April 3, 2018
Landing your next - or first - great job is all about marketing yourself to employers. You need to develop the skills employers are looking for and be able to showcase those hard-earned skills to get the new career or promotion you want.
So what are employers looking for? What are the most marketable skills? Luckily, employers are talking, and what they're talking about is less about job-specific knowledge, technical knowledge or extensive experience with complicated computer programs or models. They want leaders, communicators and critical thinkers.
'Soft' Marketable Skills
Monster.com contributor Daniel Bortz reported on the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2017 survey that found that soft skills, those not defined by your job role or technical knowledge such as communication and teamwork, were high on employers' wish list for employees. In fact, 78% of the hiring managers who answered the survey want employees who can work well as part of a team and work with a variety of personality types.
Nearly as many managers, 77%, look for employees who can think critically. Other soft skills managers listed included:
A Forbes article in May 2016 reported similar results, based on a Payscale survey, but focused on skills hiring managers said they struggled to find among prospective employees.
Another Monster.com article by Bortz delves further into specific soft skills and ways you can work to develop them. There's no comprehensive list of soft skills and each of them have a variety of personal attributes that contribute to your mastery of them. But some of the most commonly mentioned soft skills include:
Cindy Sylvester is a business development partner on Southern New Hampshire University's career services team. She develops relationships with employers and connects them with students and alumni. She said the employers she talks to most often say they want prospective employees who are enthusiastic and personable, and have strong critical thinking, work ethic and leadership skills.
Sylvester said one way to both develop many soft skills and be able to demonstrate them to potential employers to practice them in the real world.
"We tell our students to get outside of their comfort zone, to volunteer, to start getting out there," she said. "We heavily emphasize the need to get out there and do those kinds of activities because it adds to their resume and gives (employers) that sense of more interaction that may be able to help either their leadership or critical-thinking skills."
Many colleges and universities offer general education degree programs that focus on strengthening skills like critical thinking and communication while through courses like English composition, quantitative reasoning, history and natural science. While these courses lead to a bachelor's degree in general studies, they can also help you develop a broad base of soft skills and may offer concentrations in more specific areas, including business, psychology, creative writing and more. You'll notice a general education component to every degree program, required courses that provide a well-rounded overall experience and allow graduates to develop soft skills as well as hone in on courses pertinent to a specific area of focus.
Christopher Dowd is the administrative director of The Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology's Disease Center Operations. He said he looks for employees that are going to show initiative, self-starters and candidates that demonstrate they are trying to expand their expertise and experiences, even in areas that aren't directly related to the job they're applying for.
"I love a resume that shows someone is trying to better themselves, even if it's getting involved in something that has nothing to do with healthcare," he said. "A deep toolbox is extremely appealing to me, and many of my colleagues in healthcare."
There are many ways to demonstrate those traits, Dowd said, including internships and a job history that shows a candidate is motivated to learn more about their field. "I love to see candidates who start at the ground level and are eager to move up," he said.
For candidates who are more advanced in their career, participation in industry and professional organizations can show that "eagerness to learn and gain experience," Dowd said.
Employers in a number of industries are looking for employees equipped with soft skills such as leadership, critical thinking and more. Developing these skills - and communicating them to prospective employers - can help you take the next step on your career path.
Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.
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