One of the first things an employer looks for when assessing your job application is whether or not you have the job related skills necessary to get the job done.
Traditionally, these would be the hard skills, the practical or technical skills that are used to accomplish a task such as changing a tire, making a coffee, or performing an operation. You have to have learned how to do these things through some sort of training. But, while these skills are still important (for you and your boss), more and more employers are also looking for soft skills, the ones that are inherently human like creativity, problem solving, or ability to prioritise. While you can learn and develop these soft skills, you can also have a natural inclination or aptitude an employer may recognise and appreciate your potential. More often today, employers are willing to overlook if you lack a few hard skills as long as you have the right soft skills because they can train you.
So, to help you land that next job, you need to be able to demonstrate a mix of both hard and soft skills. Here’s a cheat sheet of the must-have job related skills that most employers are looking for – and how to get them.
Critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyse, assess and de-construct an issue to come up with options to address that issue. Rather than having one perception of an issue, a critical thinker is able to pull it apart and look at it from multiple angles, self-directing their thoughts without biases.
To flex and strengthen your critical thinking skills grab yourself some puzzle books – ones that present you with challenges that need some varied thinking and de-constructing of a problem, not ones that rely on logic. Find some good ones here. Alternatively, join a think tank or workgroup where you need to pull apart an issue and come up with solutions.
Problem solving is pretty self-explanatory – the ability to come up with solutions to problems. Given we’re moving to a world where repetitive work will be gradually suplemented by automation, most jobs in the future will require you to be able to solve problems. This could be anything at all ranging from big global problems to how to make the workplace work more efficient.
A great way to develop problem skills is to participate in a weekend Hackathon. These are typically technology driven workshops where participants are given a problem – or come up with one of their own – in an industry that needs solving. You then have to come up with business ideas to solve that problem.
In any job, it’s really important that you can work in collaboration with others. The best results are often when everyone throws their best in to deliver an outcome. A good collaborator listens as much as they speak (or more), values everyone’s ideas and knows how to work cohesively to get the best outcome without domineering a group.
To develop or illustrate this skill, sign up with a charity to work as a project volunteer on a specific initiative they have to deliver. Not only will you learn great collaboration skills but you’ll also learn how to work with a team to meet deadlines and outcomes.
Fitting in with others and knowing what your role in a team is is incredibly important. This skill is always in high demand.
Think of a sporting team. Not only do they have to work together (i.e. collaborate) but everyone knows what they individual job is – and what their strength is. You might be a centre or a goalie and, while your skills might be different, you know what part you play in delivering the team’s success. It’s no surprise that a lot of successful athletes can leverage their skills to succeed in the business world too.
If you’re not in a sporting team, join one. Remember, there’s no “I” in “team” so you very much need to work with others to not only fit in but also to play the best you can collectively.
COMMUNICATION SKILLS Of course, when you’re working with others, you’ll need good communication skills in order to be able to get your message across – and hear the messages of others. Remember, communication goes both ways.
If written communication isn’t your thing, do a short course on creative or business writing. If it’s verbal communication skills you need, join a debating group. In debate, you’ll need to both persuade people about your message, but also listen to and counter the messages of the other team.
PRESENTATION SKILLS This one scares most people the most but it’s becoming really important in business. Many businesses expect their people to be able to put themselves forward confidently in front of clients, other team members and when representing the business at public events. Presentation skills might also come in handy if you ever have to make a video application for a job or do a Skype interview.
If getting up and speaking in front of others frightens you silly, now might be a great time to join Toastmasters or do a presentation, acting or TV course. Each will help you not only conquer your nerves but they’ll also help you develop confidence when speaking in front of others.
COMPUTER SKILLS – WORD, EXCEL AND POWERPOINT
It’s absolutely expected these days that you’ll have a fundamental knowledge and confidence using computers. In particular using core software programs that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
If you have a computer, it’s pretty much assumed that you’ll have these programs on it (or their Apple equivalent — Pages, Numbers and Keynote). You don’t necessarily need to be a pro but you do want to make sure you’re comfortable in their use and willing to learn. If you’re not confident, enrol in some short courses and get up to speed with them so you can confidently say that you’re proficient in their use.
GENERAL BUSINESS SKILLS
Once upon a time you could get away with being good at one task. Now the expectation is that you’ll understand a business – and its outcomes – from a holistic perspective. If you’re not sure how all of the pieces of a business fit together, it’s worth doing a short course in general or small business management. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a job with a small business or not, this overall picture of how business works is invaluable.
Short courses are available through your local TAFE or at a variety of community or private colleges.
OTHER JOB RELATED SKILLS
This list only scratches the surface of job related skills you need to be employed. Skills such as reliability, adaptability, and resilience are also highly regarded by employers. They show them that you can react positively to changes in the business and will be there when they need you.