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Essential skills every graduate needs for the labour market

As a fresh graduate, looking for that first job can be exhilarating. The reality many graduates face 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.

Whilst some career sectors such as medicine and engineering require you to have very specific skills and abilities, being able to complement your learned assets with general competencies and behaviours will increase your chances of employment immensely, writes Michael Page in his article “Just graduated? Here are the key skills employers look for”.


According to experts, there are many qualities a great employee needs, however, as a fresh graduate, there are specific qualities required for the job market.


A fresh mind


Diana Nawatti, the head teacher at Mother Mary International School, Kigali, says graduates are expected to have fresh minds and the ability to think outside the box.

She says graduates should have new takes on how to develop products or improve different services.

Soft skills such as effective communication, critical thinking and the ability to work well as a team are required for the workforce. Net photo.

Nawatti adds that a fresh graduate should be up-to-date with technology and current trends, therefore, making it easy for them to propose something unique that will be helpful to the company.

Learn fast

Nawatti says that most organisations expect young people to grasp information fast. They believe that graduates should not stick to textbook information.

“Within university classrooms, nowadays, knowledge also involves hands-on, on-the-job education,” she says.

She adds that it is possible that young adults will grasp new information at ease, compared to people who have worked for years in the field.


Prince Aime Murara, the deputy secretary-general, Education for Nations and Humanitarian Africa (ENHA)-Girubuntu, believes that if a person is ambitious enough, he or she will ‘break a neck’ trying to achieve the best results, and this is a quality that places one above others when it comes to job market.

This is why they should do their best to learn as much as possible, to be able to introduce development plans or creative approaches.

Initiative and motivation

Murara says as a young person, taking initiative and being able to motivate others is also an important quality.

He says students should be hands-on and passionate about completing assignments given.

“Employers need workers who can multitask and do everything needed under little to no supervision,” he says.

Computer literacy and  digital awareness

Emmanuel Mugisha, an IT specialist and a communication officer in Kigali, says satisfactory computer skills are expected from someone who has just completed school.

An experienced worker may try to acquire computer skills along the way, but the young mind will learn so much faster, therefore, putting them in a good position for the job opportunities around them.

“Young people acquire technological experience faster and are more involved in IT advancements,” he says.

Murara says an individual straight from school should be able to leverage existing digital technologies properly and efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, and accomplish goals.

Also, they should be in a position to demonstrate effective adaptability to new and emerging technologies.

Soft skills

Murara says employers are under the impression that the youth have high reasoning capacity that can help analyse issues, make decisions, and overcome problems.

Graduates are also expected to be able to place thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral form.

This means public speaking abilities, the skill to express ideas to others and also write well.

Nawatti says it’s important for fresh graduates to build collaborative relationships with colleagues representing assorted culture, race, age, gender as well as religion.

She says they should have the ability to work within a team structure, and negotiate and manage conflict.


As a graduate, Mugisha says leveraging the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others is another skill considered by employers.

Also, having the ability to assess and manage one’s emotions and those of others; using empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organising, prioritising, and delegating work is all that is needed from a fresh graduate.


Experts say it’s important to demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits. For instance; punctuality, working productively with others, and time management — and understanding the impact of non-verbal communication on professional image.

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