If you are a recent or soon-to-be college graduate, you may be searching for a job and wondering just what recruiters want in potential employees.
The truth might surprise you. Your less-than-stellar GPA and lack of work experience may cause you concern, but do not fear. Studies show Fortune 500 companies are more interested in soft skills — abilities associated with self-management and building relationships.
Having a positive attitude, showing respectfulness, and being trustworthy are more important than high grades and work history for entry-level positions. Recruiters are looking for self-confident, responsible candidates who demonstrate initiative and cooperation as well as good communication and interpersonal skills. Classroom assignments do not necessarily develop these qualities.
Fortunately, soft skills can be improved with practice. The following advice will help you build important skills and eventually land your dream job.
Maintaining optimism after failing to get that coveted job—especially with student loans and bills to pay—can be difficult. However, positivity helps you persist despite obstacles, attracts and inspires others and encourages teamwork. For these reasons, it is one of the most desired traits in potential employees.
Being positive is a choice. Reject negative thoughts about yourself and abilities if you tend to overly critical. Choose to focus on the good in situations. If you have a bad interview, be thankful for the learning experience and determined to better prepare for the next one. Consider starting a gratitude journal. When you exercise gratefulness, staying upbeat becomes easier. Studies show grateful individuals are happier, more energetic and more optimistic. Optimistic people, in turn, are better able to recognize and seize opportunities because they remain open to possibilities.
Focus on the Present
While you actively pursue better positions, don’t neglect your current duties. Your service or retail job provides an excellent chance to demonstrate responsibility, trustworthiness, and good communication skills. Do not take this opportunity for granted. Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the position you one day hope to hold.
If you do not have a job, fill in the gap by volunteering for an organization that promotes a cause you support. A shared purpose with others allows you to practice cooperation and teamwork. Be sure to exercise the same level of responsibility and diligence you would in a paid position. Others may be observing your work ethic and abilities.
Networking—meeting new people and building relationships—is critical for advancing your career but often requires you to step out of your area of comfort. Be aware of opportunities to engage in this important endeavor.
Attend networking events and career fairs. In addition to meeting potential employers, career fairs allow you to meet other job seekers and learn about new positions. Such events permit you to practice interpersonal skills and engage in “trial runs” before the more formal interviews.
Be aware of your surroundings. The person sitting next to you on the airplane could be your future boss. Initiate conversations with others you meet in public, carry business cards, and practice networking etiquette.
Also attempt to cross lines. Consider attending events in neighboring cities or towns. You may find a mutually beneficial business relationship or opportunity just down the road.
Just because you are no longer cramming for finals doesn’t mean you should stop learning. You may have more time for personal and professional growth now, so make the best of it.
Read. Library and bookstore selections provide a wealth of information, covering a range of topics from positivity and communication to networking and negotiation. Set reading goals and invest time in your growth.
Listen. Use commute time to build confidence by listening to motivational speakers and learn skills from business professionals through podcasts and audio books.
You may also like Business Etiquette: Follow the Leader. For more of Diane’s etiquette tips read her posts on Inc., subscribe to her articles on Huff Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.