Career Column,  This Week's Paper

Skills Students Should Know for Success During the Job Search and in the Workplace

When I meet with students and ask them about their technical skills, I don’t always get the response I am hoping for.  Students must have outstanding technical skills if they want to be successful in their career search and be competitive in the job market, and this piece of advice rings true for all majors in college.

If you were to ask me what the top five essential skills are, I would break it down to the following:

  1. Excel – Proficiency in excel, particularly knowledge of v-lookups, pivot tables, and financial modeling, is incredibly important in the workplace.  VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) is the name of the programming language of Excel, which students should also familiarize themselves with. There are classes here at Queens College you can take to learn the fundamentals of Excel and VBA.  Excel is offered through classes in the Computer Science Department, and the Economics Department offers a class in VBA.
  2. PowerPoint or Prezi– Creating a presentation from scratch, making changes to a presentation, and the ability to use graphics and tables is a necessity for an entry-level job.  You should be fully proficient in some sort of presentation software, but actually giving a quality presentation comes with lots of practice that students should make time for on their own.
  3. Accounting – Basic accounting is a necessary skill valued by employers in many sectors of the market. Regardless of your major, I would highly recommend taking at least two accounting courses.  Knowing your financial statements and how to read them will undoubtedly help you be successful both in and outside the workplace. Even if you don’t plan on being an accountant, having the basic knowledge in accounting will help differentiate you from other candidates.
  4. Bloomberg Terminal – It is highly recommended that first time users watch the Bloomberg Tutorials, which are available within the help and customer support menu under Bloomberg Essentials. We are lucky to have six terminals at Queens College in Powdermaker Hall on the third floor.  There is a certification course you can take online and it looks good on the resume.
  5. Communications Skills – It is essential to be an effective communicator, both oral and written, in any work environment.  Know your audience and your material, think before you speak, and speak confidently. There are many ways to enhance your communications skills, such as joining a club or becoming a club leader, joining a local toastmasters class or taking a class at Queens College in BALA, such as Oral Communication in the Workplace.

The good news is it’s never too late to start or to learn.  The more you know, the more you have to offer.  There are numerous resources available to learn these skills, such as a class offered at QC, YouTube videos, or other online tutorials. Additionally, as a student at Queens College you have a free resource called Lynda.com, which offers a series of virtual tutorials in almost any subject.  My suggestion is to make it a goal to learn at least two of these skills this semester—challenge yourself.  Happy learning!  

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