The 4 skills employers want you to work on – and how to do it
In the last academic year, just under a thousand employers hosted a TMC student on work experience.
The majority of students received very positive feedback, scoring at least 8 out of 10 on key employability skills. However, there were four skills that were ranked the lowest:
- Interpersonal skills
- Communication skills
Let’s have a look at what’s behind each skill and how you can work on them.
These cover things like how you interact with others, your manners, self-confidence, and how receptive you are to feedback. Verbal communication skills also come under this umbrella, but we’ll cover those in the next section.
Interpersonal skills play a critical role in how you come across during a job interview and how you build relationships at work (and at college). Good interpersonal skills will make you likeable and memorable – essential for making a good first impression on an employer.
Improve these by: smiling when you meet someone new, thanking people when they’ve helped you, asking a mentor or person you trust how you come across to them and working on the feedback they give you, practising looking people in the eye and really listening to them, and reading this previous blog article on self-confidence and how to maintain it.
In terms of communication, you are probably comfortable texting and using social media to interact with others. However, this can affect your confidence to speak on the phone or face-to-face, especially with people you don’t know. Speaking clearly, being able to explain something concisely, as well as listening properly, are all key communication skills which employers look for, particularly for outward-facing job roles.
Improve these by: maintaining eye contact with your conversation partner as much as possible, listening without fidgeting, recording yourself speaking (good for noticing any “bad habits” like too much hesitation or over-repetition of certain phrases), filming yourself speaking to another person (what’s your body language and posture like?), seeking opportunities to speak to professional people at careers fairs or in mentoring situations (it gets easier the more you do it!).
Initiative is basically a willingness to get things done and take responsibility. It means you start something and see it through, rather than relying on others to come up with ideas which you follow. You do things without being told.
Initiative is an essential quality if you want to start your own business. In terms of employment, organisations are always looking for people who add value and by showing initiative, you will help contribute to the success of the business as a whole.
Improve this by: asking yourself how you can contribute to a project and then speaking up and acting on your ideas (rather than relying on other people to lead the way), preparing in advance, asking for feedback and taking action on it and offering to take on extra tasks.
Being on time for things is not just about being responsible and reliable; it’s also a sign of respect towards the people you are meeting with or working for.
This is a simple skill to maintain and can even begin with setting your alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier every morning so that you start the day less rushed and stressed.
Improve this by: aiming to arrive 10 minutes early for all your appointments, making sure you know what your work times are and writing them down – especially if you have a rotational shift pattern - keeping an electronic diary on your phone with an alert system, making a list of priorities for the next day each evening, and avoiding multi-tasking.
Working on the four skills above, that our employers have rated as lacking in many cases, will greatly improve your work-readiness. Be Amazing.