Recently I have been asked by Webucator to write an excerpt about the “most marketable skill” for new graduates who are seeking employment. Typically I write restaurant reviews so this is a special article dedicated to those who find job hunting a daunting process. So sit back and enjoy this read.
I did not officially start job hunting until 6 years after high school. I have done summer jobs since grade 12 but that is nothing compared to what graduates have to go through after obtaining a degree. Students pour all their efforts into completing a degree only to find out that there are never enough jobs. During my years as a grad student we had placements to prepare us for what is in the real world. I was skilled in translating what I learned in school into the practical setting but surprise surprise, I had limited people skills. At my evaluation meeting, I was told that other staff did not believe in my work because I was soft-spoken; my ideas were limited to me and my supervisor and no one else understood my thought process. Despite the end result where my patients were safely discharged from the hospital, everyone questioned if it was my efforts or my supervisor’s.
If you have graduated from college or university, chances are you are pretty intelligent. You must be good at adapting and know how to study. The problem is everyone has the same set of skills and knowledge once they graduate and on paper, it all looks similar to the employers. Communication is vital in scoring you that interview; in fact it is what makes you stand out as an individual. Imagine Cindy – she has a firm handshake, very confident in her speech, and knows how to connect with her interviewers on a personal level. Then there is Bobby – he answers all the questions, smiles throughout the interview, but does not build any connection with the people in his room. During an interview, you only have 20-40 minutes to impress and although you dress your very best, it is your interaction that gets you the ticket (unless you are drop dead gorgeous but that is not always a good thing). Communication is also a double-edged sword because the environment where you work may have a specific image of how they want their employees to act. In healthcare, they definitely want someone who can summarize, give clear directions, and respond without panicking. Now if you work in business, maybe all they want is for you to “wow” an audience and portray enthusiasm in your speeches. If you know how to talk, you know how to adapt – depending on where you work; you will need to modify your approach.
Believe it or not, communication is most important once you are IN the job. I just want to clarify that communication is a pretty big umbrella term because networking, interpersonal skills, and socializing are all part of it. As you get yourself oriented in the workplace, you need to know that every job is not individualized – there is always a team. By meeting everyone and building connections, you build yourself a support team and become an identity where others can relate to. Communication is about building a weave of networks and linking them together so that it helps you move forward in life. You can sleep, eat, and work in your cubicle all day 24/7 but that is not good for your mental health.
My story continued
You might be wondering why I can write all this when I have failed before, “Did this girl even pass her placements?” After my first placement (which I did not fail), I chose to challenge myself where I worked in a hospital and a clinic for the next term. In this placement I juggled between two different teams and forced myself to stay involved by speaking up in meetings. I was extremely lucky because I worked with colleagues who are University professors. I learned to speak very casually with them while respecting their current status. If I had not pushed myself to conquer my fears, I would have treated them very formally and only engaged when it was a patient-related matter. I realized that team-building is not work-limited; it is about understanding each other’s weaknesses and strengths so that as a whole our team could fill in the gaps. I received outstanding marks for this placement and created an identity for myself which others could recognize.
Lots of people complain about being introverts and that socializing is the last task in their to-do list – that is fair. However, you must understand that graduating is just the first step and work is your bigger, more difficult stage in life. There will be people who you hate at work but you have to deal with it because it is with each obstacle that you grow. I had my fair share of evil bosses and co-workers and I can easily identify what type they belong to and counter them. Some people have suggested toastmasters – a place where you can practice performing speeches and increase your confidence when speaking to crowds. I recommend that you observe and feel out how others interact – there is no need to start problems in the beginning (you know what I mean).
I have been in your position as a new graduate (frankly it was only 2 years ago). You will submit resumes day after day and wonder to yourself, “When will this nightmare end?” Believe in your abilities and never give up. No one comes out of University being a pro and that’s because you have room to grow.
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*Photos were taken by myself, copyrighted by thesophisticatedfarm (aka moochi2000)