With the onset of the new academic year and the arrival of millions of college students across US campuses, my peers who work in the career services profession are braced for another year of multiple recruitment activities and constant streams of career sessions with students. This is what is visible on the surface, but the real value is what happens with the students we work with who develop their self-awareness to the level of soft skills proficiency that leads them to employment success.
The superior job search assistance provided to college students in this era far surpasses what was offered to previous generations. Things have changed for the better because the career services profession has evolved and technology has introduced incredible economies of scale and breadth of job and career planning information. In all my conversations with employers across different industries and my own direct experiences as a talent acquisition professional, it is clear that once the technical skills have been validated, the skills that keep you in the running for a job is your communication skills. Culture fit with the company is also important, but not a skill as much as it is a subjective assessment of how well candidates mesh with the team, the boss, and the values and management style of the company.
The need for strong to excellent communication skills (verbal and written) is present in all professional job functions and career paths. In the MBA world, communication is paramount for employers because of the hyper competitive selection process for roles that are coveted by many qualified MBA job seekers.
The most recent GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, provides a succinct summary of the hiring trends present in the global MBA job market. I look forward to this annual survey because it provides an authoritative reference point on the prognosis of MBA employment outcomes. Among the many datasets provided in these reports are ones that capture the attributes most sought after by companies that are recruiting MBAs. These attributes have changed slightly over time with some skills being ranked higher or lower year to year and some new skills making a debut like “Ability to value opinions of others.” I used this survey often when presenting to incoming MBAs on what they can expect of the MBA job market and how they can use this information to develop their career roadmap.
In summary, I encourage all job seekers, but especially those MBAs who are seeking highly coveted leadership roles or consulting jobs at prestigious consulting firms to constantly seek to improve their soft skills. In particular, the three below:
- Verbal Communications: Be able to speak concisely about your background, your relevant skills and your career aspirations during an interview or a networking conversation. Also, be able to speak with confidence during presentations and with persuasiveness as needed during meetings.
- Listening Skills: Be open to constructive feedback and seek it from people who possess skills you wish to strengthen for yourself. Also, before making a decision or taking action on business matters, listen to what others are saying and develop an understanding of any common themes for a possible solution path.
- Mental Agility: Be willing to adapt your thinking for various types of problems and situations. Know when to use analysis and when to end it to get to a decision. Learn how to prioritize information for optimal problem solving.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pedro Gonzalez boasts a distinguished career as a talent recruiter with Siemens Advanta Consulting where he recruited MBAs from Wharton, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Columbia Business School, and Ross School of Business. As a career advisor to MBA students at noteworthy institutions like Drexel University, University of South Carolina, and University of Tennessee-Knoxville, he has directly mentored 500+ MBAs. Through decades of providing business development and career services consulting, Pedro generated a passion for talent management and aspired to bring together high-potential businesses and students to achieve symbiotic goals.