The jobs market is increasingly competitive, whatever your industry and career stage. Starting out can be particularly difficult when you have little demonstrable work experience. Rather than worrying about a lack of relevant experience – and this goes for people on any rung of the career ladder – focus instead on your ‘soft’ skills.
At the top of the list, the single most important skills employers are looking for, irrespective of industry, is verbal communication. Even if your role does not involve talking to many people, all of us will need to express ideas or proposals at some time both clearly and with confidence. Candidates should be able to talk one on one at various levels; for some, being able to speak to a group will also be advantageous.
Surveys consistently place teamwork at number two. When you consider the variety of personalities that could end up in a team, it is easy to see why this is so important.
Commercial awareness, which is in third place, is a skill many people seem to struggle with. Employers will expect candidates to know their industry and understand the business.
Analysis and investigation is important. It is not all about statistics, but the fourth most sought-after skill is an ability to gather information and sift through it to establish facts and solve problems. Deciding what is relevant and what is not can help in this situation.
Even the most junior positions will need someone who can think for themselves, which is why many employers put initiative and self-motivation next on the list. Can you be proactive in suggesting solutions? Do you see new opportunities, either for yourself or for the business?
Hot on the heels of self-motivation comes drive. Think about how you can demonstrate how determined you are to get things done or show a potential employer how you never stop looking for new ways to do things.
With verbal communication coming so high on the list, some might be surprised that written communication comes in at number seven. It might be that fewer employees are expected to produce written communications – although this will, of course, cover email. If you find it difficult to express yourself clearly, or struggle with spelling or punctuation, this is a skill that it relatively easy to improve to an acceptable standard.
Planning and organisation is important. Employers want to know that you can see what needs to be done and manage yourself to prioritise and work effectively and efficiently.
All plans are subject to change depending on the needs of the business; therefore, employers want to know that you can adapt your plans and will not be fazed by changing environments.
The final slot in the top 10 list goes to time management. Can you manage your workload and meet deadlines? Most importantly, can you get yourself to work on time every day?
This list is not exhaustive, of course, and there will be skills you need for certain roles that are not included; however, it is a good place to start. Check the job description for clues as to what your employer is looking for in a specific role and think of some examples you can talk about during your interview.
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