Important Attributes for Fresh Graduates

By: Png Han Yong

A recent article in The Straits Times reported that Singapore’s low youth unemployment rate can be attributed to the fact that a majority of fresh graduates possess non-academic skills sought by many employers. Some of these highlighted attributes include communication skills, drive and initiative, as well as the ability to be a team player.

Though fresh graduates may have picked up these skills during their tertiary education, it’s arguable whether their grasp of them is sufficient for application in a different environment – they may be in for a culture shock if they do not adapt these aptitudes accordingly for the workplace.

Communication Skills
As a student, the people you largely interact with are your fellow students and professors. In both cases, communication is relatively easy because the former are your peers (helping you out of their own goodwill or because it’s a mutually beneficial agreement – see below) and the latter are your mentors, whose jobs are – literally – to help you.

Nevertheless, you’ll soon realise that having to collaborate with colleagues to get things done can be extremely challenging, especially when you’re still new to the job and when your colleagues are not obliged to help you. A fine balance between politeness and firmness (not to mention some wheedling) has to be treaded in your professional dealings if you wish to get any meaningful work done.

Drive and Initiative
Studying is relatively straightforward: at the end of the day, you reap what you sow. Devoting more time and effort to your studies is usually directly proportional to your academic achievements. You may even feel motivated to discover new learning methods to make your studying more efficient if you truly enjoy what you’re learning.

On the contrary, the dynamics of the workplace are a lot more complicated. Personal effort aside, there are numerous (and often uncontrollable) factors influencing the success of your career, including unpleasant ones such as favouritism, office politics, etc.

You must not only have the tenacity to stick at your job and do it well, but also be able to map out a safe path through the dangers of the workplace – that’s what it truly means to have the drive and initiative to carve out a meaningful career for yourself.

Ability to Be a 'Team Player'
The word ‘team’ has very different connotations in school and in the workplace.

In school, every member of your team probably has a similar level of knowledge and experience when it comes to executing a group project, whereby helping each other is a mutually beneficial arrangement (see above). This level playing field actually makes it easier to work as a team since everybody, more or less, acknowledges each other on an equal basis.

In contrast, as a fresh graduate your working team in the office will consist of co-workers who outrank you and have more experience than you. As the resident rookie, you’ll have to prove your mettle and defer to their authority (however unfair) in order to gain their respect. This is part and parcel of becoming a good team player who is able to work well with his or her teammates and not under them.

What other skills do you think fresh graduates need to adapt from school to the workplace? Share with us in the comment box below!

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