There’s no arguing that doctors need different tools to save lives than electricians do to keep our world running, but some skills translate across all industries and can make you an asset in just about any field. These abilities — sometimes called “soft skills” — give you a leg up because they showcase your versatility, intelligence, and ability to perform under pressure.
Today’s employers are putting more emphasis than ever on hiring employees with these skills, because they show you have an ability to “do it all,” explains Eliot Kaplan, former VP of talent acquisition at Hearst Magazines, now career coach at coacheliotkaplan.com. Workplace culture is more relaxed now than it was 10 years ago, and hiring managers are increasingly prioritizing people who can roll with the punches, rather than those with a perfect list of certifications. “It’s a very roll up your sleeves kind of environment,” Kaplan says. “You’re not always given clear directions and you have to figure out a lot of it on the fly.”
Here’s a look at some of the most important skills that can help you do just that — and make your application stand out no matter which industry you’re entering.
Critical Thinking Skills
This is the ability to sort through and then solve problems in life and at work. It’s also a measure of how well we communicate our ideas and recognize problems. And it can make or break how far we get in a job because it’s what helps us form ideas and understand others’ points of view.
Showing It Off
Try using your one-on-one meetings (or even team meetings) with your boss as places to share your ideas, Kaplan suggests. When you suggest solutions or different angles for projects or assignments, it shows you’ve taken the time to examine the situation and its effect on the team.
Multitasking could almost be considered an extreme sport at work — managing multiple projects and assignments at once can be challenging. Having a system in place to get it all done, means that you can prioritize effectively and use your time efficiently, Kaplan says.
Showing It Off
Carefully plan out your work schedule each week or month — digital calendars work best for many but for some an old fashioned paper planner is key. Then take a few minutes each morning to refresh your list of priorities to cope with the things that have cropped up last minute. Once you’ve got your schedule under control, volunteer for new tasks (being careful to take on only those you are sure you can get done on time) showing your boss just how much you can handle, says Jonathan Soormaghen, founder and senior writer of ResumeAdvisor.com.
Being A Team Player
Working well with others is as important in the boardroom as it is in the classroom. Doing it means taking time to understand your boss and coworkers — and get on the same page with them. Only then can you help your team run smoothly and prevent misunderstandings. “Just because you finished something doesn’t mean that it’s done,” Kaplan says. “And you need to plan for that. You need to be sensitive to their time and planning as well.”
Showing It Off
Find out how your boss and important teammates like to be communicated with. Some people want constant updates while others prefer less frequent check-ins. Also, make sure you’re listening to your team often, and being vocal at meetings, demonstrating that you’re taking an active role in your group. Speaking to people respectfully and communicating your ideas clearly is always welcome — but no one likes a snappy person.
Problem Solving/Research Skills
If knowledge is power, then research is how you gain it. Humans are able to problem solve by compiling and interpreting important information, and when we do that successfully, we become an asset to our team. But wise employees know that research doesn’t stop with the information you find on your computer — it sometimes includes having tough conversations with clients, or sitting in what may be a boring meeting to learn more. “Like all skills, it takes practice,” Soormaghen says.
Showing It Off
Never ask your boss questions you could have easily answered yourself had you done your research, or read an email more thoroughly. “You should not expect them to solve your problems — it’s your job to help them solve their problems,” Kaplan says. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help when needed, but you should try to solve things on your own first.”
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