The five skills to help you land your first job - Career HQ
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The five skills to help you land your first job

Applying for your first full-time job can be daunting. It can be easy to feel like your limited experience doesn’t give you much to offer an employer.

How to get a first job

The good news is that hiring managers are not necessarily looking for technical expertise when they are hiring graduates. They know you won’t necessarily have had time when studying and doing part-time work to build strong technical expertise and experience. They are more likely to be looking for ‘soft’ skills or attributes that demonstrate that you can work well with others, use information to develop solutions and make decisions, achieve goals, and learn quickly and effectively.

Here are the top five skills that hiring managers tell us they want applicants to be able to demonstrate when they are hiring for entry-level jobs.

1. Teamwork

One of the key skills hiring managers will be looking for is your ability to work in a team with others, and to achieve shared outcomes and goals by working together.

Team players are reliable; they communicate effectively with others and express ideas in a meaningful and respectful way. They listen to and understand different perspectives; give constructive feedback without being defensive; and can be flexible and adaptable based on feedback or ideas from others.

Even without a lot of work experience, you can demonstrate your teamwork skills with examples of team projects you have done during your study; by part-time work as part of the team such as in a busy restaurant, or volunteer work helping to run a major event.

2. Problem Solving

People who are good at solving problems can demonstrate taking initiative, applying data to find creative or innovative solutions, and/or thinking outside the square.

Even though you may not have been in many situations where you have had the opportunity to make changes, it could be as simple as noticing that the café you work at sells more ham sandwiches than chicken sandwiches, so you move the chicken sandwiches to a more prominent position and in doing so, sell more chicken sandwiches (and still the same amount of ham).

Looking at a situation or an old solution, and coming up with a new process or new solution is one of the ways you can demonstrate your problem-solving ability.

3. Continuous Learner

As the way in which most jobs are performed keeps changing, especially with technology developments, organisations are often looking for people who are what they call agile learners. That is, people who are keen to keep learning and developing themselves as new technologies and ways of doing things (including robotics and AI) are developed.
Possessing the curiosity and appetite to learn new things and adapt to continuous change is increasingly seen as more important than having qualifications or expertise in one area and thinking that you are now set for life.

You can potentially exhibit your learning agility by highlighting your awareness and use of new software products and technologies, and asking questions about how the hiring organisation will help you to develop new knowledge and skills.

4. Organised Multi-Tasker

Organisational skills are crucial for most work places. Time management, planning, and completing tasks within deadlines are important to keeping tasks, deliverables and projects under control so that a business or project operates smoothly.

Hiring managers are looking for these skills because they are the kind of traits that make an employee dependable, and increase productivity and efficiency. Employers often screen candidates for their ability to handle multiple tasks or stressful, fast-paced environments.

You can demonstrate these skills by talking about how you have been able to prioritise tasks to achieve the desired result in a challenging situation; analysing processes and selecting the most efficient way to complete a project; or by breaking broader goals into smaller parts and focusing on one step at a time.

5. Leadership

While this is not necessarily sought for all jobs, recruiting managers like to see leadership potential in people they hire. When a hiring manager evaluates your leadership skills, they are looking to understand your leadership style and attributes such as your initiative, your ability to guide and motivate others to achieve shared goals, the way you respond to challenges and your ability to make decisions.

To describe a situation in which you showed leadership, you could talk about how you came to be in a leading role, the steps you took to ensure people kept things running smoothly, and the result – for example, a successful event, a completed project, or a potential challenge that was addressed.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a lot of technical work experience when you are looking to land your first job. If you think about it, there are often numerous ways that you can demonstrate the five keys skills hiring managers are looking for by drawing on your studies, volunteer work or part-time work experience.

How to get a job