The pace and nature of change.
The world is becoming a smaller place and global change is accelerating and impacting at a more progressively rapid pace. We know that many of today’s professions, which were sought after as choice career options in the past, will be redundant in the future, it’s happening already. This is resulting in some professions shrinking in relevance while others are becoming more important. Advances and changes in technology are reshaping the workplace, creating new roles and impacting on the careers of tomorrow. While technical skills will continue to grow in importance in the jobs of tomorrow, non-technical or “soft skills” will also remain essential.
The World Forum report on the Future of Work completed in January 2020 found that demand for both “digital” and “human” factors is driving growth in the professions of the future. Seven key professional clusters are emerging in tandem. On the one hand, these reflect the adoption of new technologies – creating greater demand for green economy jobs, roles at the forefront of the data and AI economy as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing and product development.
On the other hand, the report highlighted that emerging professions also reflect the continuing importance of human interaction in the new economy, giving rise to greater demand for care economy jobs; roles in marketing, sales and content production; as well as roles at the forefront of people and culture. Indeed, the future of work shows demand for a broad variety of skills that match these professional opportunities, inclusive of both disruptive technical skills and interpersonal skills.
So, as well as well as having the relevant technical or knowledge- based qualifications, maintaining employability in the future will require you to continually grow and adapt your core soft skills.
How do I increase my employability?
Most applicants will have the required qualifications when applying for a role as these are the threshold standards that enable them to apply for the job in the first place. When making selection decisions, employers are more focused on the core skills, attitudes and past experience of the applicant. Employers will also place a lot of emphasis on the level of research the applicant has made into the role and the organisation. These factors provide the evidence to determine if the applicant is the right fit for the role and has the future potential to grow in the organisation.
While the need for a particular type of technical skill or knowledge may disappear in the changing job market of the future, core personal and interpersonal skill sets will remain in demand. The good news is that you can take the initiative and systematically build these skill sets to increase your employability. So, it makes sense to identify and start to build on these skills as soon as possible.
Whether you are attending secondary school or university you can find opportunities to start building these skills through extra curricular activities or part-time work. It is never too soon to start. Students usually underestimate the accumulated value of these skill development opportunities.
Core transferable skills:
While different employers will vary on the importance of different skills these core skills listed below are transferable between most job roles. The deciding factors that determine who is selected from the interview process or assessment centre is usually related to relevant experience and the demonstration of these core skill sets.
Self–awareness plays a critical role in how we understand ourselves and how we relate to others and the world. It allows you to know your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, motivators and other characteristics. Being self-aware means that you can take a deeper look at why you feel a certain way and how your feelings could turn into reactions. This is critical, as how we see and relate to the outside word is based on our own needs and preferences. Self-awareness can also improve your confidence. By being open about your flaws, needs and strengths, you will become more adaptable and flexible, which will help you to build collaborative relationships.
We can all train ourselves to become more self-aware or emotionally intelligent. Completing and receiving feedback on a psychometric profiler, like the Birkman is an excellent way to learn about your behaviours, needs and motivations, interests, thinking styles and potential stress behaviours. Looking for feedback from others on the impact of your behaviours is another way to learn about your strengths and development needs.
Good communication skills are vital, both to be understood and to show understanding. It is a foundation skill for influence, problem solving, team working and many other interpersonal skill sets. Whether you are communicating through writing or verbally, on a one to one basis or to a group, how you articulate your message and the behaviour you use, will determine the impact.
Good communicators have good levels of self-awareness and are aware of their audience. They can use a have a wide range of expressive and receptive behaviours. There are many activities that will help you to improve your communication skills. Joining organisations like Toast Master and practicing public speaking are obvious examples. Simply reading good novels will widen your vocabulary. However, taking up a part-time customer-service job or working with children or old people, will help develop your ability to communicate and interact with a wide range of people and age groups.
In the future, organisations will continue to operate through teams of people with complimentary skills, to achieve shared goals. Teams may become more virtual in nature which will increase the need for collaboration and cohesion. Effective team members provide support and encouragement, solve problems together, manage conflict, make joint decisions, give and receive feedback and are willing to hold themselves accountable for their individual roles.
You may already have examples of times when you have worked together with others as part of a team, such as during a part-time job, project work at school or involvement in team sports. Getting involved in teams also helps you to become more adaptable and flexible. As most employers will ask for examples of team working experience it is important to proactively find situations to join teams and develop the relevant skill sets.
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Employers generally seek candidates who can adopt a logical, objective and analytical approach when solving problems. Critical thinking is at the heart of problem solving. Good critical thinkers ask the right questions and examine evidence objectively before making decisions. As logical problem solvers they analyse assumptions in an unbiased manner. They avoid over-simplification and negative emotional reasoning. They are open to different interpretations and will systematically weigh up and compare different options.
Employers will frequently use group based problem solving exercises, during assessment centres to measure this skill set. Typically, candidates are invited to read a case study that sets out the problems facing a particular business. They are then asked to develop arguments for a range of possible solutions. There is a wide range of self-study material available on critical thinking. It is a life skill that can be applied inside and outside of the workplace
- Using Initiative
People who use initiative are self-starters and can demonstrate a realistic optimism and the skill to pursue the required courses of action. They typically demonstrate good levels of persistence and resilience and are logical in their interpretations of set backs.
They have the ability to succeed personally and professionally in the midst of a high pressured, fast moving and continuously changing environment, by being able to adapt successfully to prevailing conditions. People will refer to them as being confident and while they may not necessarily be leaders, they can demonstrate leadership qualities. Like all skill sets these traits can be learned and developed.
All of the other core skill sets already mentioned above will help you to develop the confidence to use your initiative. In addition, you can learn to apply a systematic approach that includes:
- Repeatedly asking the simple but important questions that might highlight opportunities for improvement
- Measure the risks verses the potential gain of selected opportunities
- Getting the involvement and support of key people including a senior sponsor (if required)
- Creating a work plan and schedule to minimise risk and increase the likelihood of success
- Taking action with confidence
Being able to relate examples of using your initiative to seize and deliver on a opportunity for a positive change will likely increase your employability.
While leadership may not be a requirement for the initial role you are applying for, employers often look for evidence of future leadership potential. All of the above skill sets are traits that we find in effective leaders.
If you have not had a formal leadership role, you can cite informal leadership roles such as a project leader in school or college, a captain on a sports team or leading a debating team etc.
Different opportunities to engage in a leadership role may arise in part-time work situations. These could include shift manager, training in new employees or temporary supervisory positions. If you look for the opportunities and put yourself forward, you can gain relevant experience even at the most junior level.
The time to start working on developing your core skill sets is now. Employers will be assessing the accumulation of experience and skills over the years prior to an engagement.
Increase your employability for the future by setting some development goals. Find the opportunity to learn and apply the skills and then Practice…..Practice……Practice.
We would be delighted to get you started on your journey by providing you with the relevant coaching and the most up to date supporting materials.