These 5 skills will get you the best jobs with your college degree

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Students graduating this year have been through the perfect academic storm.
  • But after last year’s graduate job market slump, things seem to be improving.
  • LinkedIn has identified the five key skills for landing the best graduate jobs.
  • Though graduates are advised to be realistic about their first role.

The COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with the academic careers of millions of students around the world – but there are signs that their job prospects are finally improving.

In 2020, universities around the world substituted face-to-face lectures for online teaching and practical studies for computer simulations. As economies shut down, so too did graduate recruitment.

A survey in the UK found that more than half of final year students had job offers and internships deferred or rescinded during the pandemic. But now new data from LinkedIn shows that, in the US, graduate career prospects are starting to improve.

Bouncing back

The LinkedIn Hiring Rate, which measures how quickly graduates find work, shows the Class of 2020 were being hired faster than pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year, a trend which LinkedIn says “bodes well for the Class of 2021”.

Adding to the optimism about a rebound in graduate recruitment in the US is a recent survey of employers which found that they intend to hire over 7% more graduates in 2021 than they did last year.

5 skills employers want from new grads.
5 skills employers want from new grads. Image: LinkedIn

However, LinkedIn says its data shows that competition for degree-level jobs remains intense and opportunities are unevenly distributed across sectors and regions. It says the greatest number of opportunities are in transportation & logistics, healthcare and tech.

These three sectors accounted for the majority of entry-level vacancies in the US in the first three months of 2021, according to LinkedIn analysis. The three top locations with the most graduate openings were New York, Washington DC-Baltimore and Chicago.

In Dallas, vacancies were 40% higher than in 2020 and 26% up in Boston, with employers looking to hire a range of jobs from sales people to software engineers and nursing assistants.

But what does it take to get one of these jobs?

Industries with the most entry-level openings.

Sought-after skills

LinkedIn says the top five skills that employers in the US are seeking are:

  • Analytical skills
  • Project management
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Time management.

Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard College, says graduates should not hold out for their ideal job. “There’s a difference between holding out for the best job in the universe and picking the best job you can, given where you are today, and then making the most of that experience,” Ng told LinkedIn.

“Think not about your first job, but your second or third job. Your first job won’t be your last job, but your first job can put you on the path to getting to where you want to be more effectively.”

Around the world

The rebound in graduate recruitment is also occurring in India. A survey found that the number of employers planning to increase graduate recruitment is 43% higher in 2021 than it was in 2020. The survey also found that postgraduate degrees, especially MBAs, were likely to improve a person’s job prospects.

The popularity of postgraduate studies is also increasing in China, according to reporting by CNBC. A study found that more than two-fifths of graduates from Chinese universities are aiming for jobs with state-owned enterprises – up from 36% last year.

In Europe, research by the Financial Times found that competition for graduate jobs has intensified for the Class of 2021, with one graduate saying they had failed to find a job after more than 230 applications. In this climate, students were opting for job security over fulfilment, the FT said.

Perceived skills and skills groups with growing demand for 2025.
Perceived skills and skills groups with growing demand for 2025. Image: World Economic Forum

Jobs of the future

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 said that the pace of technological change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution would mean that people graduating today would need to reskill and retrain several times in their working lives.

However, it said core skills like critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, self-management, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility would be essential qualities for success in all types of jobs in the future.

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