reveals the skills managers are looking for that many college graduates don’t have. It also identifies which skills command the biggest paychecks or are most likely to earn a promotion.

“Graduates need strong communication and problem-solving skills if they want to interview well and succeed in the workplace, because effective writing, speaking, and critical thinking enables you to accomplish business goals and get ahead,” Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace, said in a statement, according to Fast Company. “No working day will be complete without writing an e-mail or tackling a new challenge, so the sooner you develop these skills, the more employable you will become.”

Other hard skills included on the list? Public speaking, data analysis, and math skills. Important soft skills hiring managers find elusive include attention to detail, communication, and ownership.

Reading the Vocations column in Sunday’s Times, I was struck by the career trajectory of the subject in the piece. A former English major, Jaime DeLanghe attributes her success to hard work, but I would credit her curiosity (also on the list of soft skills hiring managers find missing).

“I’m not happy if I don’t understand something, so I read books and took online classes,” DeLanghe, now a senior product manager, is quoted as saying.

She filled the holes in her experience and knowledge base with learning. You can do that too.

Here are a few ways you can close your own personal skills gaps and develop into an attractive candidate to a hiring manager or become promotable at work:

  • Take responsibility for closing the gaps. If you’re missing skills on the list, acquire them by taking online courses, consulting friends or colleagues that are skilled in an area you’re not, read books, attend meetups.
  • Conquer public speaking with Toastmasters.
  • Develop math skills with Khan Academy or other math courses on YouTube.

Most importantly, keep at it. (After all, it took at least four years to get to graduation.) You can close gaps in your education or experience; it simply takes time and perseverance.