My first resume listed skills such as 'organized,' 'detail-oriented,' and 'assertive,' but these seem to words of the past. According to an article in the WSJ this week, it is 'critical thinking' that has become the new buzzword in business. The problem is, no one can really tell you what that is.
My personal definition of critical thinking is the ability to draw from different sources, opinions, and examples to form a solution to a problem or to improve a system. This can of course be tweaked and applied to smaller examples, but all together it is critically analysing information and applying it.
This definition, however, is not exactly what businesses such as Goldman Sachs might think: “It’s one of those words—like diversity was, like big data is—where everyone talks about it but there are 50 different ways to define it,” says Dan Black, Americas director of recruiting at the accounting firm and consultancy EY.
So with this confusion, how are recent graduates supposed to know if they are fit for the job, and how do employers know what they are looking for in a candidate? There have been plenty of studies about the difference in how many students think they are critical thinkers, and how many employers disagree (According to WSJ: A Harris Interactive survey of 2,001 U.S. college students and 1,000 hiring managers last fall found that 69% of students felt they were “very or completely prepared” for problem-solving tasks in the workplace, while fewer than half of the employers agreed.)
So what can you do to please this confused crowd of hiring managers? Be a problem solver first and foremost. Not all employers are looking for someone who will come in a rock the boat. Find a way to show that you will solve problems, improve the system, and work hard without reinventing the business model.
Be assertive, questioning, and open to learn new things. But never stop analysing your tasks, what your boss tells you, what your business is actually aiming for. Continue to think critically, and maybe then your employer will see in you what they wanted all along.