There’s a big difference between your skills and your attributes. Attributes are qualities which you naturally have – perhaps you’re a naturally chatty smiley person or have strong resilience – where as skills are things you’ve learnt through work, training or education – hard skills, specific IT knowledge or manual trade work.
As a job seeker it’s crucial to know the difference and be able to identify the core skills that an employer would look for in a new employee. While attributes are important, it’s your skills that can ultimately make you a success in a role and articulating these to any employer is important.
It’s also important that your ‘hard’ skills should be complementary to your ‘soft’ skills (attributes). For example, working in retail and saying you have excellent customer service skills (an attribute) could be backed up by saying you scored a high percentage on a Mystery Shopper report in your last role (work based skill).
Below is a list of some of the top skills and attributes I discuss with clients and why they’re important in aiding them with their job search.
1. Strong Initiative
This is quite an important attribute to have, particularly where job searching is concerned. I always hear from clients that they haven’t heard back from applications but when I ask them what they’ve done to follow up on it themselves the answer is almost always nothing.
In the current job market, it’s important to take control where ever you can in your job search. Use your initiative to reach out to employers you want to work for, before they advertise, and then follow up on applications. This can be crucial in helping you secure success.
It can be really hard to keep motivated when you keep getting knock backs and rejection. The biggest piece of advice with this is to not take it personally, you have to be able to accept any outcome and stay motivated.
High activity is crucial in getting success in today’s job market and I know of clients who’ve gone from doing 50 applications a week to 5 because they felt de-motivated by not hearing back. Don’t let this hold you back – it’s ok to take a day off from job searching if you feel it’s all getting too much but don’t let it stop you from keeping at it.
I say it in nearly every article and I honestly believe it is one of the most important attributes to get across to an employer! Be engaging! If an employer calls you to discuss a job, one word answers aren’t going to create the best impression. I’ve known so many job seekers to be extremely personable, engaging individuals but once they’re in front of an employer they freeze!
Everyone has a personality – Don’t wait for an employer to call before practicing your best first impression – get your friends/family/job coach to help you with this continually if you know you struggle and make sure you’re prepared.
From talking about your previous experience, skills, redundancy, being unemployed, your previous interview experience to why you’re currently sitting in front of an employer – Be Positive!
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve carried out mock interviews and had candidates tell me all the negative things that have happened or focused on the things they can’t do versus what they can. An employer won’t want to hear it so make sure you focus on the positive.
5. Self Awareness
An employer isn’t just going to make assumptions about you based on your CV and lists of previous employment – they’re going to make decisions based on how you come across at the interview – that is after all the whole point of conducting an interview!
You need to be able to talk confidently about your personal skills and experience and to do this you need to have a high level of self awareness to make sure you get across all the good stuff employers want to hear about.
Strengths and weaknesses are really common interview questions and this is where your own self awareness of these will really help you excel at this question. If you’re unsure – speak to a previous colleague or manager for some feedback.
1. Strong Communication Skills
Some of my colleagues would argue that this is an attribute, but I personally believe that communication skills can be taught and developed through work and training. You can teach someone excellence in customer service, the principles and skills of what that looks like and I think communication falls into this as well.
I’ve coached many individuals in communication skills for interviews, from only being able to provide one word answers to detailing fluently their skills for a particular role. It requires a lot of practice and it is the first thing that employers will notice about you. It’s important to make sure you demonstrate this both over the phone, and in person.
2. Team Work
Very few roles won’t require you to negotiate and contribute as part of a team. Employers are very keen on employees who can work collaboratively with their workforce and will add to the existing team environment.
Working as part of a team isn’t necessarily just about helping a colleague out if they’re struggling. It’s also about asking for help and support if you need it and recognising the importance of utilising your colleagues for their strengths – and understanding how this can make a business successful.
3. Time Management
This covers everything from committing to and achieving set deadlines for work to making sure you arrive on time in the morning!
Time management demonstrates an understanding of how you’re individual performance affects the rest of your team and the business as a whole. When working in retail or hospitality – arriving on time for shifts is crucial for others who are finishing/taking breaks. When working within administration completing your work on time and having paperwork completed is crucial for other members of the business and also customers.
Strong time management is a skill all employers will look for in a leading candidate. Make sure you back up this skill with examples from previous work experience.
4. Able to Respond to Pressure
This can be anything from making sure you get your application in on time to attending an interview last minute. Sometimes the employers I work with want a very quick turn around from reviewing CVs, to interview, to job start!
Although this can seem daunting when you’ve been unemployed for a while, it’s a key attribute to have – being able to act quickly and decisively is really important and demonstrates that you’re capable and prepared to do what needs to be done.
If you know there are potential barriers to you being able to respond quickly to an employer – childcare arrangements or uncertainty around finances – make sure you investigate these prior to your job applications! Don’t wait for an interview/job offer to be on the table and then decide you need to organise a things to be able to move forward – be prepared!
5. Competent IT Skills
A very basic and obvious one. In an increasingly digitalised world, having a core understanding of using technology in the work place is now an essential skills and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean using a desktop computers. A lot of till points are now digital, checking off deliveries and orders in a warehouse are completed using hand held scanners, placing orders in a restaurant are via an online system – you don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything you could come into contact with but you need to be able to express confidence in completing these tasks.
If your IT skills are leaving a little to be desired, there are plenty of opportunities to get up to scratch – usually for free! Book a course at your local library or community centre or find some voluntary work in a shop to start boosting your confidence and skills.
photo by: iro