05/22/2015 05:41 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT

How to Lock Down Your First Job After Graduation

Shutterstock / Luna Vandoorne

It's that time of year again: new grads are leaving school and entering the job market. Your first real job can be the most difficult one to get hired for. Once you start to build some connections and a professional reputation and rack up some accomplishments on your resume, subsequent positions become easier to attain.

So how do you get that very first gig? We took a look at some recent analyses of Canadian job postings for entry-level candidates and surveys of hiring managers to see what they're looking for the most.

The 13 skills appearing most often in entry-level job postings:

Working with others - 93 per cent

Team work, collaboration, working with others is the most frequently requested skill appearing in Canadian job postings, turning up in fully 93 per cent of all job openings.

Oral communication - 84 per cent

Oral communication, expressing ideas and opinions clearly and effectively in English is the second most commonly sought after skill to appear in job advertisements, with 84 per cent of employers mentioning it. (A frequent addition to oral communication skills is the ability to communicate in a second language, most commonly French.)

Computer Use - 74 per cent

While "computer use" doesn't turn up in job postings in those exact words, references to using computers, common software programs, and other forms of technology combined become the third most frequently mentioned skill, appearing in 74 per cent of all job postings.

Administrative and organizational skills - 64 per cent

Administrative and organizational skills -- the ability to manage duties through efficient planning, time management, detail orientation and prioritization, as well as budgeting, and file management make up the fourth most sought after skill set. These abilities turn up in 64 per cent of advertised job openings.

Document use - 58 per cent

Document use -- research and writing, as well as grammar, word processing, and spreadsheet abilities come in as the fifth most requested skills by Canadian employers. These abilities as well as a few others related to the creation, transmission, and management of files appear in 58 per cent of job ads.

Eight other skills most commonly listed in online job postings:

  • Results/goal-oriented 14 per cent
  • Energetic 9 per cent
  • Positive attitude 9 per cent
  • Reliable/dependable 8 per cent
  • Flexible 7 per cent
  • Driven 6 per cent
  • Entrepreneurial 5 per cent
  • Quick learner 5 per cent
  • This research was done by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and released in November 2014.

    In a survey by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives also released last year, executives revealed the attributes that matter the most to them when evaluating new hires.

    Employers were asked: In general when evaluating entry-level candidates, which of the following matters most to your company?

    (Listed in order of importance)

  • People skills/relationship-building
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Analytical abilities
  • Leadership skills
  • Industry-specific knowledge & experience
  • Functional knowledge
  • Technological literacy
  • Project management skills
  • Creative thinking
  • People skills/relationship building was the most important by a wide margin in this study as well. One CCCE member summed it up by saying, "Attitude always comes first. Recruits must be passionate about learning, contributing and fitting into the company's culture."

    So that's what employers want to see in candidates, but what kind of jobs are they offering? Jobs for entry-level candidates fall into two categories. There are those that are for highly-skilled positions where the demand is so great that new graduates are hired as soon as they obtain their credentials. And there are also those entry-level positions that do not require a specific certification and often are people's first jobs.

    The most commonly advertised job titles for zero to two years of work experience regardless of education:

  • Live-in Caregiver
  • Sales Associate
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Cook
  • Retail Sales Associate
  • Kitchen Helper
  • Sales Representative
  • Truck Driver
  • Food and Beverage Server
  • Technical Support Representative
  • Truck Driver and Cook are two of the most posted job titles in online Canadian job ads this year.

    Live-in Caregiver is the one of the most commonly advertised job titles in Canada, referring both to live-in care for children as well as for adults with special needs. As there are various levels of specialization and skills required for different groups being cared for, this job title appears in the 'most common' list for various years of experience.

    Here are the most advertised jobs on Workopolis for candidates right out of school having acquired professional certification, but without experience:

  • Registered nurse
  • Personal support worker
  • Business analyst
  • Financial advisor
  • Physiotherapist
  • Marketing coordinator
  • Pharmacist
  • Accountant
  • Occupational therapist
  • Human resources assistant
  • Looking past your first job, in order to create a powerful and sustainable career path, it is becoming essential to have cross-disciplinary skills: communications + technical wizardry, skilled trades + business acumen, healthcare + management. Everybody should learn to code.

    This kind of multi-faceted skill set is going to be the key to future success. The best paid and most secure jobs will go to people with solid analytic and interactive abilities, who are able to continually learn new skills in order to adapt along with the evolving needs of the market.


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