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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.

Posted June 25, 2016 by

The #1 student job search mistake

As an Associate Career Services Director for the University of Michigan and the CEO of Break into Tech, I’ve had the privilege to work with hundreds of students during the job search while trying to launch their careers. And it’s an area I’m particularly proud to support, having leveraged my own student experience to land roles at Apple, LinkedIn, and startups.

Photo by StockUnlimited.com

Photo by StockUnlimited.com

But the one thing that shocks me time and again is that 95% of students make the same mistake when it comes to landing a job. And no, it’s not a bad resume, or a poorly written cover letter or even weak interview skills. Instead, it’s that most basic trait:

Humility.

Yes, humility.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Huh? How hard could it be to act humble?”

But here’s the real deal. That same confidence is a handicap. Because it blinds students to just how hard it is to stay humble in a world where everyone always has to be on, to constantly present their best self.

As evidence, allow me to submit my experience as a Michigan alum working at LinkedIn:

  • Every single day during application season, I’d received at least one email from a current student who wanted to work in Silicon Valley
  • Usually, those emails started out: “Dear Jeremy, I’m XXX and I’d really like to work at LinkedIn…”
  • Eventually I’d get on the phone with these students, and they’d spend the first 15 minutes of the call telling me about themselves, and the last 15 minutes asking me if I could help them get a job.
  • Then, I’d never hear from them again.

On the other hand, about 2-3 times a year, the sequence would go very differently:

  • I’d get an email from a student well before application season that said: “Dear Jeremy, As a a Michigan student, I was so excited to come across your profile today. I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to find someone who’s walked your path. I know you must be really busy, but would you ever have a few minutes to share your story with me?”
  • When I got on the phone with them, we’d spend 15 minutes talking about my experience, followed by 15 minutes of them asking me for my advice about really tricky career questions.
  • Then they’d follow-up the next month to wish me a happy holiday or update me on campus. And they’d continue to do that each month with cool articles they found or little tidbits of school news.
  • Then, only when application season finally rolled around, would they ever ask for support during the application process.

And sure enough, about 2-3 times a year, I’d write an internal recommendation for a student, basically guaranteeing them an interview.

Now, any guesses which students I went to bat for?

Hopefully that illuminates two things about the job search:

BUT

  • You’ve got to network in the right way – the humble way.

Which means no:

  • Waiting until application season to reach out – you need to build relationships in advance; not at the last second.
  • Focusing all the attention on yourself – you need to build a real relationship; not just a transaction.
  • One shot networking – you need to build a relationship over time, not in a single phone call. This aids your job search.

So consider yourself warned. Yes, humility is critical to your job search success. But don’t assume it’s going to be easy. Instead, make it a priority and work hard at it. And then you can avoid the biggest mistake that’s trapped so many others!

Jeremy Schifeling, CEO of Break Into Tech

Jeremy Schifeling, CEO of Break Into Tech

Need more help networking and figuring out how to build great relationships on your way to finding a great entry-level job? College Recruiter can help. Keep reading our blog and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Jeremy Schifeling is the Founder + Chief Nerd at Break into Tech, a site for anyone who wants to land an awesome tech job, no matter their background. Get a free guide to the seven ultimate secrets that took Jeremy from school to Silicon Valley!

Posted October 16, 2014 by

How to Find the Best Career Path

Direction sign and board with career choice way

Direction sign and board with career choice way. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Finding the dream job has never been easy. While some people strike it lucky from the very first try, others struggle for years to find the best career path that would suit both their interests and their financial expectations. If you want to belong to the first category, you should know there are several things you can do about it and a series of factors to consider. (more…)

Posted October 17, 2013 by

Picking a Major: How to Choose a Major for Future Tech Jobs

Chris Beck

Chris Beck

Picking a college major is easy for some. For others, it’s a cause of stress. Sometimes it’s just a split-second decision – one you know you can change later.

Whether you choose a major freshman year and stick with it, or switch late into your junior year, the degree you graduate with has a direct effect on the jobs you’ll be qualified for.

Well, that’s not exactly new news. But  what is new is the kind of jobs that will be available to graduating students in the future. STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) alone will create one million jobs in the next 10 years. (more…)

Posted October 03, 2013 by

5 of the top careers for working at home

Man working from home in office, using computer and telephone

Man working from home in office, using computer and telephone. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

A life without rush hour traffic, obnoxious coworkers and helicopter bosses may seem like an unattainable dream for many Americans. However, that may be changing. Today’s computers, smart phones and digital devices mean more and more people are able to spend their work days at home rather than stuck in a stuffy cubicle.

If you are hoping to join the ranks of those working from home, you first need to get the right education and skills. While there is no guarantee any degree will land you a job, let alone a work-at-home job, it seems like a degree may improve your odds of living the good life. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted among workers older than age 25, those with a bachelor’s degree were more likely to work from home compared to individuals with less education. (more…)

Posted September 06, 2013 by

Recruiters, Coach Candidates for Entry Level Jobs in Technology to a Successful Interview

While tech job seekers may possess a lot of knowledge in their field, getting through an interview may be a different challenge for them.  For recruiters who want to coach candidates for entry level jobs in technology to a successful meeting, the following post shares some tips.

Let’s face it: People who are technical wizards have a reputation for social awkwardness for a reason. They often exist in a community where their quirky behavior is normalized and, as a result, they think nothing of it. The challenge of course is when they have to interact outside their normal habitat… like with

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Posted July 11, 2013 by

9 High-Paying Tech Jobs

Shaun Chatman

Shaun Chatman, Salary.com contributing writer

If you love computers and dream in programming code, then a career in the technology industry might be perfect for you. We checked out a few published lists of hot tech jobs by several online publications, compared it to our existing job titles and salary data, and came up with nine high-paying tech jobs offering salaries between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. (more…)

Posted January 25, 2012 by

Tech Jobs: Unemployment rate is less than national average

2012 looks like it could be a good year to find a tech job.

While the national unemployment rate stands at 8.5%, many technology jobs remain in high demand, and hiring top talent for some positions remains challenging for employers.  In fact, the unemployment rate for many of these positions is less than half the national average. (more…)