Collegiettes spend hours and hours trying to figure out what exactly employers want to see on their resumes. No matter what industry you want to go into, from journalism to law to medicine, there are soft skills that every employer wants their employees to have. “Employers can more readily train someone on technical skills, such as learning a specific computer program, but it’s more challenging to train someone on polishing their soft skills,” says Vicki Salemi, author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York and founder of the Job Search Boot Camp for College Grads.
College is the best time to make sure that your soft skills are as good as they can be because you have so many opportunities to develop them! So we’ve come up with the soft skills you need on your resume – and which extracurricular activities you should join to develop them.
1. Teamwork and interpersonal skills
No matter what industry you go into, you’re going to have to work with customers, clients or other employees. The ability to work as part of a team and having good interpersonal skills (a fancy way of saying that you know how to work and communicate with others) is invaluable to employers. Lesley Mitler, the founder of Priority Candidates, a coaching firm that helps college seniors and recent graduates find their first jobs, says that this skill is “critical in helping your group or organization to achieve company goals.”
Sports teams are a great way to develop your teamwork skills, even if you aren’t particularly athletic. Even playing in a low-level college team or just a local team still allows you to develop teamwork skills and will be a real plus on your resume. In fact, it’s even been shown that graduates who play sports earn more money!
2. Problem-solving and analytical skills
“Everyone, no matter what level, is involved in making decisions,” Mitler says. “It is important to understand when there is a need for involving and incorporating other points of view in order to ensure the best outcome.”
Just about every post-graduate job requires employees to analyze complex situations and to work with a given problem, so you need to demonstrate to an employer that you know how to do this. The only thing that really changes is what the problem relates to, so be sure that you have some experience in analysis and problem solving.
Katherine Varga, a junior at the University of Rochester, says that being on the executive board for her student-run theater company strengthened her problem-solving skills as she worked with peers to manage situations and work towards the common goal of managing the group.
3. Written and verbal communication
Randall Hansen, founder of career advice site Quintessential Careers, says communication is the skill that is mentioned the most often by employers, because “successful communication is critical in business.” This doesn’t just cover being able to speak to your peers or even your boss; you also have to have great written communication skills. For example, you might be asked to write a report and you will probably have to send many emails, so being able to write well is a key skill for any job.
Joining the school paper or the Her Campus chapter at your school will help you develop your written and verbal communication skills. If writing isn’t your strong suit, you can get involved in public relations for another club or organization, which will require you to talk to students and to work on flyers and poster campaigns. Alex Horvitz, a junior at Tufts University, says that being the director ofmMarketing for the Panhellenic Council has really helped to develop her communication skills because she has to communicate with her team and “find a way to communicate to Greek students all over campus.”
4. Organization and time management
In every job, you’ll have to work with deadlines and be organized so that others can depend on you. Make sure that before you leave college, you know how to stay organized and manage your time. While you might be able to pull an all-nighter the night before an essay is due in college, it’s much less likely that you can do this in the real world, so you’re going to have to keep up with your work.
“You have to understand how to plan for deadlines and be organized so that others understand the work you have produced, and leave a trail so that they can see how you formulated your conclusions,” Mitler says.
Being a member of any club or society for a long period of time shows that you have great organizational and time management skills because you’ve had to balance your society commitments with academic work. Alex also says that being in a high-level position in her sorority has “forced her to develop good organizational and time management skills, because without them [she] would go crazy!”
5. Leadership and management skills
Leadership skills are invaluable, especially if you want to climb the career ladder in a company. Salemi says that these skills “are difficult for hiring managers to assess during interviews, so in order to shine you should point out past experiences [on your resume] such as an internship project in which you rallied the troops to demonstrate these skills.”
These skills are really easy to pick up at college because there are so many opportunities available to you. You might even have developed these skills without realizing it! If you were the leader of a class project or you’re in a committee-type role in a sorority or society, you’re already on your way to developing invaluable leadership skills.
Rick Gillis, author of Job!: Learn How to Find Your Next Job in 1 Day, recommends that you put all these “soft skills” at the bottom of your resume in a section called “keywords.” This way, you can use the rest of your resume to “highlight your key accomplishments as they relate to the job.” He recommends that you keep this section at the bottom of your one-page resume so that the “reader sees your experience first.”
If you’re missing some of these skills on your resume, be sure to check out how to boost your resume this semester and these 10 extracurriculars that look awesome on your resume!