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Careers

New Grads Need to Sharpen Verbal Skills

Employers want to hear wise speaking, not wisecracking.

More than analytical skills, a strong work ethic and the ability to work on a team, employers value a knack for verbal communication, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

While employers reported being "very satisfied" with the teamwork and analytical skills of new grads, marks for verbal-communication skills were lower. "You can be the sharpest person on paper," says Mike Hendel, associate director of the career center at Carleton College, "but if you can't give a group presentation or summarize at a staff meeting, what's an employer to do?"

Hendel advises students to practice interviewing and other verbal skills at their school's career center, with peers and with alumni. Joining an old-line group such as Toastmasters International, which has dispensed speaking and leadership tips since 1924, is a great way to get constructive feedback.

However you practice, bear in mind that in today's tight job market, demonstrating the skills employers want is serious business -- especially considering that "sense of humor" ranks last on the list.