In 2014, the National Network of Business and Industry Associations published the Common Employability Skills. The National Network represents a broad range of employers across many industries. A combination of personal skills, people skills, workplace skills, and applied knowledge are at the core of 75% of the 30 million jobs created between 2014 and 2020. Anyone contemplating the job market can enhance their prospects by showing competence in these skills.
Do you have the skills you need to succeed in any Job?
These skills are present in most of the jobs to be created in the next 3 years. You won’t find them in a list of courses you can take in high school or college, but you might find them buried in some of the course outcomes. Whether your program includes them, or not, consider them worth learning and demonstrating. If you are a parent of a middle or high school student, consider finding out more about these skills to help your children make the most of their opportunities.
Personal skills include integrity, initiative, dependability, reliability, adaptability, and professionalism. When you think about it, this list isn’t surprising. Business owners want to know you’ll do the right thing, not break the law, take care of customers, and the boss. They want you to solve problems as they arise, do what you’ve promised, adapt to changing circumstances, and maintain a professional look, voice, and behavior. These skills are your psychology. Are you honest? Take responsibility for your actions? Control your emotions? Maintain a positive outlook? Follow directions? Be pleasant? Treat your employer, customers, and co-workers as you would like to be treated by them if you were in their place.
People skills are an extension of personal skills. They include teamwork, communication, and respect, particularly for those with diverse backgrounds. No job of today requires you to be isolated in the north woods. You must work well with others, whether on a team, or interacting with customers and clients. Teamwork requires the use of your personal skills to establish trust and to work professionally with others. You must know how to resolve conflicts with others in a productive way, and develop solid working relationships.
Teamwork also requires communication skills, including empathy, listening, interpreting verbal and non-verbal communication, and speaking clearly. Communication shows up again in the Applied Knowledge and Workplace Skills domains.
Respecting those from different backgrounds is essential in our pluralistic society. Even more, appreciating the different strengths and viewpoints can ensure that you work effectively with everyone.
Any job requires a mix of skills in reading, writing, mathematics, science, technology, and critical thinking. Though they sound like the traditional subjects from school, they’re often used together to solve problems and be creative. Critical thinking calls on the other skills to make deeper sense of situations, particularly when dealing with complex systems and data. The mathematics required is not as much algebra as comfort with basic operations, problem solving, data, and basic statistics.
Applied technology includes word processing, email, internet research, file management, data preparation, and learning to use work-specific applications and databases.
The workplace skills draw on the other areas. Planning and organizing work for yourself and others is crucial, particularly in non-routine knowledge work. Problem solving is one of the highest needed and least-often present skills. Decision making applies critical thinking, problem solving, and personal and people skills as well as working with spreadsheets, data and calculations.
All organizations require some level of business fundamentals and customer focus, even civil service departments and non-profit organizations. Everyone deals with clients, money, resources, and value creation. A basic business course can be quite helpful to liberal arts and all other majors to understand the function of all organizations and the economy.
Customer focus is not a common subject in high school nor in college, yet it is fundamental to modern organizations. Understanding stakeholders is fundamental to the business model. Read the many good books and articles about this skill. The skills is to uncommon. We all have stories of where we’ve been failed. The businesses that thrive understand their customers’ needs and work to provide them.
The basic technology skills of the Applied Knowledge area support the more complex workplace tools and technology skills. Know the tools, when to use them, and how to use them to solve problems and get work done efficiently with quality. Continuous development in the area of tools helps keep up with the rapid pace of change and gain you a competitive edge as your career unfolds.
Given the pace of change, growth of knowledge work, and the variety of occupations that graduates will face in their careers, you will only help yourself by grounding yourself in these fundamentals. Curiously absent from the list are life-long learning and delivering results. Life-long learning is crucial to adaptability. Be curious. Be creative. Learn to be innovative. And know not just business skills, but how your employer makes money and takes care of its customers. A big part of innovation is to add greater value, quality, or accomplishment to the work you do.
I urge curriculum committees, whether secondary or post-secondary to consider how these skills may be developed and assessed.
Future posts will unpack the most crucial of these skills to help you assess and improve your competence. Subscribe to our blog community using the form below so you don’t miss out.
Former Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration in the Department of Labor, Emily DeRocco, led much of the effort to create the list of skills and first introduced me to their importance.