New skills have replaced old. Employers are looking for more knowledge worker skills.

Skills Employers Want. How to Energize Your Career.

What do you really need to know to get and do a great job out of college? What do employers want to see on your resume? What aren’t they getting that would help you stand out from the crowd? This post lists the top 5 skills, the demand for each, and the percent of employers who say the skill is lacking in college graduates. It offers suggestions for sharpening the skill before you graduate. Future posts will give you tools to self-assess your skill-level and more suggestions for developing the skill.

Skills Employers Want. How to Energize Your Career.

Your program major is important, particularly if you’re in an area that is high skill, high demand, and high wage (see my forthcoming post on The 3 Highs for a Great College Major) like accounting, chemical engineering, or computer science. But beyond the major, employers are looking for transferable skills. I covered the basics of what they look for in my post The x things every employer wants in an Employee, with or without a degree. In this article, I cover what it is that and employers want in a college graduate and yet say they don’t get .

Why is this important? If you want to grow in your career, a good strategy is to be good in the high demand skills that aren’t present in the competition. For example, my communication and social skills gave me an advantage when I was starting out in software engineering – true to stereotype, they weren’t that common. Of course I needed technical skills, too.

I compiled the list from (NACE 2016) and (Payscale 2016). For each one, I give the demand, the gap, what it is, the jobs that require it, and how you can develop it.

Skill #5 Verbal Communication

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. — Tony Robbins.

Make sure you are understood. Don’t blame the other person for not understanding. Instead, look for ways to clarify or rephrase what you are trying to say so it can be understood. — Joel Garlfinkle.

Communication must be HOT. That’s Honest, Open, and Two-way. — Dan Oswald.

Though fifth in the list, 71% of employers are looking for people who have a skill of verbal communication. If you have it already, then you’re in demand as 39% of employers say they are not getting what they want.

What is it employers want? The official definition from the US Department of Labor is “Talking to others to convey information effectively.” That’s a dry description. Add to it, pitch your audience, sell a product, be sensitive, be helpful, defuse angry customers, motivate peers, answer questions succinctly.

Learning verbal skills is easier for some than others. And verbal skills are essential to all occupations. Take classes in college on public speaking — you may hate the idea of them, but that’s a sign you need them . Participate in class discussions – seriously. The more you practice discussing and debating ideas in public, the more fluent you become. Study TED Talks. Some of the best speakers show up there. Find a speaker you admire and trust and ask them to mentor you. Volunteer to teach at your church or work. The more you do, the better you’ll be. If there’s someone whose speaking skills you admire, consider asking them to mentor you.

Skill #4 Strong Work Ethic

People don’t understand that when I grew up, I was never the most talented. I was never the biggest. I was never the fastest. I certainly was never the strongest. The only thing I had was my work ethic, and that’s been what has gotten me this far. — Tiger Woods.

Is strong work ethic really a skill? Regardless of where you stand on the terminology, 72% of employers say they need it and 44% report they don’t get it. You won’t find it directly listed at, but it is composed of several work styles defined by the US Department of Labor : Achievement/Effort, Dependability, and Persistence. Each of these links display occupations and the strength of the required work style. And a word of caution that although employers say they want effort, what they really want is results. Working hard is required, but is not enough by itself. Always deliver more value than you cost your employer.

If you are always ready to take on work, make sure that you understand requirements, manage your time well, and seek to add value to the work you do, you’ll be seen as having a strong work ethic. You want to be persistent. Work through any difficulties to get results. Keep your word. Over-deliver on promises.

Develop these workstyles as a mental habit. Find a mentor who can help you understand what’s expected of you and coach you on what helps and what doesn’t. Don’t take for granted that everyone sees your hard work, either. You need to ensure that your bosses know what you accomplish.

If you’re still in school, practice this for each of your remaining terms.

Keep track of the habits and your mentor’s assessments of your work ethic.

Skill #3 Written Communication

Communication — the human connection — is the key to personal and career success. — Paul J. Meyer.

Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give a glimpse in someone else’s head. — Malcolm Gladwell

Like its twin, verbal communication, written communication is highly sought by collegiate employers with 75% wanting it, and 44% saying they don’t get it in their candidates. Writing is defined by as “Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.” and this link takes you to a list of jobs that require writing. With the far-flung offices and work at home employees, written communication is going up in demand, not down.

Take writing seriously. Some businesses have writing help, and colleges almost always have a writing center. Don’t let these resources go to waste. And, as with other skills, consider a mentor who’s willing to help you grow. Feedback from others is essential for learning since you aren’t writing for yourself, in most occupations.

Skill #2 Problem Solving

 Entrepreneurs are moving from a world of problem-solving to a world of problem-finding. The very best ones are able to uncover problems people didn’t realize that they had. — Dan Pink.

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were– John F. Kennedy

Skill #1: Ability to work in a team.

Teamwork is essential to most jobs with 78% of employers looking for experience in this area. Unfortunately

What is it, how do you know if you have it, and where can you get it?


NACE. (2016, December 7). The Attributes Employers Seek on a Candidate’s Resume. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from

PayScale. (2016). Which job skills make the most money? Infographics. Retrieved May 4, 2017, from