If you’re reading this, you’re probably in a stage of life most commonly referred to as “adulting” — or, you’re at least learning how to begin. Between making your own meals, scheduling your own doctor’s appointments, and doing your laundry, you also have to face something pretty daunting in “adult” life: applying for jobs.
No matter what industry you’re applying to, having a few universal job skills can go a long way. While it may seem obvious that an editor needs to understand copyediting, a computer programmer needs to be proficient in coding, and a nurse needs to know how to administer shots, there are also more general skills that can help you succeed in any role.
To learn more, I consulted two experts — Susmita Gautam, a former Peer Career Adviser at George Mason University’s Career Services, and Sean McIntosh, President of Society for Human Resource Management at George Mason University — to see what skills will help you crush a role in any job industry.
In every job, you will have to communicate effectively with other people, whether it’s your co-workers, boss or customers. So, it’s important to be able to listen, speak and write clearly, no matter what industry you find yourself in.
“As far as communication goes, it’s one of the most important soft skills that an employee can possess,” Gautam tells Her Campus. “Nowadays especially, employers are looking for well-rounded individuals that not only possess the technical skills, but interpersonal skills to be able to work in any environment. It doesn’t matter what job or position it is for, because in any situation, an employee will come across various instances of human interaction that they need to be capable of handling — and handling it well.”
According to McIntosh, practicing effective communication skills can come as simply as maintaining effective correspondence with your fellow co-workers. This can range from responding to emails in a timely manner to following up with individuals and having the confidence to ask questions.
ability to collaborate
Most job settings require some form of cooperation and teamwork. Regardless of what industry you’re applying to, you should be able to work with a team toward a common goal — bonus points if you can also bring out the best in your fellow team members!
“Many companies and employers are gearing toward an environment in which each team has a diverse group of employees,” Gautam tells Her Campus when asked about teamwork. “They have different skill sets to bring to the table in order to efficiently complete tasks and reach goals.”
As a college student, your classroom provides a perfect environment in which you can work on your teamwork skills! And although we may dread group projects, they can be good opportunities to learn how to work with others to achieve a common goal. However, teamwork skills aren’t limited to just the classroom; intramural, club, and varsity athletes also have great opportunities to learn how to work together to meet the end goal of winning games.
Ingenuity and independence are highly valued in the workplace, and similarly, any employee should have the ability to solve problems creatively and efficiently. Roadbumps will inevitabley come up no matter what industry you end up working in, so, whether you want to be a journalist, designer, or work in the beauty industry, start exercising those problem-solving skills ASAP.
If you’re a college student or recent grad, how exactly, can you practice your problem-solving skills? One important aspect of problem-solving is to focus on the solution rather than the problem and try working backwards. Doing this will prevent any negative “emotional blocks” from getting in the way of finding a solution — and it will boost your creativity as you approach the problem, too. Additionally, it’s important to be open-minded, especially knowing that there can be more than one solution to a problem at any given time.
Although you may not jump into a managerial position right after college, you should never hesitate to show off your leadership skills! “Leadership” can encompass an array of universal job skills, like being able to delegate tasks or motivate others toward a common goal. Exercising leadership in the workplace will help you stand out to your manager, your team, and you’ll become an attractive candidate when you’re applying for new opportunities.
“Strong leadership skills mean that individuals are well-rounded,” Gautam tells Her Campus. “It shows that they’re able to motivate their coworkers to do their jobs and be passionate about it.”
Do you need to practice or enhance your leadership skills? A great way to do this is by running for an executive board position, taking a leadership role in an extracurricular activity or student organization, or seeking opportunities for leadership on or off-campus.
Flexibility & adaptability
Not everything in your workday will always go as planned. For example, a meeting may get canceled at the last minute or your boss may ask you to rush a report to his or her desk ASAP, even though you have ten other things to work on. Being flexible and open to adapting to such changes shows that you’re prepared and reliable, and will help you succeed in any role, across any industry.
When it comes to flexibility and adaptability, McIntosh tells Her Campus, “No matter what type of work environment you’re involved in, there will be times when things will change suddenly and abruptly, and truthfully, in many situations it’s impossible to ever be fully prepared to tackle these unforeseen obstacles. However, employees who have confidence in their skills, their team — and most importantly, themselves — to make the right decisions are more likely to succeed within their organization.”
While every job is different, chances are, your supervisor won’t always be hovering over you to do your work or help you stay motivated to complete a task in a timely manner. Being productive with little supervision shows that you’re able to work independently — plus, your boss can trust that you’ll get the work done!
Gautam stresses that employers want individuals that are willing to help the company reach its goals, as well as go beyond what’s expected of them. So, if you’re applying to jobs right now, think of examples where you’ve led a project all on your own, or shown self-motivation of some kind. I promise, it will go a long way!
It’s no secret that we live in a technology-driven age. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and computer, many daily tasks are becoming computer-automated, and companies use social media as means to tap into new clientele and publicize their successes. With this boost of technology in the workplace, any employee — regardless of role or industry — should have a basic background in computer skills, along with an understanding of how to use technology to advance their professional performance.
If technology isn’t your strong suit but you want to develop a strong foundation, McIntosh suggests becoming proficient in “fundamental” technology programs like Microsoft Suite (i.e. Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook) along with conduct basic research processes via search engines (e.g. Bing, Google, Internet Explorer, etc.).
Now that you know what’ll make you a better employee in any job, you can get to working on these skills before you turn in your next application or go to your next interview. May the odds be in your favor in your job hunt. Take a deep breath, stay confident, and show employers how much of a boss you really are. You got this!
Susmita Gautam, Career Adviser, George Mason University Career Services
Sean McIntosh, President of Society for Human Resource Management, George Mason University