You probably take for granted the many skills you use every day to survive and function. I call these skills adaptive or self-management skills because they allow you to adapt or adjust to a variety of situations. Some of them could be considered part of your basic personality. Such skills, which are highly valued by employers, include getting to work on time, honesty, enthusiasm, and getting along with others.
The Skills Employers Want
To illustrate that employers value adaptive and transferable skills very highly, I have included the results of a survey of employers here. This information comes from a study of employers called Workplace Basics-The Skills Employers Want. The study was conducted jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor and the American Association of Counseling and Development.
It turns out that most of the skills employers want are either adaptive or transferable skills. Of course, specific job-related skills remain important, but basic skills form an essential foundation for success on the job. Here are the top skills employers identified:
1. Learning to learn
2. Basic academic skills in reading, writing, and computation
3. Good communication skills, including listening and speaking
4. Creative thinking and problem solving
5. Self-esteem, motivation, and goal setting
6. Personal and career development skills
7. Interpersonal/negotiation skills and teamwork
8. Organizational effectiveness and leadership
What is most interesting is that most of these skills are not formally taught in school. Yet these so-called soft skills are those that employers value most. Of course, job-related skills are also important (an accountant still needs to know accounting skills), but the adaptive and transferable skills are the ones that allow you to succeed in any job.
Again, this study shows the importance of being aware of your skills and using them well in career planning. If you have any weaknesses in one or more of the skills that were listed, consider improvements. Always remember to turn your weaknesses into strengths. For example, if you don't have a specific skill that's required for a job, let the employer know that you don't, but add that you are eager to learn and you are a quick study. This comment shows the employer that you are not afraid of learning new skills and that you are confident in your abilities. Furthermore, if you are already strong in one or more of the top skills employers want, look for opportunities to develop and use them in your work or to present them clearly in your next interview.
Transferable skills are general skills that can be useful in a variety of jobs. For example, writing clearly, good language skills, or the ability to organize and prioritize tasks are desirable skills in many jobs. These skills are called transferable skills because they can be transferred from one job-or even one career-to another.
Job-related skills are the skills people typically think of first when asked, "Do you have any skills?" They are related to a particular job or type of job. An auto mechanic, for example, needs to know how to tune engines and repair brakes. Other jobs also have job-related skills required for that job in addition to the adaptive and transferable skills needed to succeed in almost any job.
This system of dividing skills into three categories is not perfect. Some things, such as being trustworthy, dependable, or well-organized, are not skills as much as they are personality traits that can be acquired. There is also some overlap between the three skills categories. For example, a skill such as being organized might be considered either adaptive or transferable.
Identify Your Skills
Because being aware of your skills is so important, I include a series of checklists and other activities in this chapter to help you identify your key skills. Recognizing these skills is important so that you can select jobs that you will do well in. Skills are also important to recognize and emphasize in a job interview. Developing a skills language can also be very helpful to you in writing resumes and conducting your job search. To begin, answer the question in the box.
WHAT MAKES YOU A GOOD WORKER?
On the following lines, list three things about yourself that you think make you a good worker. Take your time. Think about what an employer might like about you or the way you work.
The skills you just wrote down may be among the most important things that an employer will want to know about you. Most (but not all) people write adaptive skills when asked this question. Whatever you wrote, these skills are often very important to mention in the interview. In fact, presenting these skills well will often allow a less experienced job seeker to get the job over someone with better credentials. Most employers are willing to train a person who lacks some job-related skills, but has the adaptive skills that the employer is looking for. Some employers even prefer job seekers with better adaptive skills than job-related skills because they are more malleable and not set in their ways.