By Dawn Papandrea
Even as the job market appears to be turning around, it's still important to stand out from other job seekers, as you compete for those new openings. Here are some surprising skills that career experts say will help you get noticed.
1. Social Media Savvy
You knew there had to be a good reason for spending so much time on Facebook and Twitter. "A new college graduate can say she has strong writing skills, but is she able to demonstrate them via authoring a purely professional blog and/or by commenting intelligently on other industry-related posts?" That, says Miriam Salpeter, coach and owner of Keppie Careers and author of "Social Networking for Career Success," is a question that modern employers may be asking themselves.
And social media is the perfect avenue for demonstrating your expertise or eagerness to learn about your industry. "By sharing suggested readings and thoughts via tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, it's very powerful," she says. Touting your creativity is one thing, but having an appropriately creative online presence proves it.
Beyond marketing yourself online, it's smart to take social media to the professional level as well, says Anthony Rotolo, a professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, where he specializes in social media. "The class I teach, Social Media in the Enterprise, focuses directly on social media for organizations. You're going to be turned to by your employers as someone who is most capable of tackling a social media job. They'll say, 'You're young, you must know Facebook or Twitter,' " he says. And that's your perfect opportunity to step up and shine!
2. Professionalism And People Skills
Although professionalism and being a people person sound like vague concepts -- sort of like Simon Cowell's "X Factor" -- recruiters and hiring managers can spot it as soon as you walk in the room. There are so many different ways to exhibit professionalism, beginning with your resume and cover letter, says Ryan Stalgaitis, career counselor and internship coordinator of Becton College of Arts of Sciences at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "The cover letter is the chance to match up your soft skills to the exact specifications of what the employer is looking for in their job description," he says.
Professionalism also comes across in how you dress, whether you seem comfortable and confident when speaking to others (do you look people in the eye?), as well as good manners and etiquette, he says. These skills come with practice.
The same goes for being a "people person" or a conversationalist, skills that are definitely in your best interest to develop, says Vicki Salemi, author of 'Big Career in the Big City." "You need to be able to show that you can interact well with people, and within a group," says the former recruiter. That starts with being up on industry news and even water-cooler buzz. "Your resume is going to highlight your skill set and past experience, but it won't say if you're going to seminars or reading trade magazines," she says. Before going to any outing or event, Salemi advises that you take a few minutes to read some headlines so that you're up on the things people are likely to talk about.
In other words, do your homework when meeting with potential employers -- whether in an interview, or just in a social or networking type setting. "If you're more of an introvert, get out there and practice talking to people. Go to a mixer or a church event," she says.
3. Open To Change
If there's one trend that's true for all professions, it's that you have to be adaptable and open to learning new ways of doing things if you expect to stay competitive. In other words, make it a habit to think beyond your job title and continually learn new things. "There are no disadvantages to taking a class. You're going to learn something new, and if you're an active and engaged student, you can network with the instructor and other classmates," says Salemi.
And you don't necessarily have to go back to school for an advanced degree to stay sharp. Seek out free webinars, short-term programs, online courses, or even check out some tutorials on YouTube, says Salemi.
Her top picks for things you should learn on your free time, especially if you plan to work in a corporate setting, include: how to use technology in a modern meeting, how to upload a video, what SEO is all about, and how to use Skype and other communication-related tech skills.
Often very basic knowledge isn't taught in college because programs are so focused on high-level skills, says Salemi. So when you're given the opportunity to start a new job -- even if it's temp work -- take the initiative to figure out how things work so that you can do your job in the most efficient way possible. "Become friendly with the mailroom people. Figure out the office equipment. Get an organizational chart to learn who's who and how they relate to each other. And take cues about corporate culture," she says. "It's important for people to see that you're street smart and aren't afraid to ask questions."
This go-getter attitude can begin as early as the interview process, adds Stalgaitis, to which you should bring a list of intelligent questions to show your enthusiasm about the organization. "You don't typically see in the job description, 'We want someone to step up to the plate,' but employers do want that," he says.
Although these intangible type skills don't come with certifications or credentials, think of them as career secret weapons. "You want to make sure you're really making yourself the best candidate you can be," says Stalgaitis. "These skills are important across the board, in any position."
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