As a fresh graduate, looking for that first job can be exhilarating. Soon you will have a reason to get out of bed before 9am, dress sharply on a daily basis in your corporate gear, and go to the bar for after-work drinks instead of your weekend shift work.  

But the reality many graduates face when trying to get their foot in the door is that the real world is very competitive, and you only have a small window to make a great impression. If you want to land that dream job, you will need to stand out from the crowd and show employers what all those years of study have taught you.

Related: 4 questions that will impress in a job interview

While some career sectors such as medicine, science, and engineering require you to have very specific skills and abilities, complementing your intellectual assets with general competencies and behaviours will increase your chances of employment immensely.

In our top tips for graduate job seekers, we advised graduates looking to look for opportunities ahead of time, take up extra-curricular activities and internships, and build a professional network early on, whether with other students or teachers industry mentors or simply on LinkedIn.

When you do this, it doesn’t just demonstrate that you are motivated to learn, but it also suggests to the employer that you might have the X-factor.

What is that graduate X-factor? Here are the top three qualities that help you stand out as a graduate and demonstrate to employers you're worth investing in:

Key soft skills

Also referred to as employability or transferable skills, soft skills include effectively communicating, thinking critically, problem-solving, and working in teams.

Employers often have a common critique about young graduates, that technology and automation have robbed them of any interpersonal, verbal capabilities and grammar skills and made it difficult for them to interpret information.

To demonstrate to a prospective employer that you have these soft skills, be prepared to talk about a time when you were a vital part of a team, and think about your answer before proffering it. If you can, give an example of a time when you had to multitask or delegate a task to get a job done. And don't forget to read our tips on how to demonstrate your soft skills during an interview!

Related: 5 ways to handle interview nerves

Leadership

Leadership skills are probably one of the most essential attributes for an employer, in some cases, even more so than your degree.

The best way you can convince an interviewer that you have these skills is by telling them about a time when you did just that. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. As a fresh grad, companies don’t expect you to have led an army.

Maybe you have been the mediator in a team, or you volunteered to lead a class project one time. Whatever it is, big or small, make sure you can explain how you used initiative to get the job done, what difficult decisions you may have had to make, and the ensuing results.

Related: How to negotiate for a higher salary in 2021

Cultural fit

Being a good cultural fit for a company is a significant signal that you will get on well with other employees, enjoy your work, and honour the esteemed values of the business.

Whilst you can’t change your personality to fit in, you can do your research before an interview and make sure you know the brand values.

Most businesses look for employees who are innovative and entrepreneurial and who will fit seamlessly into the team. Be prepared with an answer just in case they ask what kind of environment you thrive in and what qualities you have which align with their values.

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