Seven Highly Desirable Characteristics of An Employable College Graduate

As a college graduate, you now have a clearer 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.

What does an employer expect from a college graduate? The tried and true trifecta – resume, degree, and “hard skills” – get you the interview, but your “soft skills” get you the job. You may be surprised to learn that the institution, degree, and GPA are certainly important, but the mastery of soft skills is your true business advantage.[wcm_restrict]

Through my own experiences and research as a CEO, I have found there are seven 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 on a presentation slide, understanding and using the power of language sets you apart from other candidates. Writing, speaking, negotiating, tweeting, or 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 needs content writers, social media professionals, and skilled PR people. The graduate who has a rich mastery of language is an asset.
  2. Impressive personal brand. In the digital age, “You are who Google says you are.” An employer’s first impression of you will be page 1 of Google. Be prepared for first search and make sure your digital tattoo is reflective of your character, intelligence, and aspirations. What content do you post or share? Whom do you influence? What company do you tweet? You have the keys to your online reputation, and a wonderful opportunity to start building a strong personal brand by sharing great content.
  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, that’s highly valued. You are the company’s biggest 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 team work 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 ( Bringing optimism into the workplace is contagious, it’s good for your health, and it’s good for business.
  6. Diversity. Google “diversity,” and you’ll find 323,000,000 results. That’s the definition of a buzzword. 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 ideas and critical-thinking skills will have an immediate effect on the business—and that’s good.
  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.

As business owners, we forward to the creativity, inspiration, and ambition that today’s college students will bring to our companies. By redoubling efforts on these seven employable skills, graduates can be economically active and in high gear before the first student loan payment is due.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

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About the Author

Anne Deeter GallaherAnne Deeter Gallaher is CEO of Deeter Gallaher Group LLC and co-author of Women in High Gear: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, On-Rampers, and Aspiring Executives and The Future Belongs to Students in High Gear. For more information, please visit, and connect with Anne on Twitter, @AnneDGallaher.

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