8 key skills that make anyone employable (and how to hone them)

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The job market is tough out there.

PwC reports that around 30% of existing UK jobs could be at potential risk of automation by the early 2030s, and think tank IPPR found that a rise in internships was the result of graduates struggling to find skilled work.

In short, employers are looking for ideal candidates with strong interpersonal, leadership and critical thinking skills in addition to technical expertise.

June Dennis, Principal of UKCBC, told students at a recent Employability Skills Conference to identify and develop key skills that make them attractive to employers to help them stand out in the competitive job market.

“Look and concentrate on the particular skills needed to move into the role you want. And if you don’t have the skills the role requires, use an action plan. Ask yourself, ‘how do I get that skill?’. Focusing on what skills you need to obtain is just as important as addressing your weaknesses.”

Here are eight key skills that make you a stand-out candidate. The good news is you already are likely to have many of them. How many do you possess?

1. You know how to get what you want

Do you passionately encourage others to see your point of view even if it’s about your favourite TV show or where to find the best pro-biotic charcoal based weekly juice detox? Then you may possess the skill of negotiation – a vital tool that can take you places in your career and help the company meet their objectives. Negotiation isn’t just related to sales or a skill reserved for executives. Strong negotiation skills will help you deliver projects on time, get colleagues to support your ideas and have budgets or requests more readily approved.

How to hone your negotiation skills: Practice saying “no”. Being able to say “no” to situations in everyday life, whether that’s feeling obligated to attend a friend of a friend’s birthday party or doing favours you don’t have time for, helps you to become comfortable with leveraging your own position in workplace negotiations. Also, practice listening and trying to understand what really matters to the people around you. By being a respectful communicator and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’re more likely to be able to offer them a proposal that they value and benefits you both.

2. You’re quite nosey

We’re not saying become the office gossip but rather you should show genuine interest in other people and the work that they do. Asking questions helps resolve problems with minimal hassle and can improve your understanding of the company as a whole. While many people don’t like to admit they don’t know something, it can cause huge problems when things go wrong or you struggle to cope doing it all alone. A simple request for help or answers would have avoided the issue in the first place.

How to hone curiosity: Get curious about the everyday things. Ask friends and family how they do something you don’t know how to do. Ask strangers about themselves. Practice asking more questions wherever you go and be sure to listen to the answers.

3. You’re used to change

If you’ve experienced big life changes, unexpected or not, you’ll have discovered your own resourcefulness – your ability to be flexible, to adapt and to cope with challenging circumstances – skills that than many employers are looking for.

How to hone adaptability: Don’t shy away from change, and say “yes” to opportunities that force you to amend habits or be more flexible. Make a point of stepping out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn’t normally do like striking up a conversation with a stranger, taking a course in something you’ve never tried before or getting somewhere without using your GPS.

4. You like to talk

You might think you’re just a bit of a chatterbox but one of the top skills managers are looking for with new hires is verbal communication. Whether its colleagues or customers, most jobs involve building good relationships, creating a positive work environment. If you like to talk and make friends easily, you may have overlooked an in-demand skill.

How to hone verbal communication skills: Get into the habit of talking to new people, picking up the phone instead of texting or emailing, and chatting to people you come across in day to day life. Learn to ask questions and find out new things about other people. Show genuine interest in their ideas and beliefs.

5. You’re a team player

Are you regularly active in a team sport, community projects or have a big family? If so, you’re likely to possess true teamwork skills – you know your own and everyone else’s strengths and you work together strategically to utilise them.

How to hone teamwork skills: Learn how to work cohesively with others by engaging in group activities for things you’re interested in, such as working at a community garden, joining a sports team to getting a group of friends together to make a short film.

6. You love lists

Admit it… you love a good to-do list, and nothing excites you more than new pens and neatly organised folders. Yes, you might be slightly addicted to stationery but you’re also in possession of a much-needed workplace skill: organisation. Organisation is vital for productivity and teamwork as it ensures projects are managed efficiently, deadlines are met and reports are signed off.

How to hone organisation skills: Create processes to organise your life. Tackle tasks you’ve put off, like filing bank statements, and approach them as you would do if it were required by you in the office. Identify the tough tasks in front of you and complete the difficult or uninteresting ones early on. Think about creating processes that others could adopt.

7. You feel things deeply

Do you see other people’s point of view easily and are you open to their ideas? What about when someone shares their feelings with you? Do you find it easy to relate and put yourself in their shoes? If you’ve answered yes, then you’re very likely to have strong empathy skills – an essential trait for managing others and for delivering outstanding customer service.

How to hone empathy skills: Identify someone you disagree with and try to understand their perspective. What has informed their decision and how does that differ to how your views were formed. Seeing the big picture may help you understand a better perspective or convince someone that your view is more reasonable. Tailor your response accordingly and see how they react. This is especially worth practicing if you tend to judge or leap to conclusions easily.

8. You’re the go-to tech support in your household

If you’re The One for tech support in your family, then you probably already possess a very useful professional skill. Learning new software and operating systems is part of modern professional life, and employers that see a candidate already has a good level of IT proficiency are likely to react positively. Even if the job you’re applying for involves using software you’re not used to, your ability to learn new programmes and methodically tackle problems is very valuable in the workplace.

How to hone tech skills: Don’t rely on other people to set up your computer or phone, instead spend time figuring it out yourself. Even if you struggle with it, think about the different approaches you could take to solve the problem. Finding answers online is a valuable skill that has almost limitless uses, as is maintaining a calm composure when faced with a difficult situation. You could also take courses and upskill in a specific software system that is frequently used in your industry.

UKCBC is a provider of AAT, HND and Honours Degree Programmes with campuses in Central and Greater London. UKCBC delivers Foundation Certificate in Accounting, Advanced Diploma in Accounting, and Professional Diploma in Accounting qualifications.

Kerrith Britland is Digital Content Editor for UKCBC.

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