Employers are looking for general job skills and specific skills to the job you’re going for. These are sometimes called ‘employability skills’ or ‘soft skills’. These types of skills will make you stand out. Soft skills are the personal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. These are often related to how you work with others—in other words, these are people skills. Soft skills are different from hard skills, which are directly relevant to the job to which you are applying. These are often more quantifiable, and easier to learn. A hard skill for a carpenter, for example, might be the ability to operate a power saw or use framing squares.
Even if you don’t think you have any job skills, you have these employability skills if you’re: dependable, easy to get along with and open to learning new things.
These skills might not be listed in the position description, but they are common skills needed to do most jobs. It’s good to think about these skills when you’re preparing for a job interview.
Different people define these skills in different ways, but generally they can be broken down into these eight categories:
- problem solving
- initiative and enterprise
- planning and organising
Depending on the job, communication means being clear about what you mean and what you want to achieve when you talk or write. It involves listening and being able to understand where someone else is coming from. Communication skills also include non-verbal communication, such as the body language you use. Examples of ways that you can develop or improve your communication skills include: writing assignments and reports as part of your studies, blogging or using social media, making oral presentations as part of your class work, working in customer service (face-to-face or on the phone), getting involved in a local club and being aware of how you hold your body.
Teamwork means being able to get along with the people you work with. It involves working together to achieve a shared goal. Examples of ways that you can develop or improve your teamwork skills include: doing group assignments as part of your studies, volunteering for a community organization, thinking about how you can work better with other people at your workplace, joining a sporting team, organising with friends or family to have a neighbourhood working bee.
- Problem solving
Problem solving means finding solutions when you’re faced with difficulties or setbacks. It involves being able to use a logical process to figure things out. Examples of ways you can develop or improve your problem-solving skills include: doing research assignments as part of your studies, dealing with complaints at your workplace, doing a study skills course that looks at problem solving, talking to other people about how they solved the problems they faced, fixing broken things around the house by looking up YouTube to find out how to do it.
- Initiative and enterprise
Initiative and enterprise mean looking for things that need to be done and doing them without being asked. This can also involve thinking creatively to make improvements to the way things are done. Examples of ways you can develop or improve your initiative and enterprise skills include: approaching organisations and businesses about work placements or internships, setting up a fundraiser in your community, making or proposing changes to the way a group you belong to does things, doing things around the house without being asked.
- Planning and organising
Planning and organising mean working out what you need to do, and how you’ll do it. Planning and organising involve things like developing project timelines and meeting deadlines. Examples of ways you can develop or improve your planning and organising skills include: developing a study timetable and sticking to it, travelling by yourself overseas or interstate, managing your time around work, study and family commitments, helping to organise a community event, organising a family get-together.
Self-management means: being able to do your job without someone having to check up on you all the time, staying on top of your own deadlines, delegating tasks to other people to make sure things get done on time. Examples of ways that you can develop or improve your self-management skills include: doing a work experience placement or internship, asking for new responsibilities at work, developing a study schedule and sticking to it, joining a volunteer organization, keeping your room tidy.
Learning is about wanting to understand new things and picking them up quickly. It also involves taking on new tasks and being able to adapt to change. Examples of ways to develop or improve your learning skills include: doing a short course or online course, researching skills and courses you’d like to do, starting a new hobby, joining a sporting or volunteer group, teaching yourself a new skill, like making the perfect omelette.
Technology skills mean being able to use a computer for word processing, using spreadsheets and sending email, or knowing how to use office equipment like a photocopier. They also involve using social media, working with design or video editing software or knowing programming languages. Other technology skills relate to hardware, like knowing how to use EFTPOS, a cash register, a camera or a recording studio. Examples of ways to develop or improve your technology skills include: doing a short course or online course, asking for extra training at work, finding out what technology is used in the job you want and how it’s used, making a list of all the technology you’re already using in your day-to-day life.