If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the stage of life most commonly referred to as “adulting.” Besides having to make your own meals, schedule your own doctor’s appointments, and do your own laundry, there’s something else that you have to face: applying for jobs.
Before you call your mom freaking out, hear me out on this — it doesn’t have to be that bad, especially if you possess the right skill set. While it’s self-explanatory that an editor needs to be knowledgeable in copyediting, a computer programmer needs to be proficient in coding and a nurse needs to know how to administer shots, there are skills that people applying to all of these jobs should have.
I consulted two experts — Susmita Gautam, a former Peer Career Adviser at George Mason University’s Career Services, and Sean McIntosh, President of Society for Human Resource Management at George Mason University — to see what seven skills can make you a better employee, no matter what your job.
In every job, you will have to communicate effectively with other people, whether it’s your co-workers, boss or customers. It’s important to be able to listen, speak and write clearly.
Gautam explains, “As far as communication goes, it’s one of the most important soft skills that an employee can possess. Nowadays especially, employers are looking for well-rounded individuals that not only possess the technical skills, but interpersonal skills to be able to work in any environment. It doesn’t matter what job or position it is for because in any situation, an employee will come across various instances of human interaction that they need to be capable of handling and handling it well.”
According to McIntosh, practicing effective communication skills can come as simply as maintaining effective correspondence with your fellow co-workers. This can range from responding to emails in a timely manner, following up with individuals and having the confidence to ask questions.
Most job settings require some form of cooperation with coworkers, sometimes taking the form of teamwork. Employees shouldn’t only be able to work in a team towards a common goal, but also bring out the best in other team members.
In regards to teamwork, Gautam says, “Many companies and employers are gearing towards an environment in which each team has a diverse group of employees with different skillsets to bring to the table in order to efficiently complete tasks and reach goals.”
The classroom provides a perfect environment in which students can work on their teamwork skills. Although we may dread group projects, they’re good opportunities to learn how to work with others to achieve a common goal — receiving a good grade and passing a class. However, teamwork skills aren’t limited to just the classroom. Intramural, club, and varsity athletes also have great opportunities to learn how to work together to meet the end goal of winning games.
3. Analytical and problem-solving skills
As ingenuity and independence are highly valued in the workplace, any employee should be able to think of creative ways to solve problems from different angles.
In Gautam’s experience, employers look for individuals with these skills so they couldn’t only have the sharpest minds on their teams, but also to ensure that these employees don’t need as much guidance to accomplish their tasks.
But how exactly can students practice analytical and problem-solving skills? An important aspect of problem-solving is to focus on the solution rather than the problem. Doing this will prevent any negative “emotional blocks” from getting in the way of finding a solution. Additionally, it’s important to be open-minded, especially knowing that there can be more than one solution to a given problem.
Although you may not jump into a managerial position right after college, you should never hesitate to show off your girl boss talents! These qualities include being able to delegate tasks, motivate others and cultivate passion for your company.
Gautam encourages that students exhibit their leadership abilities, saying, “Strong leadership skills mean that individuals are well-rounded. It shows that they’re able to motivate their coworkers to do their jobs and be passionate about it.”
Need to practice or enhance your leadership skills? One good way to do this is through an executive board position in an extracurricular activity or student organization! Use these four (or more) years in college to be a leader on your campus.
5. Flexibility and adaptability
Not everything in your workday will always go as planned. For example, a meeting may get canceled at the last minute or your boss may ask you to rush a report to his or her desk. Being flexible and able to adapt to such changes shows that you’re prepared and reliable.
When it comes to flexibility and adaptability, McIntosh says, “No matter what type of work environment you’re involved in, there will be times when things will change suddenly and abruptly, and truthfully in many situations it’s impossible to ever be fully prepared to tackle these unforeseen obstacles. However, employees who have confidence in their skills, their team and most importantly themselves to make the right decisions are more likely to succeed within their organization.”
Your supervisor won’t always be hovering over you to do your work or stay motivated to complete a task in a timely manner. Being productive with little supervision shows that you’re able to work independently and that your boss can trust that you’ll get the work done.
Gautam stresses that employers want individuals that are willing to help the company reach its goals, as well as go beyond what’s expected of them.
7. Technical literacy
We live in an age of growing technological dependency — nearly everyone has a smartphone and computer, many daily tasks are becoming computer-automated and companies use social media as means to tap into new clientele and publicize their successes. With such a prevalence of technology in the workplace, employees should have a basic background in computer skills, as well as an understanding of how to use technology to advance their professional performance.
As a start, McIntosh suggests becoming proficient in “fundamental” technology programs such as Microsoft Suite (i.e. Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook) as well as being able to conduct basic research via search engines (e.g. Bing, Google, Internet Explorer, etc.).
Now that you know what’ll make you a better employee in any job, you can get to working on these skills before you turn in your next application or go to your next interview. May the odds be in your favor in your job hunts and show employers how much of a girl boss you really are!