For soon-to-be college graduates, it’s a tough job market out there–in many fields, perhaps the most competitive ever. To stand out from their peers, tomorrow’s grads will need to show that they have the skill sets that businesses value most. [Read: “World-renowned futurist Michio Kaku: This is what higher ed should be teaching students right now.“]

Here are four of the skills that top the wish lists of many major employers:

1. Critical Thinking Skills

Once seen as merely “nice to have,” critical thinking skills have emerged as a flat-out necessity in today’s knowledge-based economy. By 2020, critical thinking will be the number two most important skill set to demonstrate on the job (second only to complex problem-solving).

This should not come as a surprise in the digitized workplace: future careers will require workers to analyze vast amounts of data quickly, and be able to apply their analysis to practical problems. Highlighting the ability to think critically right off the bat will help students develop from post-grad new hires to valued decision-makers.

Unfortunately, this is an area where many millennials struggle: our recent survey found that only 36 percent of recent college graduates believe they are very well-trained in critical thinking.

2. Business Communications Skills

By themselves, critical thinking skills can only carry you so far; workers also need to be able to explain their analyses in a cogent fashion to their peers and managers. In fact, good business communications skills can help teams work together more easily and contribute, potentially, to the company’s long-term health.

By contrast, poor communications can result in deep inefficiencies and fan the flames of misunderstanding. In the digital workforce, communications take place over so many different media: phone, email, chat applications like Slack or Google Hangouts, social media, and (arguably the most important) face-to-face communication. Being a skilled communicator means being able to adapt to each of these modes of conversation, and knowing when each is most appropriate.

Employees who are able to express themselves clearly in the workplace will be seen as valuable assets by their teams, which is a key to advancement.

(Next page: 2 more critical skills for the digital workforce)

About the Author:

Frank Connolly is the senior editor for MindEdge Learning.


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