A pool of graduate applicants can look pretty similar on paper—in terms of technical qualifications and limited work experience. But your employability skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills” or “transferrable skills”, may just give you an edge over the others.
Unlike the knowledge aspect, these competencies are not specific to a particular job but may affect productivity levels in the work environment. The job description may not even mention them. But prospective employers are sure to look out for them.
There is no need to attend a course to learn these skills. Pick them up in your everyday life—at work and at play. For example, even the act of trying to get out of doing the dishes at home is an unconscious practice of your persuasion and influencing skills.
Employability Skills Most Wanted in The Intelligent Age
There are many soft skills that can elevate a candidate’s appeal, but a handful of them will never go out of style—especially in today’s intelligent era.
The current landscape is characterised by rapid global technological changes, creating a world that is increasingly complex, volatile, and unpredictable. More and more, the workforce is expected to engage with multifaceted challenges, adapt to new situations, and connect across diverse cultures and disciplines to synergise ideas. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), these are precisely the type of skills robots cannot automate.
Whilst robots can do all the optimisation, organisations still need creative minds to conceive inventive ideas or find smart solutions to difficult problems.
Creative thinking can be cultivated in everyday moments, such as adapting dinner when you are out of ingredients or figuring out how to celebrate your best friend’s birthday during the pandemic lockdown. There is no universal recipe. But a great way to start is by asking yourself the powerful “What if?” question. Be up for challenging the norm, ditching your routine, and thinking infinitely with a broad sense of mind.
Allow yourself to take breaks from the task at hand and dream. Ideas come to you more easily when you relax and think less deeply about the problem.
#2. People Skills
With machines taking away routine and codifiable tasks in jobs, employees are expected to be more focused on interrelationships, personalising customer service, persuading internal stakeholders, and negotiating with clients.
People skills are more than just having strong verbal communication skills. As projects become increasingly complex and global, effective collaboration only grows more important. Natural leaders who can coach, empower, support, and unite people towards a common goal are valuable assets at the workplace. These skills that mix charisma, empathy, open-mindedness, and strategic thinking, amongst other traits—are difficult to get right. And good collaborators and leaders are worth their weight in gold.
Through practice and opportunity, we can all get better at interacting with people.
- Participate in group activities or projects where everyone works towards the same goal. Team building activities such as spending 15 minutes to untangle a human knot also count. If you are up for it, take it further by volunteering to lead or assuming more responsibilities.
- Do not fear or avoid conflicts when they arise. Resolve them by working with the other party to achieve an equitable compromise, and in the process, learn to negotiate, communicate better, and avoid future misunderstandings.
- Be willing to ask for feedback. You can practise listening and learn to broaden your perspective. It also trains you to be more confident in sharing your ideas.
- Try teaching. Be a mentor to someone. Learn how to motivate and guide individuals of different learning styles, setting them up for success. Besides, the best way to learn is to teach.
- Emotional intelligence begins with you. Being aware of your own emotions and learning how to keep them in balance can help you better recognise the emotions of others, read their body language, empathise, and respond appropriately.
- Finally, get out there and interact with new people from all walks of life. In the highly interconnected world we live in, it is essential to broaden our social and cultural awareness to avoid communication pitfalls.
Yesterday’s solutions will not solve tomorrow’s problems; hence an adaptable mind is crucial for navigating today’s ever-changing world. Other skills associated with adaptability include resilience, curiosity, responsiveness, experimentation, and initiative.
A resilient person can endure and recover quickly from unexpected or challenging conditions and have no problems responding promptly to changing demands. They can ride change like a wave. They are curious and are often the first ones to want to try something new.
Whilst adaptability is known as a personality trait, it can be learnt. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Whether we liked it or not, we all adapted to online school and Zoom meetings.
Implementing attitude changes in our everyday life can help cultivate adaptability. Learn to let go of planning from A to Z. And be okay with planning from A to B. Because by the time you get to B, things already may have changed. People who have shifted their travel plans along with the changing border restrictions during the pandemic can tell you that. Accept that the world is uncertain and get comfortable with that uncertainty. As you build flexibility into your plans and expectations, you gain confidence one step at a time.
It may sound cliché but finding small things to be thankful for can help nurture adaptability. From a small moment of gratitude, you realise the other blessings you have, and it turns into a positivity snowball, giving you a solid foundation to build from.
And you know what? The best way to deal with disruptions is to cause them yourself. So be a catalyst for change. Circling back to “Employability Skills #1: Creativity”, let’s bring on the ideas!
That’s right. The three employability skills are correlated. When doing something new, there are bound to be ambiguities and changes. When interacting with people, there are bound to be conflicts. Communication is a complex mastery.
So, let’s all stay relevant in the intelligent age and hone these desirable skills at work and at play. List out all the ways you have applied these skills and their positive outcomes, then figure out which of these go into your job application to impress your prospective employer. You might just find a new career closer than you think.