Why people skills are essential graduate attributes

You’ve got a solid education and strong technical skills, and you look good on paper

– you’re confident your CV can get you in a lot of doors. But it’s your soft skills – such as the ability to work well with others, communication and adaptability – that are vital as you make the transition from student to real-world employee.

When hiring graduates, employers are looking for more than technical knowledge and a university degree. While these are no doubt important, without the requisite people skills, they won’t get you very far in the modern workforce.

Play well with others

If an organization is going to hire you, it wants to know you can work well with your colleagues. More often than not, work is a collaborative effort involving interaction and teamwork. For these collaborations to succeed, you need to do your part. You must make an effort to relate to and empathize with your co-workers and appreciate – and respect – their points of view, even if you disagree with them. That also means supporting them when they need it, with encouragement and even hands-on help. If you can do this, it will put you in good standing not only with your peers but also with management – and that can only be good for your career.

Conversely, if you can’t get along with your fellow workers, it can lead to tasks remaining unfinished, discord in the ranks, poor performance for you and your team, and a potentially damaging reputation as someone who is difficult to work with.

Being a team player may sound cliché, but it’s a sought-after skill nonetheless.

Communicate effectively

Companies also want good communicators, so the ability to communicate effectively is crucial. This applies to oral communications (including presentations, phone conversations and face-to-face interactions), written communications (emails or reports) and nonverbal communication (eye contact, a firm handshake or the general ‘vibe’ you give off).

Another part of having good communications skills is knowing your various audiences and understanding how to successfully interact with them. Employers want to know you will be an active participant in meetings, ask questions when you’re unsure, contribute fresh ideas and convey these ideas articulately and succinctly. They want to know you’ll provide regular and clear updates to managers and team members on any necessary developments, and they need to see that you’re a good listener.

Likewise, employers want to feel confident that when you’re dealing with people outside your organization – whether it’s vendors, suppliers or customers – you recognize that you’re a public representative for them. As such, they expect you to always communicate with these individuals with the utmost courtesy and professionalism.

Evolve and adapt

“The only constant is change” is a mantra in the modern workplace. And with technology developing faster than you can say “Apple Watch”, adaptability has never been a more important people skill. Employers are looking for graduates who display the following attributes:

  • A knack for forward-planning (but always with a contingency plan in your back pocket in case things go pear-shaped).
  • A talent for thinking on your feet and reacting calmly and rationally to changing circumstances.
  • Perseverance during challenging times and resilience in the face of setbacks.
  • An openness to learning and tackling new tasks.
  • The ability to find new ways to approach tasks, improve processes and accomplish goals.
  • Multitasking – you’ll likely need to wear many hats and juggle multiple priorities and duties.

What’s more, companies want workers who will demonstrate all these qualities while maintaining a positive attitude and displaying an enthusiastic and energetic approach. It’s a tall order, but it’s important to remember that with change can come new and exciting opportunities.

So if you think people skills are unimportant, think again. Your talents on an interpersonal level are the qualities that just might tip the job scale in your favour.



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