Six Business Skills Every New Graduate Needs to Develop
People skills are incredibly valuable no matter what your job entails. Here are three you’ll want to develop.
- Public Speaking: “Too many recent grads are not equipped to present the company well over the phone or in person at networking events, new business meetings, etc.,” says Graham Chapman, account coordinator/new business director at 919 Marketing, a PR and marketing firm in Holly Springs, North Carolina. “If you can’t speak [or] present yourself well, it is hard to help a company drive business.”
Look for volunteer activities where you can practice public speaking in front of small groups. Attend public meetings and comment. Think about the most important thing you want the audience to know (including two or three key details) and what you want them to do, then speak up.
- Handling Tense Interactions: “Tension-filled conversations are served up most days at work, and those who lack the ability to handle them effectively will have a difficult time,” says Kerry Patterson, co-author of Crucial Conversations.
The key is to focus on results, not emotions. “Try to see others as reasonable, rational and decent human beings -- even if they hold a view that you strongly oppose,” he says. “When others feel respected and trust your motives, they let their guard down and begin to listen, even if the topic is unpleasant. [Then] confidently share your views and invite the other person to do so. If you’re open to hearing others' points of view, they'll be more open to yours.”
- Teamwork: “The reality of working with a team, where colleagues have a variety of thoughts and ideas that need to be respected, is often new to grads,” says Bettina Seidman, founder of Seidbet Associates, a career-management firm in New York City. “The downside of not having these skills can be very serious, including gaining a poor reputation on the job, and even termination.”
Accept that you may have to take a junior role to those with more experience. Listen more than you talk, and be respectful of others when you have an opposing view. Most importantly, ask your supervisor who the best team players are in your company or department and make them your role models.
These career-management skills will help you land your first job and position yourself for a promotion:
- Humility and Patience: “Managers want to promote individuals who are willing to prove themselves versus those who expect things to be handed to them right from the start,” says Julie Rulis, senior recruiter in Western Union’s talent acquisition group. Expecting a big title or salary from the get-go or angling for a promotion too soon is a turnoff and can earn you a reputation for being too big for your britches.
Rulis suggests speaking with leaders from organizations you admire so you develop a greater appreciation for how others successfully moved up over time. “In most instances, you will learn how other leaders had to roll up their sleeves and prove themselves just like everyone else,” she says.
- Staying Informed: “Professors don’t emphasize the importance of reading the news,” says Tom Gimbel, CEO of The LaSalle Network, a Chicago-area professional staffing and recruiting firm. “Nothing is more impressive than a candidate who can speak knowledgeably about the news and relate current events to their industry or job. After a new grad has secured the job, emailing news stories or cutting out newspaper articles for their boss is beyond impressive.”
Read an array of publications to broaden your knowledge. “If you’re in the business world, read Inc., Fast Company and The Wall Street Journal,” he says. Ask your boss what industry publications and blogs are must-reads.
- Time Management: “A new grad may feel obligated to say yes to everything, which makes it even more difficult to manage their time,” says Susan Fletcher, psychologist and a time-management expert with Smart Zone Solutions in Plano, Texas. You may end up neglecting core activities or stretching yourself to the breaking point, she says.
Time-management skills involve managing your energy and attention. Ask your boss to help you set priorities and to advise you on operational goals. “Be intentional about what you commit to,” Fletcher says. “Ask yourself if the commitment fits into your overall strategy and focus to get a job, get promoted or advance your professional skills.”