What do employers want from me anyways?
What do employers want from me anyways?
By: Lauren Jackson
The golden days of attending college, graduating, and instantly scoring a job has come and gone. Now more than ever there is a sharp divide between employers and the younger generation entering the workforce. There is large talk of skills, training, classes, and certifications needed to get a job and keep it, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged by the reality of adult life creeping up as the walk across the stage gets closer.
Workforce Development is a major concern for Alabama, and one of the top priorities in the education of high school students and beyond. It applies to students planning on attending college, and those directly entering into a career alike. According to wfconnections.org, workforce “is an interconnected set of solutions to meet employment needs: It prepares workers with needed skills, emphasizes the value of workplace learning, and addresses the hiring demands of employers from the outset.”
No matter the path that you are considering upon graduation, the end result is to be employed and making money, and workforce development centers around meeting that goal. As a future worker, you face the hefty task of making yourself the best candidate possible for employers. According to a 2013 Skills Gap Survey conducted by Alabama Department of Labor, 28% of employers found hiring employees with the necessary skills “moderately difficult”. Another 14% of those employers found it “extremely difficult”. So what skills are they wanting, and what do they need from you to earn the job?
From the same study, employees were more likely to show gaps in soft skills than in technical skills, meaning that more than ever, students are struggling to display a strong work ethic over other shortcomings. A lack of soft skills from younger workers is on the top list of complaints for employers. Soft skills include being on time, following directions of supervisors, proper management of time, attendance, and teamwork to name a few. These skills seem simple, but in reality are creating a complex problem for the workforce. Employers are more reluctant towards younger workers due to the representation of having poor work ethic.
To change this image, you must come in to impress. From your interview, to the daily work grind, soft skills are necessary. An employee without them, will not remain an employee for long. Arrive for the interview and for work early. Excuses such as traffic or not knowing where the location is, does not impress an employer, being early does. Take time in your schedule for estimating the traffic, and practice your trip to the location a day or two before an interview so you will be comfortable. Nothing will show that you are interested and eager for the job than arriving early, and that can make the difference over getting it or not.
Following direction of supervisors seems a simple soft skill that is self explanatory, but it can be taken a step further. Following directions of supervisors includes doing as they say, but also being respectful and well receiving of their directions. Make special efforts to show that you care what they say, and that you are listening fully to it. Specifically, look your supervisor in the eyes when he or she is talking, and nod every so often to show that you are listening and that you understand what they have to say. In addition, ask questions on anything you do not understand. That will show that you are listening and that you do care about doing the task correctly.
Proper time management can be a harder soft skill to crack. Proper time management requires organization and planning. You will have many tasks to complete throughout the day, and it is important to prioritize those that are more important over those that are less important. Likewise, it is important to always utilize company time. They are paying for you to be there, so all tasks should be company related. Texting, surfing the web, and checking social media should all be kept to the minimum. If you are having a slower day or do not know what to do, ask instructions from your supervisors. This will show you are eager to work, and create a reason for you to be there.
Attendance in high school may or may not have been something that mattered to you. If you got behind one or two days, you could always make it up the next day. While in the work environment, that is not the case. Managers and supervisors must plan to have every employee a certain amount of hours, and missing a day can completely destroy their hard work and planning. They are depending on you to get your tasks done for the day, and to reach the balance of hours they have planned for. While sickness can happen from time to time, it is important to place your job as a priority around your social plans. Furthermore, if you have an activity that you know you are going to have to ask off work for, it is essential to let your supervisor know as soon as you do. That way they have plenty of time and options to help fill the space.
The last soft skill is teamwork. This goes beyond working on a project together and completing tasks. As an employee it is important to keep the peace with your coworkers even if they may not be your favorite person. As a working adult, you are now expected to behave as one. That includes respectful interactions with the other employees, and maintaining a drama free work environment. Treat each employee with respect, even if your position is of higher standing than theirs. Each person has a task and purpose, and all of them are equally important to making the company run smoothly.
By making use of soft skills, you increase your odds of becoming hired. Even with a lack of past work experience, you can earn a job if you show that you will be a good worker. In addition to soft skills, there are other things you as a high school student can do to make yourself the best candidate possible.
Whether you plan on joining the workforce, going to college, or even joining the military after high school, dual enrollment can help you get ahead of the game. It is possible to graduate high school not only with your high school diploma, but an Associate's Degree as well. Earning an Associate's Degree will put you ahead of other students looking for employment, and will offer you skills that you will have to fall back on. Furthermore, there are now grants in place for high school students to attend dual enrollment courses with tuition and books paid. Students seeking to immediately join the workforce can earn invaluable training in the field that they are interested in pursuing. Students that are looking to go straight to college, can earn credits that can bump their graduation date up. Those students looking to enlist with the military can earn their degree prior to being further trained by the military, making things much easier.
In short, hard work is characterized by effort and eagerness. If you are wanting to make your dreams of employment come true, it is vital to make yourself stand out among other potential employees. Making use of soft skills and earning dual enrollment credits, can help you get the call back after an interview.
Lauren Jackson is a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in Communications. She is minoring in Psychology, and enjoys reading, writing, and hiking in her free time. She loves volunteering and being active within her community.