2016 Job Outlook:

It’s All About The Soft Skills

November 20, 2015

The overall job outlook is an analytical effort undertaken annually by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the professional association for colleges’ Career Services and employers’ Human Resources offices.  The 2016 job outlook report shows an 11% increase in hiring college graduates over 2015. 

Good News for 2016 College Grads

NACE reports the following good news for 2016 college graduates: “The hiring outlook for college graduates continues to improve as employers plan to hire 11 percent more new college graduates for their U.S. operations from the Class of 2016 than they did from the Class of 2015.  These employers cite company growth as the key behind their plans for increased hiring, with organizations looking to new college graduates to build their talent pipelines.”

In 2015, approximately 1,855,000 students will graduate from colleges across the U.S.  If you subtract those planning to attend graduate school, that still leaves hundreds of thousands of students who will be vying for available internships and full-time  positions. 

What Makes an Attractive Candidate?

NACE’s report identifies those attributes that would make a student an attractive candidate.  While a GPA of 3.0 and above and work experience of any type are highly important, the single phrase that captures the essence of the most significant attributes is “soft skills.”  This grouping of skills includes evidence of leadership capability, the ability to work successfully in a team and competency in written communications.  These are attributes that relate to working effectively, productively and successfully with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates in the company.  Organizations need people who understand others and how to accomplish their work collaboratively with other people in a way that retains and attracts employees.    

These are skills, and skills can be learned, practiced and honed.  Organizations are at their essence a group of people who are working toward a goal.  Being a person who can demonstrate that he or s/he can empathize, manage in a positive and respectful fashion and reach specific goals will propel a student to great heights in an organization.  A student needs to demonstrate that s/he is likable, positive and respectful because no one is attracted to a person who lacks these qualities. 

Soft Skills CAN be Learned

How can a student or anyone work on these skills?  With effort focused in the right direction and a strong desire, most people can improve their soft skills.  The saying that “the soft skills are the hard skills” is just not true.  If a student or anyone wants to be successful, s/he can groom these skills.  While reading books focused on leadership, self-development and understanding people can be very helpful, perhaps the most effective way to make progress in this area is to acquire a mentor or coach either from within or outside of the organization.  Having someone who is trained to provide guidance in an organizational setting will provide the coach with ideas to grow and increase their probability to be successful.

Finally, Follow Your Passion

One last word on the 2016 Job Outlook or similar research.  If a person has a passion for pursuing a particular field and the outlook indicates that that field does not have a favorable future, then do your own research to pursue the field or some related field that will provide you with the maximum amount of satisfaction and that plays to your strengths.  These research reports provide valuable statistical data, analysis, and guidelines, but are not meant to guide each individual into a particular profession.   If you love something and are talented in that area, you will likely be successful if you make it your career choice.       

S. Ronald Ansel, MBA, Certified Career & Life Coach is Director of Career Services at Touro College