One of the hardest parts of applying for jobs is knowing how translate all the brilliant things you know and have done into a language employers will understand. This language is the language of “skills”.
What are Skills?
“Skills” is just a word used to describe the things you know and are able to do.
They will fit into one of two categories, “Hard Skills” or “Soft Skills”:
- Hard skills are more practical things that you can do like speaking a language or using Microsoft Excel. You may have a qualification to show that you have a particular hard skill.
- “Soft Skills” are less solid. You will not have studied to gain a soft skill but may have picked it up through school, work or university. Soft skills are thing like being able to talk to customers, being organised or being on time.
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What Skills do I Need?
Below is a list of the most commonly asked for skills along with an explanation of what they really mean:
Communication Skills (Soft Skill)
Having good communication skills means that you are good at getting information across to other people. This might be through a letter, a blog post or any other form of writing (written communication skills), or through a conversation or presentation (oral communication skills).
Attention to Detail (Soft Skill)
This skill is fairly self explanatory but what it means in a work environment is that you take care over your work. This may mean anything from checking carefully for typos and grammar mistakes in letters to making complicated cocktails.
Problem Solving (Soft Skill)
This is one of those skills that may seem completely meaningless. What does being a good problem solver entail? When employers ask for this, what they really mean is that they want an employee that can work well in a crisis. They want someone able to work on their own and who won’t get flustered when they have to make decisions.
Computer Skills (Hard Skill)
This skill is fairly self-evident. It is important to note though that having “good computer skills” will normally mean understanding all Microsoft Office programmes, knowing how to make spreadsheets and presentations, and probably having one or two pieces of more specialist knowledge, such as how to use Wordpress or how to make databases. But you should know that you don’t have to be a computer whiz to have “computer skills”.
Team Work (Soft Skill)
Most jobs involve working with other people so employers want to know that employees can work well in a team. This means they can take orders and get along with people and also that they are happy to do some of the more menial and supportive work, rather than trying to always steal the limelight.
Working Independently (Soft Skill)
This just means that once told how to do something you are capable of getting on with it on your own and that if given your own project you could manage your workload yourself without having to be constantly reminded to get on with things.
Leadership Skills (Soft Skill)
This means that you can take care of your own work and also the work of others. Employers asking for leadership skills want someone who can command respect and organise a team.
Organisational Skills (Soft Skill)
This means that you can get yourself to places on time. You know what work you have done, what needs to be done and when and how to juggle your time. Organisational skills can be evidenced by the number of activities you might be involved in, along with being on time for school everyday.
Interpersonal Skills (Soft Skill)
It is quite hard to pin-point whether or not you have “interpersonal skills” but basically, all this means that you are likeable. Do people get on with you or do you rub them up the wrong way? This is just an employer's way of asking, 'are you nice and are you friendly?'
Self-Motivation/ Self-Starter (Soft Skill)
Loads of job advertisements ask for “self-starters” and to most people this means very little. What they are actually asking for is someone who will get out of bed in the morning, come in smiling and get their work done without being asked, someone who will get the job done and who is motivated enough to get it done well.
Foreign Language Skills (Hard Skill)
There aren’t a huge number of jobs that will specifically ask for language skills but for some jobs, particularly those in the service industry, even having a conversational level of a foreign language could be useful.
How Can I Get Skills?
The first thing to know is that you probably already have a large number of the skills above just from having been to school. Going to school everyday will have taught you a number of soft skills such as organisational skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, attention to detail and the ability to work independently. This is aside from the hard skills like computer skills and language skills that you will have learnt in lessons.
Hobbies and other things you do outside school will also have been giving you skills without you even realising. Being in a sports team, a band, an orchestra or a theatre production can teach you to work well in a team, to organise your time, to communicate and to get along with people. Being captain of a team or a prefect might have taught you leadership skills and doing a hobby on your own like running or blogging can show that you are motivated and a “self-starter”. Hobbies can also give you hard skills. For example, blogging or using social media gives you vital computer skills that are valued by employers. Of course, many of the skills valued by employers can come from work experience but they don’t have to. Lots of skills are transferable.
Still unsure how your achievements translate into skills? Take our skills test:
Eluceo Skills Test
I was the captain of my school hockey team.
Last year I took my GCSEs but I also had a part-time job and played in the school orchestra.
Attention to detail
I have worked part-time in a bar for the last two years, where customer service was very important.
Last year I trained for a marathon, having never really run before
Team Work Skills
When I was at school, I edited the school newspaper
Foreign Language Skills
Attention to Detail
I run my own cookery blog on Wordpress.
How to Boost your Skills:
If you still don’t think you have enough skills once you have considered those you have gained from school or extracurricular activities, you don’t need to worry. There are loads of ways to boost the number of skills you have.
Taking up a new hobby or getting a part-time job can provide you with plenty of transferable skills. Volunteering is also a good way to build up skills in a work-like environment.
Hone in on the skills you have and those you think you need and then join up to something that will help you get these. For example, if you think you want to learn team working skills join a sports team, band or theatre group; if you want to learn to communicate better maybe put yourself forward for a class presentation or the school debating society.
How to Use your Skills:
Once you have worked out which skills you have, you need to use them to your advantage in your CV, cover letters and interviews. It is never a good idea to mention having a skill without showing how you learnt it or how you have used it. Many job advertisements will ask for candidates with specific skills. In your interview or cover letter, mention those skills that you have, that relate to the job. Then, show how you gained them or show some evidence that you have them.
For example, just saying "I have good communication skills" is not enough. You could either say "I have good communication skills, which I learnt while working in a local bar", or "I have good communications skills, as is shown by my A grade in English GCSE".
Now you know what skills you have, see how you can use them in your CVs, Cover Letters and Interviews.