Congratulations class of 2021! You are not the first class to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic against unique odds in search of recent graduate jobs. However, you are the first group of students to spend most of your upperclassmen year(s) prohibited from gaining typical work-related experience.
Businesses shut down nationwide just over a year ago, and many never reopened quite the same. Remote roles have remained popular as many companies shift to a hybrid workforce. Internships, both paid and unpaid, have become scarce. Even in-person volunteer opportunities have been hard to find in the last 15 months.
However, your class of college graduates has acquired a unique collection of skills and experiences you can leverage over much of the competition in the market.
The American Association of Colleges and Universities conducted a survey interviewing executives and hiring managers on what skills and values they find most important when offering jobs to recent graduates. Their 2021 Report provides some insight into what businesses are looking for when hiring recent grads.
Let’s discuss some of those skills and experiences and how they can be positioned to land recent graduate jobs:
Knowledge of digital resources
While the switch to a remote/virtual world has been a struggle, this experience has given students a unique leg up on potential new hires of the past. You have quickly adapted to a virtual environment for classes, assignments, presentations, conferences, etc.
According to the AACU Employer Report, 55% of employers find digital literacy a “very important” skill when looking at new hires.
Some of the skills that can be transferable into recent graduate jobs include:
- Knowledge of digital platforms – With the switch to virtual education, you most likely had to learn new programs through which you communicated with class members and teachers, performed research, and attended lectures.
- Use of social media – That social media you use to keep in touch with friends and family? It’s actually a benefit. Social media is gaining popularity in the business world as a marketing tool to reach new customers.
- Experience with task management systems – Since many classes switched online, students had to learn to use new platforms. Blackboard, Moodle, and Google Suite are similar to many task management systems used by businesses.
- Email composition – Due to the virtual nature of schooling this past year, most communication between other students and professors was done through email. The ability you gained to craft an appropriate email and use the proper etiquette is a valuable skill when learning to work with customers and clients.
Ability to adapt
If there is one skill graduates of the class of 2021 can market for recent graduate jobs, it’s your ability to adapt. You’ve adapted to new learning styles, processes, and work styles under pressure. Being able to learn something new quickly is a valuable asset to a company.
Ways to market this when interviewing:
Your experience in the 2020-2021 school year is a unique time that our country has never faced before. Highlight some of the challenges that you overcame during this historic school year. What were some of the ways that you had to adapt to a new learning style?
Mentioning this in a cover letter or interview could help give you an edge over other candidates. Provide examples of times that you had to learn something new on the fly; this is something employers value! In fact, according to the AACU Employee Report, 54% of employers find the ability to demonstrate complex problem-solving skills as an essential quality in candidates.
Discuss your new knowledge gained in the pandemic. What were some of the latest programs or learning methods you had to pick up this year? Being quick to acclimate to new tech and processes is a skill most companies find extremely valuable.
Eagerness to learn
Because of the limited experience 2021 graduates were able to gain, you’re likely to have a hunger for new opportunities. A positive attitude for learning and growth is something employers desire in new candidates. This is a skill you can market!
Some ways that this skill can show your value:
Highlight your interest in learning! The lack of actionable experience you may have faced during the pandemic means that you’re ready to learn and get your hands dirty. Discuss extra learning opportunities you were involved in or any type of practical experience you received.
Businesses are always looking for employees who have a desire to grow and learn new things. In fact, the AACU reports that 50% of employers find “curiosity for lifelong learning” another “very important” quality in recent graduates. Find out what types of training the company may offer to further your own experience and marketability.
Strong communication skills
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting face-to-face interactions, you were expected to communicate in new ways with professors and peers. Instead of regular class discussions, you connected over message boards and through email. Digital communication skills are a budding new necessity in the workforce, especially when most companies are still remote.
Communication skills are valuable for the following purposes:
- Communicating with co-workers and clients. Right now, it seems like the transition back to in-person offices is slow, so it’s likely that a new position will require lots of digital communication. In fact, 54% of employers find the ability to communicate through writing a vital skill, according to the AACU report.
- Presenting information in more than one way. Not only is writing an important skill, but also you may need to present information to a group or through a digital platform like Zoom. After all, 52% of employers find speaking/presentation skills of vital importance, according to the AACU report.
- Working with people different from you. If hired, you could be working with a large variety of people from all different backgrounds. Employers find the ability to work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds a highly important skill, 53% according to the AACU report.
So while your last years of college may not have looked exactly like you expected, there are still some valuable skills that will help make you marketable in your job search.