What is career readiness? It’s attaining and demonstrating needed competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace. We recommend students plan ahead and begin preparing right away for what they want to do with a career!  Employers actively seek recent graduates who are skilled and ready to contribute to the day-to-day operations of their organizations.

As information technology degree-focused students begin to prepare to enter the workforce, being career ready doesn’t just mean having the technical knowledge and skills needed to be successful. You also need the soft skills (critical thinking, communications, teamwork, digital technology, leadership, work ethic, career management and global fluency) and experiences.

At the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, we understand the challenges students face when juggling classroom work while attempting to develop career readiness skills. To help, we have provided some resources that students can use in building soft skills, career skills and internship opportunities.

Transformative Skills

Soft skills are the number one challenge industry leaders face with recruitment.  National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE, 2017) states that soft skills are necessary regardless of role and industry. There is a continued effort to help students gain experience in these skill areas within and outside of the classroom.

In 2018, 99.2% of employers deemed critical thinking and problem solving as essential for any new hire (Job Outlook 2018, NACE). These are just two of eight necessary soft skills sought after by hiring managers.

These are the eight soft skills recognized across industries:

Merriam Dictionary (2018) defines critical thinking as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” Having the ability to think critically and apply problem-solving skills is essential in almost any job, especially within the information technology sector.

Written and oral communication is the ability to clearly and effectively articulate your thoughts and ideas in writing or through speaking. This is arguably the most important of the eight soft skills. In most technology related roles, you will work and collaborate with internal and external teams and for the timely delivery of services and products, you must be able to communicate well. Some of the various forms of written and oral communications that are used for business operations include: emails, reports, sales pitches, product presentations, etc.

As the way we communicate evolves, so does the way people and organizations work. Most organizations are segmented into departments of divisions with focused business goals. Within these departments or divisions are teams. Usually there is an anarchy within each team such as: director, manager, coordinator, specialist, or associate. Team members must be able to build respectful and collaborative relationships which allow them to communicate seamlessly with each other, supporting each other with the development and delivery of products and services.

Teamwork and collaboration take place with internal team or external organizations. The individuals in teams come from a diverse array of cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, identities, and viewpoints. Being a “team player” and collaborating with your internal teammates and external organizations means you are able to be objective, set your own views aside and be open to a diverse spectrum in order to achieve desired results.

Digital Technology ties well with the focus of a computer science and information technology degree. This goes beyond understanding the trending systems and softwares. In most technology related roles, employers are seeking professionals who have demonstrated or have the ability to adopt technology quickly and utilize said technology to ethically and efficiently solve problems, complete tasks, and achieve business goals.

Leadership is a practical skill which often takes several years of experience to be fully realized in the workforce, when a person can guide other teams, or entire organizations.

Students can gain the fundamentals of leadership skills by joining student related organizations and clubs on campus. We highly recommend getting involved in a leadership role of some capacity. Roles like student ambassadors or mentorships will help you gain experience and leadership skills.

Professionalism and work ethic start in the classroom for students.  Ask yourself, Do you show up to class on time? Do you prioritize class work effectively? Do you turn in homework and projects on time? Do you take responsibility for mistakes made on projects and learn from them? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then that is a clue that you may have to work on your professionalism and work ethic.

An individual who shows consideration and respect for others demonstrates a commitment to professionalism. Likewise, a person who follows-through, exceeds expectations and maintains a positive attitude during challenges in the workplace shows professionalism.

Work ethic is a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability, virtue or value to strengthen character and individual abilities. It is about prioritizing work and putting it in the center of life. Ethics within the workplace includes the application of moral principles, standards of behavior, codes of conduct, and core principles to everyday business transactions.

As a student and professional, you should make a conscious effort in the planning of the jobs you accept throughout the course of your career. First and foremost, you should be able to articulate your skill sets, strengths, weaknesses, and professional experience both in writing and verbally.

Mastering career management now as a student will allow you to become more strategic about your job options, career growth and self-advocacy. It is a sequential process that starts from an understanding of oneself and encompasses occupational awareness.

Global/Intercultural Fluency has less to do with speaking more than one language (although that is never a bad thing), and more to do with understanding different opinions and cultures and being able to navigate these differences in a respectful way.

It’s critical to be able to work with different cultures no matter what job you do. For example, in the information technology sector, a product manager may work with a developer, UX/UI designer and QA analyst located in different continents in a single day. Communicating, managing, developing and delivering a product can literally take the collaboration of people from all walks of life who are located all around the globe.

Career Skills

In order to be hired in your next position, you will need to understand and develop your Career Skills. These skills include creating a dynamic resume, a cover letter, and a list of references, and having stellar interviewing skills.

Career Skills need to be learned before you enter the workforce. You will need a high impact resume, a well-written cover letter, valuable references, and know how to talk about yourself and your abilities throughout an interview.

By working to achieve high career skills you will show your employability and the occupational skills employers look for.

Writing a resume is more than just putting down on paper what you think an employer is looking for or even just a narrative of your work. According to a study released by TheLadders (4/13/2012), recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume! Six seconds was about the time it has taken you to read the first line of this category!

This means that you have a very short amount of time to make a lasting impression. That impression starts with a stellar resume that not only looks professional but is concise and clear.

There are many examples of quality resumes out there and CAREERwise gives provides you with many helpful solutions. By using the valuable resources available for free you can create a stellar resume that will land you your dream job!

Cover letters and references are important components of your Career Search toolbox. Your cover letter highlights the fact that you have a clear understanding of the organization’s business and the job description, and have the skills required to be considered for an interview. References should support your skills and past work experiences.

It is important to understand how well you do at interviewing before you actually interview for a job! There are a number of skills that can help you calm your nerves, stay on topic, and better promote your skills. It helps to understand the different types of interviews you will face, some common questions used, and have some interview tips from the experts.

Check out Interview and Negotiate from CAREERwise Education. This site can help you build your skills and get you prepared for your next interview.

An Elevator Speech is a term used to describe what you would say to a potential hiring manager if you were to meet them on an elevator and only have 6 floors in which to tell your story to them to get them interested in hiring you. You get between 20-30 seconds to tell them why you are the person they need. What would you say? How would you say it?

Your Elevator Speech should tell the person who you are, provide a little background about what you are looking for, explain or provide context for what you want them to know, tell them how you connect with them, ask for what you need and finally close-out your time. All within 20-30 seconds.

Because of the fast pace of an Elevator Speech you should not only have it memorized but be able to recite without even thinking about it.

 

It goes something like this:

“Hi, My name is ___________ and I have a degree in ________ from _________. I have a deep desire to work in a position that gives me ___________ and __________ and allows me to give the company ___________ and __________. I know others who work here and they say the employee engagement and commitment is a big reason they work here. I also see on your website that you have achieved the _________ Award for Employee Satisfaction.  I would like to see if you would be willing to talk further with me, here is my card. I want to thank you for your time and hope you have a productive and wonderful day.”

For additional learning visit CAREERwise Education.

Internships

One of the best ways to gain valuable work experience and career readiness skills is to secure an internship. An internship can be paid or unpaid and ranges from a summer session to a long-term 18-month event that allows you to gain in-depth experience and knowledge. Companies that invest in internship opportunities are looking to develop their future talent, so gaining internship experience is a great way to get a foot into the door for your future career.

Get paid while you earn your bachelor’s degree, build your network and launch your IT career with a FUSION residency during your junior and senior year of college.

If you are looking for an internship and do not attend Minnesota State University, Mankato or Metropolitan State University, you can still secure a valuable internship. Your college Career Center should be able to provide you with a number of options to line up an internship.

Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence partners with local and regional business and organizations to secure potential internships for Minnesota State Students. Connect with these internship opportunities by signing up with our IT Connect Community and look for Internships under the CAREERS Link.