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Posted May 25, 2017 by

5 ways STEM/technical grads can develop soft skills employers covet

 

Good news for STEM grads: Those with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math can expect to earn the highest starting salaries among 2017 grads. That’s according to the Winter 2017 Salary Survey report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). According to the NACE report, the top three starting salaries for recent college grads with bachelor’s degrees are in these STEM fields:

  • Engineering – $66,097
  • Computer science – $65,540
  • Math and Science – $55,087

While STEM grads are currently hitting the job market at full force, another group of job seekers are also starting their career: The graduate from the two-year technical college. Like STEM jobs, hot jobs for those with two-year technical backgrounds include air traffic controller, nuclear technician, computer programmer, and electronic engineering technician.

Translation: Skilled workers with both two and four year degrees are in demand.

But skilled workers with the education, and the right soft skills, are the one’s getting hired. With thousands of STEM or technical school grads now in the workforce, employers hiring recent college grads or entry-level employees are looking for more than just the right educational background.

“A degree isn’t what’s going to set you apart from other candidates,” says Jena Brown, Talent Acquisition Marketing and Brand Leader at Kerry, a leader in the food, beverage, and pharma industries, with 23,000 staff and 100+ innovation and manufacturing centers across six continents. “It’s usually required for technical positions, so you can’t stand on that alone.”

In fact, those who get hired often stand out because of the soft skills they are able to articulate in an interview. This may be why chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed by staffing firm Robert Half Technology named communication skills (28 percent) and problem-solving abilities (21 percent) as the top areas where skilled and technical professionals could improve.

To stand out, according to Robert Half, skilled workers need to show employers:

  • You are an effective communicator
  • You have a strong understanding of business (even better if you have specific knowledge of the potential employer’s company or industry)
  • You have a history of coming up with creative solutions to problems

Brown agrees. Recruiters are looking for the job seeker who has something extra to bring to the team, whether it’s a personality that fits corporate culture, or the ability to make an impact beyond a basic job description: Someone who is a team player, willing to help out even if it isn’t part of the daily routine, or someone who shines bright and empowers those around them.

“We want to hear what you did to hone your business skills during the time you were earning your degree,” says Brown. “We want to see that you are looking ahead, seeing the larger picture and preparing yourself to maximize the career opportunities that await you.”

What are the top soft skills Brown and her team look for when recruiting recent college grads with technical backgrounds? Brown referred to these key skills:

1. Communication Skills: Regardless of the type of organization one works for, effective communication across all levels is a critical soft skill for technical new grads. This is especially important in larger organizations, like Kerry for example, which have a complex matrix organizational structure. What is a matrix organization? According to study.com: A matrix organizational structure is a company structure in which the reporting relationships are set up as a grid, or matrix, rather than in the traditional hierarchy. In other words, employees have dual reporting relationships – generally to both a functional manager and a product manager.

Can you do your work – and communicate technical information in a non-technical manner to others on the team, or across the organization? That’s important.

2. Teamwork: The ability to work in diverse, cross functional teams is important. “This goes hand in hand with flexibility,” says Brown. “Be malleable and teachable while contributing your valuable knowledge within teams.”

Large organizations have teams, reporting structures, and chains of command to follow. Being a part of that team, and working with others outside your team, and understanding how to fit in goes a long way towards success.

3. Professionalism: The ability to navigate a corporate environment, meet deadlines, conduct meetings, and contribute helps give recent college grads credibility in any role. Show up on time, do your job, ask appropriate questions, don’t make excuses. That’s a good start.

4. Leadership: Those who are able to lead and influence without the authority that comes with a title go the furthest, says Brown. Many entry-level employees don’t focus on developing leadership skills early in their career. But finding a mentor can assist with the leadership development process.

5. Consultative and presentation skills: These skills “can take you far regardless of level (or career path),” says Brown. Consultative skills focus on behaviors that deliver consultative value to internal customers and external clients.

Brown looks for recent college grad with those types of unique skills when recruiting and hiring those with technical backgrounds. She was once one of those consultative employees with a technical background, needing to succeed with non-technical co-workers and teams. She recruited employees for a company that provided customized technical services and platforms to huge companies around the globe.

“This was challenging because we were subject matter experts in designing and building customized MS solutions, which took very specific technical skills, but much of what we did was onsite at the customer site which required soft skills like a sales person might have,” says Brown.

How can recent college grads develop consultative or presentation skills? Joining industry associations or networking groups, and becoming an active member is one way. Volunteering at industry events is another way.

“If you can communicate in a consultative manner and present effectively it will get you more opportunities as you advance in your career,” says Brown. “While daunting at first, if given the opportunity to present and get visibility, do it.”

For many college students, there is nothing more daunting than earning a STEM degree, or completing a technical degree. Now that you are graduated, you need to take it to the next level. Start by mastering these soft skills to stand out, get noticed, and get hired.

When you do, a great salary, and great career opportunity awaits.

Want more tips and advice on the important skills recruiters covet? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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Posted December 13, 2016 by

The pros and cons of video resumes

Are you a recent college grad looking to get ahead of the competition by creating a video resume? Be cautious before thinking a video resume is the golden ticket to landing an interview, or getting a job.

That’s because even in today’s digital world, success on the job hunt still often depends heavily on an old-school document, according to The Creative Group (TCG), a company that specializes in connecting interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations talent with the best companies on a project, contract-to-hire, and full-time basis.

Nearly eight in 10 executives surveyed by TCG said they prefer receiving traditional resumes in Word or PDF format over video or infographic resumes. Some employers won’t even accept video resumes and in the TCG survey, released in May of 2016, only three percent of executives indicated they prefer video resumes over traditional resumes.

That’s no surprise to Tom Thomson, managing partner of Sanford Rose Associates, a recruitment firm in Nashville. “The recruiters I discussed this with do not want video resumes,” says Thomson. Here is why, he says:

  • Recruiters and hiring managers see these as highly produced marketing pieces.
  • Most people are not comfortable or feel natural in front of a camera. “You may not want this to be the first impression a potential employer has of you,” says Thomson.
  • It can easily be used to discriminate against highly qualified candidates based on their appearance.

Arlene Vernon, a Twin Cities-based HR consultant, agrees. “When you see the person on a video, there’s an increased risk of discrimination from a legal perspective, because you can see race/ethnicity before you get to hear about their skills/background.”

Time is also a drawback of video resumes.

“I can scan a resume to see whether I like the candidate in five to ten seconds,” says Vernon. “I don’t have time to watch a video. I might do it after seeing a resume I’m interested in, to learn more about the person, and see their presentation skills. But I don’t think the convenience of a ‘paper’ resume will disappear.”

That being said, there are instances when a video resume may be requested, or used to help stand out from the competition, says Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group.

“If you’re applying for a job that requires multimedia or presentation skills, a short, one minute video resume that highlights key skills and accomplishments can be effective and set you apart from the competition,” says Domeyer. “If you have creative skills, you can even put together an animated short about why you’d make a good addition to the team. That said, always have a traditional resume ready in case one is requested.”

According to the team at SparkHire, a company that provides video interviewing, resume and technology solutions: “Video resumes are a way for candidates to go beyond traditional methods of applying, such as submitting only a resume, cover letter, and work samples. Lasting typically 60 seconds, these videos are your shot to make the best first impression to an employer. A video resume lets the employer literally see you and hear your case (via your communication skills, personality and charisma) as the best candidate for the job – all before the interview takes place.”

When to use a video resume

Before you make a video resume and hit the upload button, think carefully about whether it will help or hurt your chances of getting a job interview, says the experts from Robert Half Technology. Professionals in the following industries are likely to see the most success with a video resume:

  • Marketing, advertising and public relations: If you’re applying for a job that requires killer presentation skills, a video resume can help you show off your abilities and professional polish.
  • Public speaking: When applying for jobs that require a lot of public speaking — for example, in sales or training — you can use a video resume not only to introduce yourself but also to include clips of yourself in action.
  • Multimedia: For professionals who create multimedia content, a video resume can be one more way to demonstrate your editing or motion graphics skills.
  • Broadcast: Candidates for jobs as newscasters, television hosts or film professionals have long used video show reels, mailing out old-school VHS tapes of their best clips years before the Internet came along. If this is your field, consider starting your show reel with a video resume to introduce yourself.

When to avoid video resumes

Of course, there are times when it’s best to stick to a traditional resume, according to Robert Half Technology:

  • You’re not comfortable on camera: People who are shy may want to reconsider a video resume. One big goal of this format is to show employers your personality. If you tend to get nervous or clam up as soon as a camera turns on, you obviously won’t achieve this objective.
  • The employer asks for a standard resume: A job posting might have a very specific application process, for example, or require job candidates to paste their resumes and cover letters in an online form.
  • A video resume won’t help you sell yourself: For many job seekers, a video resume simply won’t add much value. If you’re applying for a position as an accountant, for instance, employers will probably find it easier and more convenient to review your skills and work experience on paper (or, in a PDF or Word document, to be more accurate).
  • You prefer to remain private: Even though it’s possible to make your video private, you’re still putting details of your life on the Internet, and there’s a chance your video resume gets wider distribution than you anticipated. As always, make sure that what you post is something you won’t later regret.

There are pros and cons of video resumes. Recent college grads should be careful when creating one, and make sure it’s right for your industry or job application before sending one.

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