Why Applicants Should Consider A School’s Soft Skills Training

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“Is success part of your DNA?”

You need a lot more than an advanced degree to climb the old career ladder. Corporate recruiters are looking for newly minted MBAs to show leadership potential, ability to work in diverse teams, and communication skills. These tools in the MBA toolbox fall under the umbrella of soft skills and were not actively taught by most business schools until relatively recently.

Why? To please employers, of course. Eighty-nine percent of recruiters in the just-released GMAC 2015 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report said that communications skills are a “critical factor” when selecting whom to interview, second only to “Proven ability to perform” and ahead of “Strong technical and/or quantitative skills.”  “Strong writing skills” are fifth with 56% of recruiters saying they are a critical factor.

That’s why applicants are also becoming more interested in what’s on the soft skills menu at their dream schools.

“As we recognize that content, such as marketing and strategy, has become increasingly accessible, applicants are discussing what kinds of skills they will pick up at school,” says Dan LeClair, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the accrediting organization, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Many applicants will tell you they are looking for a program in which they can “grow,” which is code for becoming a better leader. While they are not choosing schools based solely on their trust exercises, obstacle courses, or group therapy sessions, they are looking for something in addition to being able to read financial statements.  

For example, when applying to business schools, James Rapuzzi says he was less impressed with rankings and core curriculum than the leadership training schools provided.

“I was more focused on finding out, ‘What are you going to teach me that I don’t already know?” he says. “And who will I be surrounded by and what can I learn from my classmates?’”

In fact, Rapuzzi, who graduated from the Notre Dame University Mendoza College of Business’ full-time MBA program in May 2015, says his greatest lessons came from group projects and communication coursework that had him giving speeches and writing in a professional manner. He recently moved to New York City, where he’ll be working at an investment bank in its financial sponsors group, and he credits his communication and networking training for helping him get interviews and later a full-time job offer.

“Recruiters are vetting you throughout the job search,” adds Rapuzzi. “They are looking at you and asking, ‘Are you the type I can put in front of a client? Is success part of your DNA?’”

Octavia Costea, who graduated from Babson College’s F.W. Olin School of Business in May 2015, shares a similar story. She sought programs that would help her with strategy, analytics, and entrepreneurial endeavors, she writes in an e-mail. She too picked up soft skills nonetheless and adds she found herself taking advantage of resources that weren’t required but helped her develop as a manager.

When Costea was facing challenges with her cohort, she turned to the school’s sessions on improving communication. “I tend to be direct, lay the problem on the table, talk it out and move on,” adds Costea. “However, non-confrontational people don’t respond well to that approach. The speech center helped me understand that.”

For some schools, soft skills are old hat. Stanford Graduate School of Business has been offering its most popular elective, “Interpersonal Dynamics,” which was long ago nicknamed “Touchy Feely,” for more than 40 years. Columbia Business School has the Program on Social Intelligence, which includes a roster of courses designed to hone leadership skills. Other schools have begun offering retreats, lessons in meditation, and workshops with improvisational actors. The list goes on.

Swimming through the information available on all these programs can be overwhelming for applicants. LeClair suggests applicants search for transformative experiences by asking business schools about opportunities for hands-on learning, personal coaching, and examples of how they demonstrate to potential employers the so-called softer achievements of their graduates.

Today, soft skills are at the “heart of the value proposition of an MBA education,” says LeClair.

“The world is changing,” he adds. “Our success will depend less on what we know than our ability to frame and reframe problems, communicate, and think creatively.”

Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One - Download your copy today!

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

Related Resources:

• MBA Project Search: Matchmaking for MBAs and Businesses
• The Hottest Skills that will Land You the Hottest Jobs
• Have an Open Mind, Learn Skills, Build Relationships: Darden MBA Interview

The Hottest Skills that will Land You the Hottest Jobs

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What are recruiters really looking for?

recent Businessweek article highlights the top skills job-seekers need to make the greatest impression on headhunters and future employers. What’s not high up on the list? Involvement in startups. According to the recruiters surveyed in BW’s 2014 b-school rankings, employees who are entrepreneurial thinkers and “cosmopolitan self-starters” aren’t as important as employees who can “write clean e-mails, work in a team, and think analytically.”

Businessweek’s polled 1320 MBA recruiters from various industries, asking them to choose up to five skills or assets from a list of 14. Here’s what they found were most important (the top three) and least important (the bottom three):

 68% — Good communication

• 60% — Analytical thinking

• 55% — Ability to work collaboratively

• 15.2% — Industry-related work experience

• 12.3% — Global mindset

• 8.9% — Entrepreneurship

See BW’s chart for more details:

Click here for more blog posts about hiring news and trends.

Recruiters said that the following skills/assets were the most difficult to find among job applicants:

• 47.3% — Strategic thinking

• 44.4% — Creative problem-solving

• 42.2% — Leadership skills

Here’s the BW chart on that:

Click here for more blog posts about hiring news and trends.

Watch the Career Strategy for MBA Applicants Webinar

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• MBA Hiring Expected to Increase in 2015
• MBA Project Search: Matchmaking for MBAs and Businesses
• 5 Tips to Find a Satisfying Career

5 Tips to Find a Satisfying Career

Get the details about "How to Ditch Your Dead End Job and Find a Career You Love!"

Don’t get stuck in a career you really don’t like!

Work becomes such a big part of your life after college that it is really important to find a career you will be happy in. Don’t just jump into the first job that comes your way after graduation. No matter what anyone else says, you really have to look within yourself and decide what is going to make you happy and what you are going to enjoy doing for the rest of your life.

The truth is that you will be more successful when you are happy at work. So here are five tips to find a satisfying career:

1) Do what you want to do instead of what you feel like you should do.

It’s so easy to just go along that path of what you should do. You can save yourself so much time and trouble if you just start with what you want to do. The career you started in doesn’t necessarily have to be the career you end with. There is freedom in your career and you don’t have to stick with one career. You can be so many things. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

2) Do one small task daily that helps you get closer to your big goal.

If you do something daily on your way to your big goal, totally amazing things will start happening. Wake up earlier or schedule 30 minutes every evening to work on your passion. And don’t forget that the best investment you can make is always in yourself. Take a course or find a coach. It’s always worth it.

3) Learn more about yourself.

Once you recognize what your personal values are, it will feel like everything just comes into place so much more quickly as far as choosing a career that magnifies who you are. As you start to know your personality, motivations and interests more, you will learn what is important to you in the career that you pick. Then you can start searching for a career that will meet your personal and professional needs.

4)  Get clear about what you want.

If you don’t know what you want, you will probably just take the first job that comes your way. This can have bad consequences leading to becoming stuck in a career that you don’t really like. Instead, get clear on what it is you want so that you can job search more effectively. Dream up your ideal workday and create a vision board that you look at everyday to remind you of your career goals and dreams.

5) Ask for help.

It’s OK to ask for help. One of the best and easiest ways to gain experience is by asking others. There are so many people out there in the world who are simply waiting to help you, and all you have to do is ask.  It’s OK to seek out mentors, and it’s OK to boldly ask people for career guidance and insights. You have to be grabby. Don’t wait for opportunities to happen to you.

Take this opportunity now to decide what you want to achieve and start taking action to make your ideal career happen.

Anna Runyan is the creator of the “Love Your Career Formula.” She has an upcoming free online workshop on October 9th, 2014 called, “How to Ditch Your Dead End Job and Find a Career You Love.” If you want Anna’s proven step-by-step system to find a fulfilling career, grab your spot here!

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Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Goal Setting, Job Searching, and Sweet Careers

Grace_KutneyJob searchers, tune in! We’d like to introduce you to the woman who wants to help you refine your goals and figure out a meaningful career path.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Grace Kutney, founder and principle of Sweet Careers Consulting for some excellent advice and a run-down on the current state of career-searching.

00:02:59 – How Grace fell in love with career advising & started Sweet Careers.

00:08:37 – The importance of having a goal (and of being able to change it).

00:17:05 – The move toward unpaid internships: 😀  or :-( ?

00:19:43 – Advice for international students & immigrants.

00:25:23 – How social media can harm or help your job search.

00:31:39 – Why and when Grace posts job listings.

00:34:04 – Is there still a place for face-to-face networking?

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

• Sweet Careers
Accepted.com

• Accepted Admissions Blog

Related Shows:

• Interview with Anna Runyan of Classy Career Girl
• Interview with Mark Babbitt of YouTern 
• MBA Project Search: Matchmaking for MBAs and Businesses 
• Business, Law and Beyond: An Interview with John Engelman 

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Delivering STAR in an American Context

Guidance for every step of the MBA admissions process!

Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing

This is a guest post by Grayson Leverenz of MBA in the USA.

It was late in the spring, and the international student sitting across from me was nervous because she didn’t have an internship yet. She had solid skills, a flawless resume, and she prepared for her interviews. What was the problem?

We started her session with a behavioral question. I asked, “Tell me about a time when you worked on a virtual team project.” She launched into her answer using the MBA STAR framework: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

About two minutes later, I recognized the issue. The student was still explaining the Situation.

Americans communicate directly. We value clear, concise messages, and don’t require a lot of background (or context) before the main point.

This student was from a highly indirect culture. She was taught the value of nuances in word choice, tone, and non-verbals. Her culture also required significant background in communicating messages. The Situation and Task were important to her because they provided the context.

I explained the cultural dimension of Communication to her, and gave details about the range from direct to indirect. “Americans prefer a direct communication style and are highly results-oriented. What that means for STAR is that you spend very little time, no more than 45 seconds, on the Situation and Task. You focus the majority of your answer on the Action and Results.”

Her eyes brightened. She understood. We practiced again, and she integrated the new information perfectly. The student ended the season with multiple internship offers, and used her new cultural communication skills to succeed on the job.

Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing. As you’re preparing to be Accepted, communicate with the receiver in mind, both in interviewing and in writing.

Advice for demonstrating leadership in you application essays.

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.