The 21st century is the age of evolving skills. Technology has put it’s foot firmly on the accelerator, and as a result change to our economic practices and lifestyles happens all the quicker. The result of this is that jobs and careers become obsolete at an alarming rate. You are no longer able to box yourself off in a particular profession for life – you have to keep evolving, progressing and improving. In short, you have to be an advocate of life-long learning. You have to continually acquire skills and demonstrate these skills to potential employees.
How do you know which skills you need? Here is a run down of what you should do to arm yourself with the skills you need to land your dream career.
The first task is to Google a job title or job sector, with the word “skills” at the end. For example, “recruitment consultant skills”.
You will then find a number of pages which list all the key skills that are required by that job roll.
Your next task is to read the generic tasks required by that job. Plenty of websites such as prospects.ac.uk (and shortly kloodle) are a packed with information that allow you to see detailed descriptions of jobs and their tasks. Once you have a clear picture of the daily activities of your chosen job, you are going to look at the skills list again, and frame the jobs activities in terms of its required skills.
For example, “recruitment consultant”, as one of its tasks may have “build up relationships with clients either over the phone or in person.
This task, from your list may require empathy, communication skills and motivation.”You will then begin to attempt to answer why these skills are required for this activity in terms of your chosen job type.
* A recruitment consultant builds relationships with clients in order to sell their services effectively to clients. Effective relationship building requires empathy. Empathy gives you the ability to see things from another person’s point of view. This would allow you to understand a client’s needs in terms of the person they would like to fill a career at their company. Understanding these needs would then give you the ability to solve the requirement by placing a certain candidate at their company. Effective understanding allows you to place the correct candidate.
*Relationships also require good communication skills. Communication skills are a combination of good listening and getting your idea across effectively. Listening is important as it allows you to further understand the problems a client faces, and allows you to build up a clearer picture of the issues they face. You will then be more likely to offer a client the solution they require and win their business. Communicating these ideas back to the client effectively demonstrate that you have understood the problem well, and that you are really looking for an effective solution for them. Helping people properly build up trust and trust is the key aspect of successful relationships.
Really drilling down into the key activities of a job, and framing these activities in terms of the skills they require will instantly boost your understanding of the job tenfold. This understanding will come across in interview much better and will allow you to write more effective personal statements and covering letters.
You are now going to take an inventory of your own skills in relation to those required by the job.
This is NOT a tick box exercise where you say “yeah I can do that, yeah I can do that”.
You are actually going to come up with concrete examples of how you have demonstrated each of these skills in your university life, or life in general for that matter. Bear in mind, these examples should have plenty of variety, so the more examples you can draw on that aren’t subject or degree related, the stronger your application will be.
Everybody you are competing against will have a degree; the idea is that you will be differentiating yourself from these by
* Demonstrating how much thought you have put into your application utilising this method, and
* Using a variety of examples from activities you have undertaken outside of university.
For example, during my second year at university, I taught chemistry for three weeks at a local high school.
This would enable me to write something like the following about the above hypothetical job:
“Teaching chemistry at a local high school, I met a number of situations where children would struggle with difficult concepts, and for this reason would start to lose interest. Through empathy, I was able to understand that struggling with a concept is confidence-knocking and would affect your concentration. By listening to these children, I was able to identify the area they were particularly struggling with and tailor my explanations to help them understand more easily. Empathy and listening, in a bid to understand an individual’s problems, is important in recruitment consultancy as building relationships with clients and understanding their issues properly allows you to sell more effectively.”
The above, although fairly clunky in language at this early stage, demonstrates your knowledge of the recruitment sector, demonstrates that you have undertaken a wide variety of tasks, demonstrates that you have thought about these tasks, and demonstrated that you are able to relate these skills to other opportunities.
With further refinement, the above would fit nicely into a statement or cover letter, making you stands out from the others.
For each skill that is required by a particular job, you should have prepared three examples that can demonstrate your ability in this area.
By undertaking this skills audit, you may come across areas where you have no good examples to demonstrate. You may find that the examples you can draw on are fairly weak and tenuous.
If this is the case, it is time to start thinking carefully about how we can create these skills in your kloodle portfolio. You will now have to think creatively about tasks you can undertake to fill in these skills gaps and strengthen your application even further. Seek out tasks that you enjoy and are likely to stick at, and more effectively, seek out tasks that will kill a few of these skill deficiencies off at once.
For example, I took on an ironman triathlon whilst at university, and did this for Christies Hospital charity.Whilst being hugely rewarding and raising money for a charity was the most obvious benefit, I was able to demonstrate: – An ability to set and achieve goals, determination, motivation, organisation, marketing (to raise funds) etc. etc.
All these skills now happily sit in my CV and covering letter and, hopefully, look fairly impressive to any potential employer. You should aim to do the same to your CV. Seeking out such tasks earmarks you as being proactive and not willing to sit and stagnate. With each extracurricular activity you pursue, look closely at the skills you are developing by partaking in the activity.
These skills may not be immediately apparent, but with a little thought and creativity, you will be able to distil skills from each extracurricular activity you undertake. Also, look for extra responsibilities you can take on within an activity. For example, many leadership roles exist within sporting environments, and these usually involve organising trips away, social excursions and such like. Just by taking on such a position, you are able to demonstrate leadership skills, organisational skills, project management skills, and communication skills.
In order to have the most impact to any potential employer, concrete examples of situations you encounter during these activities are required.
Examples such as “the time you organised a football trip to berlin, and the coach company pulled out at the last minute due to a flu epidemic amongst the coach drivers. Utilising negotiation skills, communication, organisation and persistence, you were able to organise another coach company at half the price.”
Concrete examples are extremely powerful, and will also assist you greatly in interviews.