7 Characteristics of an Employable College Graduate

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As a college graduate, you now have a clearer and shorter path to increased earning potential, compounded retirement potential, and a longer and healthier life. In fact, young adults with a bachelor's degree earned 57% more than young adults with a high school diploma and 105% more than young adults without a high school diploma, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (2014).

As a small business owner--and we represent 99.7% of U.S. employer firms--we earnestly need you in our offices and workforce. We need your passion, your community spirit, and your aptitude for technology.

What do we expect from you when you sit across from our interview desk? Your resume, degree, and hard skills will land you the interview, but your soft skills will seal the deal. You may be surprised to learn that the institution, degree, and GPA are certainly important, but the mastery of soft skills is your game-changing business advantage.

Through my own business experiences and research for The Future Belongs to Students in High Gear, here are 7 Characteristics of an Employable Graduate that will help you find the job of your choice.

1.Great communication skills. Whether it's in a 140-character tweet, an email, or a cover letter, understanding and using the power of language sets you apart from other candidates. Writing, speaking, negotiating, tweeting, and marketing requires excellent communication skills and is a tremendous asset to any company. Make sure the interviewer has a link to your blog posts, your Twitter stream, Letters to the Editor, long-form content like op-eds, and any panel or presentation you've done. Every corporation and business needs content writers, social media professionals, and skilled PR people. The graduate who has a rich mastery of language is an asset from day one.

2.Impressive personal brand. In the digital age, "You are who Google says you are." An employer's first impression of you will be what they find on page 1 of Google. Be prepared for first search, and make sure your digital tattoo is reflective of your character, intelligence, and aspirations. The college years are not a free pass for undisciplined, inappropriate content. Remember that everything is discoverable. What type of content do you share? Who is in your social media circle of influence? You have the keys to your online reputation, and college can be a wonderful opportunity to start building a strong personal brand by sharing great content and connecting to influencers on campus and online.

3.Know your value. You're not hired because of your GPA, you're hired because of what you can do with your GPA. We need smart, curious, critical thinkers in business. Graduates who challenge our assumptions, who bring big ideas and bold initiatives. If you have leadership skills, we need you. Employees are the company's largest and most valuable asset, and you will be paid to add value every day. How can you make the company more profitable, more sustainable, and serve its customers better? Think in these terms when you're in an interview, and you'll capture the attention of the employer.

4.Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage one's emotions and perceive others' emotional needs and triggers, and it can be the tipping point in an employer hiring one candidate over another. Are you self-aware or self-absorbed? Are you asking meaningful questions about the company and its long-term goals, or are you focused on your short-term needs? Can you comfortably network in a room of strangers? Are you projecting confidence, humility, and pleasantness? Successful business units require teamwork and that requires people who have a strong likability factor and who have emotional intelligence.

5.Optimism. Arrive at your interview with a spirit of optimism and genuine graciousness. Smile and expect to make a positive difference in every company you apply to. According to a research study at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 97,253 women age 50 and over participated in a 15-year Women's Health Initiative that showed women who were optimistic had a 9% lower risk of dying from heart disease, and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause (http://www.livescience.com/5621-optimistic-women-live-longer-healthier.html). Bringing optimism into the workplace is contagious, it's good for your health, and it's good for business.

6.Diversity. Every business needs graduates with diversity of thought and experience. There are entire offices of diversity at academic institutions and at many of the Fortune 500 firms, but chances are high you'll be interviewing with one of America's 23 million small businesses. Your scope of experience, ideas, and critical-thinking skills will have an immediate effect on the business--and that's what we need.

7.Hard work. Lucky is the workplace that is filled with optimistic, hard workers because nothing is beyond their reach. The first impression of your work ethic will be evident in the details of your resume, cover letter, and email communications. Check and re-check your grammar and punctuation. While talent and skill play a significant role in getting a job, hard work is the driver and catalyst to high-gear achievement.

We look forward to the creativity, inspiration, and ambition that today's college students will bring to our businesses. By redoubling efforts on these 7 employable skills, graduates can be economically active and in high gear before the first student loan payment is due.

Anne Deeter Gallaher is CEO of Deeter Gallaher Group LLC, a public relations and marketing firm with offices in Harrisburg, PA and Nashville, TN. She is the co-author of Women in High Gear: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, On-Rampers, and Aspiring Executives, as well as The Future Belongs to Students in High Gear, with Amy D. Howell, now available on Amazon. For more info, please visit: http://studentsinhighgear.com