5 essential career skills and how to develop them at FIU


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It’s a question many students are asking as they prepare to graduate or think about life right after college: What are employers looking for in new graduates?

Depending on the realities of the job market when you ask the question, the answers may vary.

According to Maida Purdy, an academic advisor in the College of Architecture + the Arts, there are five career skills that most employers are currently looking for in recent graduates: leadership, teamwork, written communication skills, problem-solving skills and strong work ethic.

If you are still a student at FIU, there are plenty of courses, organizations, resources and opportunities available to help you foster these critical career skills and many others.

“Employers care more about how graduates can apply their skills to the position they are applying for,” Purdy says. “If students are able to show they have developed these skills throughout their college career, that’s how you’ll land that job or that internship.”

Here are some ways to link your coursework and extracurricular activities to employable skills:

1. Leadership

Employers want to hire graduates who can lead in the workplace and be a positive and motivational influence on coworkers.

Even if you don’t see yourself as a “natural leader,” chances are you’ve already exhibited examples of leadership ability. That group assignment you were put in charge of in class or maybe that project you spearheaded while an intern are the kind of examples you can point to during job interviews that show you can take the lead when called upon.


Related: 5 leadership tips from student leaders


If you want to learn more about leadership, there are courses such as Service Learning: Social Change and Contemporary Social Issues (SOW 4932) and Exploring Leadership (PAD 3431) that teach students about various leadership models, theories and principles. If these courses interest you, talk to your academic advisor to see if you can take them as an elective for your program.

2. Teamwork

Speaking of group class assignments: even though they can be difficult to deal with sometimes, they can be very valuable in helping you learn how to work in teams to accomplish a goal because chances are you will have to work with people in whatever career you end up pursuing.

There are also plenty of college experiences you can participate in that will help you show employers that you know how to be a team player: your semester playing intramural basketball, your involvement in a sorority, or your time volunteering at a local elementary school.

For deeper insight into teamwork and working with others, Introduction to Sociology (SYG 2000) introduces students to socialization, sex roles, social groups, race and ethnic relations and also helps fulfill the social sciences requirement in the University Core Curriculum (UCC).

3. Written communication

In a digital world dominated by social media and texting, many employers are lamenting about the communication skills of recent graduates. In a 2014 survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, only 27 percent of employers believe recent graduates are prepared in the area of written communication.

“Writing with spelling errors, improper grammar, or awkward sentence constructions, can make or break your chances with an employer – even in social media,” Purdy says.

Introduction to Creative Writing (CRW 2001) is a fun and engaging course that can help you improve your writing skills while also fulfilling the UCC’s arts requirement.

4. Problem-solving skills  

Whether you are an electrical engineer or a high school social studies teacher, every career comes with its own set of challenges to navigate through and problems to solve. Employers are looking for graduates who demonstrate an ability to use creativity, reasoning, past experience and resources available to them to resolve issues.

“It is an attractive skill because it saves everyone valuable time,” Purdy says. “You can demonstrate your analytical thinking and problem-solving skills to employers through examples of past projects, experiences at work or an internship, or previous instances where you used your creativity or ingenuity to figure out a solution to a problem.”

5. Strong work ethic

How you approach your coursework, your internship and your extracurricular activities can go a long way in showing potential employers that you will be a hard worker for them in the position for which you are applying.

“Perfect attendance and school assignments turned in on time can be mentioned in job interviews as goals you set for yourself and achieved,” Purdy says.

For more information on how to link your coursework and extracurricular experience to career skills, visit FIU Career Services or talk to an academic advisor. This article is part of our Secrets to Success series.