I often get asked by teachers, lecturers and students what are the key skills and qualities that businesses are looking for in young people leaving full-time education for a career in business. In this A – Z I’d like to give some pointers on the very important topic of Employability. I would suggest that there are some people already in business, who are looking to progress their career that could also enhance their skills in some of these areas covered in this post.
A – Attitude
A positive attitude is the key foundation for employability – this can be summed up as a ‘can-do’ approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make those ideas happen.
B – Behaviours
I’ve listed below some of the key behaviours I would expect to see in any of my employees:
Being courteous and having good manners
Being punctual for meetings
Generous listening of others
Honesty – always be up front
C – Commitment
If you commit to something, then follow through with it. If you do what you say you’ll do, and consistently, you will quickly be recognised as someone who can be trusted to get the job done.
D – Digitally Literate
The nature of knowledge is changing and, in this digital age, our definition of basic literacy urgently needs expanding. With an estimated 90% of UK jobs requiring some level of IT competency, the notion of digital literacy – those capabilities that equip an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society – is one that needs to be taken seriously by schools, colleges and universities. In fact, 16 million people in the UK aged 15 and over still don’t have basic on-line Skills.
Examples of Digital Literacy:
- Understanding how to use web browsers, search engines, email, text, wiki, desktop publishing, and office software such as spreadsheets, word processors, presentation suites and databases.
- The ability to evaluate on-line resources for accuracy/trustworthiness of information.
- Understanding of social media and on-line etiquette
- Ability to use basic hardware such as projectors, electronic whiteboards, printers and so on.
E – Enthusiastic
Whether you are just starting out in the workplace or you are looking to further your career, enthusiasm for work and the organisation you are targeting is hugely important.
Interviewers / hiring managers love enthusiastic people. They love them because they convey a sense that they will go the extra mile to excel in the role. They’ll do everything on the job description and a bit more.
F – Flexible
Flexibility of an employee is very high on my personal list of qualities I am looking for in candidates for any role. Someone who is prepared to roll their sleeves up to help someone meet a deadline or take on extra responsibility for a special project, even if it’s not their job, will get noticed for all the right reasons. Going the extra mile for internal or external customers and being willing to adapt to change is crucial for many roles and many organisations.
G – Goal Oriented
People who know what they want are always more likely to get it. The most successful people in business are those who have clear goals to aim for. So decide right now what your goals are in terms of income, lifestyle, and so on. When your goals are clear in your own mind, you dramatically increase your chances of reaching them. In other words, you need to be organised, deadline driven, and do NOT always rely on others to give you a task.
H – Helping Others
Whether it’s showing someone how to insert a picture into a presentation or proof-reading a proposal, helping other people is a great way to build relationships, shows a willingness to succeed and increases the likelihood of you receiving help when you need it. We all need help sometimes!
I – Impact
Presenting a strong, competent, positive image to others throughout your career is important. Having the ability to converse confidently one on one and in groups is something the majority of people need to do in their careers. It’s worth investing time and effort in working on you presentation skills early!
J – Judgement
Judgement is needed for any job. The ability to make a sound decision based on the facts and implement a plan can make the difference between failure and success. Assessing the strength of your judgement skills and those of others can help you learn to improve your chances of employment and success.
K – Knowledgeable
Whilst you can learn many things on the job, any role will demand a certain base level of knowledge. The more knowledge you can build up about your chosen career path, the better. Whatever field you are looking to work in, there will be boundless information already published on-line and in periodicals. Get into the habit early of reading around your industry vertical and keep up-to-date. As an employer, you can tell very quickly who is well-read and informed and who isn’t.
L – Learner
Each of us can always learn and learn every day. You can learn from people in your teams, your customer interactions, a mentor, your business network, podcasts as well as from reading and more formal structured training. Make learning a habit that you never break.
M – Manage Your Time
Time management is the effective use of a range of skills, tools and techniques used to organise or manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals. Effective time management is underpinned by a range of additional skills which include planning, allocating, goal setting, delegation, monitoring and analysis of time spent, organising, scheduling and prioritising. In most roles you will be expected to juggle all of your work load and hit deadlines.
N – Numeracy Skills
Numeracy involves an understanding of numerical data, statistics and graphs, it is also part of making decisions and reasoning. Numeracy skills are very important, irrespective of whether you consider a job to be “working with numbers”. Having competence and being confident in working with numbers is a skill that can be used to your advantage in a wide range of employment settings. For example, knowing how profitable a company is, understanding value for money for purchasing and ordering supplies, following a budget or just calculating your holiday time. Being able to understand and analyse data in different formats is considered an essential skill in many organisations.
O – Organised
Being organised is a requisite for any job that involves other people or working to time frames. Employers will want to know that you can be relied on to deliver projects and information on schedule. It’s largely about being logical and controlled.
P – Professional
It is important to remain professional at all times when engaged in a business environment, whether for an organisation or your own business. Being professional not only lets people know you are a reputable person to work with, but also conveys intelligence and poise regarding your position.
People who are professional are unfailingly polite, courteous and well-spoken, no matter what the situation. Being professional means you keep your cool and remain calm under any circumstances. No matter how upset a co-worker or customer makes you, you don’t react; you deal with the situation rationally and calmly.
Q – Quality of Work
Maintaining a high quality of work is essential in the workplace. People do not expect to have to check grammar and spelling, spreadsheet formulae, formatting of documents or monitor your work rate on an hourly basis. Assuming you have been trained on the task at hand, you are expected to perform your work with minimum intervention.
R – Resourcefulness
With the recession forcing us to make do with what we have, being resourceful is now a necessary skill for today’s generation of leaders AND employees. It is not simply a matter of doing more with less. It’s about being able to find innovative solutions to problems; it’s about thinking about things differently and about calling on creativity and imagination to get better results with limited resource. Being able to demonstrate this skill will push you further in your career faster than many other qualities listed here.
S – Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the ability to recognise moods, emotions, and drivers of our behaviour and understand their impact on others and your job performance. People with strong self-awareness not only are able to identify their feelings but also understand why those feelings occur. They are also aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to talk about them. That awareness also helps them avoid setting themselves for failures due to overpromising or overstretching on tasks.
T – Teamwork
All employers are keen to recruit people who are able to co-operate and work in teams. As less hierarchical organisations have emerged with project teams, self-managed work teams and management teams, so the requirements to ‘Get on well with people’, and to ‘Work with and through others’ become increasingly important.
Teamwork involves working confidently within a group, contributing your own ideas effectively, taking a share of the responsibility, being assertive – rather than passive or aggressive, accepting and learning from constructive criticism and giving positive, constructive feedback to others.
U – Understand the Business
I’m amazed when someone comes to interview and hasn’t researched the company, looked into recent successes or in some cases even clicked around the company website. This tells me that they’re not enthusiastic about joining my team.
Managers expect their team members to be interested in their business, understand the organisation’s vision and values, as well as the key goals and metrics of their department.
V – Verbal Communication
Effective spoken communication requires being able to express your ideas and views clearly, confidently and concisely in speech, tailoring your content and style to the audience.
Be clear and concise – Vary your tone, pace and volume to enhance the communication and encourage questions
Persuading and Negotiating – Arriving at an agreement that is agreeable to both sides: a Win-Win situation. Back up your points with logic. Show tact to those you disagree with.
Making a speech in front of an audience – presenting your message in an interesting way, structuring your presentation, using audio-visual aids effectively and building a rapport with your audience.
Communicating effectively in a team – Giving and receiving feedback, listening to what others are saying and often more importantly, what they’re not saying as well as motivating and supporting others are key skills you can work on.
W – Written Communication
All organisations rely on some form of written communication, so you can increase your employability by developing strong skills related to writing reports, composing concise and effective emails, and courteous, compelling correspondence with suppliers and customers. Employers want to see evidence that potential employees have mastered basic spelling, grammar and business tone in their written communication. Employers want workers who can write simple, direct and effective communications that convey specific messages in keeping with a company’s goals, vision and values. Demonstrate strong written communication skills from the outset by submitting perfectly composed CVs or resumes, cover letters and emails when approaching an organisation for a job.
X – X-Ray Spectacles
What on earth am I talking about? Employees that can see through the noise and get to the heart of an issue, opportunity, or challenge quickly are, in my experience, rare but extremely valuable people to have in any team. The ability to ask probing questions of the right people, research around topics quickly and make informed recommendations or judgements are key skills to practice .
Y – Your Personal Brand
Suffice it to say your Personal Brand is what makes you employable or not. It is a summation of every one of the characteristics, qualities and skills listed in the A-Z of Employability and a whole lot more. I have a whole series of posts on Personal Brand which can be downloaded here – The Brand New Brand You.
Z – Zealous
You normally hear the word zealous with the word ’over’ before it and then normally a horrendous customer service or HR related story follows. Being zealous is a good thing however! Passion for what you do, for your customers and your colleagues is a great starting place in your career and a great place to finish the A-Z of Employability.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the post and would love to get your feedback.