What skills do employers seek? How do you measure up?

Your work skills and employability

Career success largely depends on the skills that an individual possesses –their employability skills, and the ability to demonstrate these in the workplace and at an interview.

Employers look for a combination of personal, employability and technical skills in job applicants and in their employees as the ability to get a job done, and participate effectively in the workplace. Employers believe that employability skills and an individual’s personal qualities hold a job seeker in greater stead than the focus on one’s qualification. The skills that we possess and develop are important not only for our present career, but for the rest of our life.

A skill is the learned ability to carry out a task. In other words, the abilities that we possess.

The three categories of skills that prospective employers look for are:

  • Personal skills that relate to our personal qualities and the ability to work with others
  • Generic or transferable skills that can be applied across different jobs
  • Technical skills are the skills required for a specific job

Let’s discuss each skill in turn.

Personal skills are the individual attributes such as personality and work habits that demonstrates how individuals work, and the personal personal qualities they display when they are at the workplace that makes them who they are. These attributes enable an employer to determine one’s fit into an organisation, and the ability to work with a team.

Examples of personal skills include:

  • Honesty, integrity and reliability
  • Initiative
  • Planning and organisational skills
  • Working under pressure
  • Trustworthiness
  • Self-motivation
  • Loyalty
  • Positive self-esteem
  • Common sense
  • Personal presentation
  • Ability to balance work and personal life.

Generic or transferable skills are the skills required to perform a variety of tasks which can be transferred from one job to another. In 2002, the Business Council of Australia and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry identified eight key generic employability skills as part of the Australian Core Skills Framework.  

These include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving
  • Initiative and enterprise
  • Planning and organising
  • Self-management
  • Learning
  • Technology

These skills are applied in a job role, and when an individual is seeking to make a career change to work in a different industry or work environment.

Technical skills are the specialised skills and knowledge required to work in specific occupations and to perform specific duties. The importance and mix of skills will vary from job to job. Example: undertake bookkeeping tasks using specific accounting software, writing and editing, teaching, nursing, or driving a forklift.

Technical skills can be demonstrated via qualifications, professional registration, competency to undertake a job role, and references by workplace managers or supervisors.

Although employers seek a combination of personal, transferable and technical skills in employees and job seekers, many individuals focus on technical skills and qualifications as a work requirement. This is merely one component, and this approach limits one’s ability to broaden their skill set.

How can employability skills be developed? Employability skills can be developed in a variety of ways: These can be learned from formal education at school, tertiary or vocational studies, in one’s personal life through hobbies and sport, or in the workplace.

Formal education provides the learning of theory and skill development in a course to obtain a recognised qualification to enable an individual to work in their occupation. Many occupations require qualifications that range from certificate to higher level.

Informal education entails learning whilst undertaking a hobby or interest, reading magazines, watching demonstrations, attending trade fairs, or in one’s personal life undertaking activities such as: giving a speech at a personal celebration, writing a household budget, arranging home and family life, or cake baking, fixing cars, cleaning, or household repairs.

In the workplace, recognise that some skills have greater relevance for a job role than other skills so that they are prioritised in importance and job application. Focus on developing these through a variety of ways: whilst undertaking a project in the workplace, performing in a particular role even for a short period of time whilst a staff member is on leave, reading professional publications, or participating in mentoring programs will assist you to perform at a higher level.

Employers have identified personal qualities and skills that they are seeking from employees and job applicants. Individuals need a broad range of skills to successfully undertake their occupation, and to use their skills in a future career. Lifelong learning provides the opportunity for employment, personal and career development, and the platform to perform at a higher level.

Enjoy the journey!

I would love to hear your comments and experiences about your skills and career journey.

Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Crown Coaching and Training, and has over 30 years’ experience in career development, life coaching, education and training. Leah is the author and publisher of the nationally accredited online short course Foundations in Career Development Practice.

Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA), a Certified Retirement Coach and is Board Certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute of Career Certification.

Leah can be contacted by email. More about Crown Coaching here.

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