Mar 26, 2024

From Classroom to Job Market: 6 Skills Employers Want in Your Graduates

by Digital Marketing Institute

It’s a tough job market out there, particularly for those starting on the career ladder. Recent mass layoffs, an unstable global economy, and a lack of key skills are a challenge for universities and colleges looking to create employable graduates.    

This raises questions about how a graduate can navigate the job market and what exactly the employers will look for in future roles. Particularly when businesses predict that 44% of workers’ core skills will be disrupted because technology is moving faster than companies can design and scale up their training programs. 

But there is a solution - giving students the knowledge and skills that employers value. This will help students to stand out from the crowd by demonstrating hands-on and relevant experience in areas that will impact a business’s bottom line. 

In this blog, we will examine student employability trends and highlight key things employers look for in future employees. We will not only explore the skills but also reveal how educators can help students enhance them to create in-demand graduates. 

  1. Digital and data literacy
  2. Teamwork
  3. Artificial Intelligence 
  4. Flexibility with a growth mindset
  5. Emotional Intelligence
  6. Leadership

1) Digital & Data Literacy

Data is everywhere in a business. It’s used to analyze customer behavior, make data-driven predictions and measure performance. That’s why data literacy is crucial. 

It’s also not limited to one or two roles. Regardless of your job function, whether you're an IT manager or social media executive, you will need to analyze data to enhance your company's impact and revenue.

Data literacy can only be achieved if there’s also digital literacy. While many of your students may be digital natives and familiar with digital channels, that doesn’t mean they know how to use them in a business, particularly with the adoption of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence across industries (more on that later). 

So how can you as an educator help? 

  • Use analytics tools - A working knowledge of analytics tools is the best place to start. Provide access to tools like Google Analytics 4 (GA4), Tableau, or Excel so they can learn what they can analyze and how to do it. 
  • Use data visualization tools - Give your students access and time to use data visualization tools like Tableau, Zoho Analytics or Google Charts and teach them how to present findings. Encourage them to create charts, graphs, and infographics to communicate their insights. 
  • Integrate simulations - Along with using tools, simulations are an effective way to bring students through an analysis from start to finish. Simulations allow them to make mistakes and learn from them so they can change their approach the next time.  
  • Arrange workshops or guest lectures - Invite industry professionals who can demonstrate how data is used in different industries and for different purposes. Ask them to provide a walkthrough of an analysis and give practical examples and insights. 
  • Collaborate with industry partners - This will provide hands-on experiences with emerging technologies to help students understand how they can work in a business and get a glimpse into future career possibilities.
“Analytical thinking, creative thinking and AI and big data will be top in-demand skills by 2027” The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2023 report

2) Teamwork

The demand for soft skills has been on the rise across companies in recent years. Employers not only want hard or technical skills related to a role, they also want people with the ability to integrate and work well with others. 

That’s where teamwork skills come in. Graduates should have the ability to collaborate effectively within a team, value diverse viewpoints, and contribute to projects or campaigns. 

There are many benefits to teamwork in a business such as more effective problem solving, boosting innovation, enhancing personal growth, offering growth opportunities, sparking creativity and reducing employee churn and burnout.

So how can an educator nurture teamwork skills?

  • Create projects - Set up regular projects that get students working together with a set goal e.g. build a paid social media plan for a brand. Think about mixing up groups so people are working with different people each time.   
  • Introduce structured team-building exercises -  These exercises should focus on building trust and communication skills in a group environment. 
  • Allow reflection time - This could be built into the curriculum at regular intervals to allow everyone to reflect on what they have learned, what worked and what didn’t, and why. It gives a chance for people to provide input and discuss as a group.  
  • Encourage everyone to speak - In a group setting, there are always people less inclined to speak out than others. Create a space for everyone to contribute and have their say. This will build confidence and enhance inclusion.  

It’s the graduates that demonstrate professionalism, dependability, and a robust work ethic that will be valued by employers and more likely to succeed in a job interview.

“The use of teams and collaboration expectations have been consistently rising,” says Dr. Scott Tannenbaum, a researcher and president of the Group for Organizational Effectiveness. “When I say teams, I’m talking about all types of teams, whether it’s stable work teams [or] teams that are operating virtually.”

3) Artificial Intelligence

While companies have been using AI technologies for years for automation and customer service through chatbots, the advancement of generative AI has changed the game for many. 

Generative AI presents huge opportunities for businesses to streamline processes and increase productivity. The most well-known generative AI tool is currently ChatGPT but that’s only the start. According to Gartner research, there is huge scope for AI across a business such as: 

Generative AI initiatives
Generative AI initiatives

This means that your students also need to understand and have some experience with AI. The more experience they have, the more they will stand out when it comes to job seeking. 

How can you as an educator help? 

  • Discuss AI and its impact on business and society - Educators need to embrace AI and help students understand what it is and where it’s going. Discuss the technology and its implications - ethical and otherwise. Explore what it can do for businesses and employees. You could even use ChatGPT to get the conversation started!
  • Use AI tools - We already mentioned ChatGPT but there’s a wide array of AI tools for many purposes. For example, Google Trends helps businesses see what customers are interested in while Rival IQ helps monitor and track competitors.  
  • Practice prompts - Prompts are a key part of AI, particularly ChatGPT. The better the prompt, the better the answer. Get your students to practice prompts so they can refine them and know the level of detail required depending on the question. Here’s a great ChatGPT walkthrough to see what you can do.     
  • Use case studies - Look at what brands are using AI effectively and for what purposes. For example, Starbucks uses voice search for customer service or Netflix’s recommendation engine. 
“63% of employers are more likely to hire someone with an AI certification on their CV. That’s why, 100% of universities we surveyed have considered implementing AI-related courses or programs in their curriculum” DMI survey

4) Flexibility with a growth mindset

The skills companies need and the way people work is constantly changing. This means that employers want employees who are flexible and can adapt to the shifting sands in a workplace with an appetite for learning and growth. 

For students, the ability to swiftly adapt to emerging trends, technological advancements, and unpredictable market conditions is essential. It also helps nurture curiosity and creativity allowing them to think and react differently. 

Here’s an example of a fixed vs. a growth mindset:

Fixed vs. growth mindset
Fixed vs. growth mindset

In addition, with industries experiencing rapid transformations and skill requirements evolving at an unprecedented pace, candidates who demonstrate a proactive attitude towards continuous learning and skill acquisition are particularly valued.

Employers seek individuals who not only embrace change but also actively seek out opportunities to upskill and reskill, positioning themselves as invaluable assets capable of thriving in the ever-changing demands of the contemporary workforce.

How can educators help students get flexible skills and a growth mindset?

  • Encourage self-directed learning - Offer your students resources that enable self-directed learning, such as online courses or learning platforms. 
  • Explore a range of topics - Don’t limit your students to a few set topics (even if that’s the curriculum). Encourage students to learn about topics outside of their comfort zones. Many of our university partners find that our membership platform - which offers hundreds of content assets from toolkits to blogs to webinars - helps students to upskill in new and trending areas of digital marketing.  
  • Incorporate interdisciplinary projects - This requires students to apply knowledge from different subjects, promoting adaptability and creative thinking.
  • Encourage self-reflection - By taking the time to reflect, students can identify and challenge their fixed mindset tendencies and then reframe them to shift their mindset. 

5) Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand, assess and respond to your emotions and the emotions of others. It’s becoming increasingly valued in the workplace as employers want team members who know how to understand nonverbal cues and adjust their behavior to make good decisions.  

EI is particularly important for people in a senior or leadership role (and those wanting to get to that level of position). 

The five components of emotional intelligence at work are self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, social skills and empathy. Each of these works together to create a grounded and well-rounded employee who can work in any situation and with any individual or team. 

“How you deal with conflict and setbacks, how you encourage people when they’re down, your ability to negotiate or get things done ­– all of those things touch on emotional intelligence,” Mark Craemer, a consultant, leadership coach and author of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace told the BBC. “It's your EQ that enables you to be effective in your role, get promoted and do well in the workplace.”

How can educators help develop and nurture EI?

  • Provide opportunities for peer feedback and reflection - This encourages students to consider the impact of their actions on others and to practice giving and receiving constructive criticism. 
  • Offer guidance on effective communication techniques - This includes active listening and nonverbal cues, through workshops or classroom discussions.
  • Facilitate perspective-taking exercises - This enables students to reflect on different viewpoints and consider the feelings and experiences of others. This can foster empathy and enhance interpersonal relationships.
  • Examine EQ examples - Encourage students to take part in mock interviews where they have to give examples of times they displayed emotional intelligence. This could be examining response to a mistake, how they received critical feedback or how they navigated conflict in a team or with a manager.  
  • Encourage medication - Meditation is about being comfortable sitting in silence and not overthinking. It teaches people to self-regulate and take stock in times of stress. There are lots of mindfulness apps that can help such as Headspace or Calm.  

6) Leadership

Leadership is a combination of soft skills such as teamwork, flexibility, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence. 

Graduates with leadership skills can demonstrate they can grow beyond an entry-level role. This can help them go up the career ladder faster and get into roles that allow them to not only lead projects but also manage people. 

It’s never too early to develop leadership skills. For example, volunteering for a charity to being a mentor for another student can help to demonstrate initiative and a desire or natural ability to lead.  

So, how can educators help students develop leadership skills?

  • Appoint group or project leaders - Assigning your students as leaders of projects or a group exercise can help them stretch their leadership muscles, particularly for those who don’t normally volunteer. 
  • Encourage extra-curricular activities - Extracurricular activities like volunteering or running for student council can help to develop leadership qualities. It can also give people the opportunity to pursue passion projects and give back. 
  • Offer internships - Internships can give students hands-on experience in a business. Making links with local businesses or government could help to create positions that offer this type of invaluable experience.  
  • Host leadership workshops or guest lectures - Workshops that focus on leadership can give people invaluable advice and resources. Inviting a local business leader or entrepreneur (with a link to your institution would be a bonus) to speak can give advice and tips students can apply to job opportunities.  

Boost your curriculum with digital marketing and AI courses

In such a challenging job market, it’s important for educators to offer opportunities for students to learn key skills that boost their employability. We partner with universities and colleges to provide industry-recognized credentials and professional skills that make job-ready graduates. Find out more about how you can partner with us today!

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