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Job prospects for this year's grads are looking up, but many of the newly minted degree holders aren't poised for success in the workplace.
While 87 percent of new college grads say they feel well-prepared to start working, only half of managers agree, according to a new report from Payscale.com and executive development firm Future Workplace.
The firms surveyed 14,167 recent and soon-to-be grads and 63,924 managers.
"We've definitely seen a disconnect, with some graduates being maybe a touch overconfident," said Andrew Challenger, vice president at outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
And no, you didn't waste your tuition money.
Grads' perceived failings aren't in the training relevant to their field, but rather, soft skills such as communication and teamwork, said Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace. Specifically, surveyed managers called out new hires as lacking in critical thinking and problem-solving skills (60 percent) and attention to detail (56 percent) as well as writing proficiency (44 percent) and public speaking (39 percent).
"If you don't have these skills it's very hard to have any movement or career advancement ... or even an interview," said Schawbel, who is also the author of "Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success."
Employers do expect to hire 5.2 percent more of this year's graduates than they did last year's, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But in a separate report, NACE found member companies' hiring competency "must haves" include critical thinking and problem solving, professionalism, teamwork and communications skills.
Showcasing those skills in your application and interviews could make the difference between getting hired or not.
"You can have two great candidates with equally terrific credentials," said Karen Friedman, business communications coach. "But if one shows up in person and projects an aura of confidence, like-ability and friendliness, that person has an advantage. The prospective employer is able to think, 'I like this person, I can see them fitting in this environment.'"
Successfully applying for a job online is "winning the lottery," Challenger said. Without good personal skills, you might not even be on hiring managers' radar.
Grads who have already snagged a job may want to focus on getting communications skills up to snuff.
"Once you're in the workplace, these skills are forced on you," said Schawbel. For instance, you're writing the business emails, participating in meetings and speaking to clients, he said.
"A lot of people learn on the job," he said.
The Payscale.com survey found that managers' perceptions varied by age. Millennial managers were somewhat more likely to think new grads were prepared, with 55 percent saying so, compared with 47 percent of Gen X managers and 48 percent of baby boomer managers.
Try to work with your manager's communication style, said Mark Phillips, chief executive of Hire Education, a member of executive search firm Sanford Rose Associates network of offices. It's an easy way to forge a good relationship, he said, snagging better assignments and more support.
Solicit feedback and search out training opportunities to make sure you don't fall flat in that first performance review.
"You always have to be doing one thing a day that pushes you forward," Schawbel said.