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Employability Skills: Definition and 10 Examples

December 14, 2020

Most employers look for certain skills and qualities in job candidates in addition to academic qualifications. Known as employability skills, these skills may not be job-specific, but they play an important role in improving your performance and value in the workplace. They can also have an impact on your ability to progress in your career. In this article, we explain the employability skills you need to increase your chances of getting the job you want.

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What are employability skills?

Employability skills are transferrable skills that are useful in nearly every job. They involve the development of an expertise, knowledge base or mindset that makes you more attractive to employers. Employability skills are also often referred to as employment skills, soft skills, work-readiness skills or foundational skills. They often improve your performance, minimize errors and promote collaboration with your coworkers, enabling you to perform your role more effectively. 

Employability skills may not be listed in a job description, but they are important skills that can make you more attractive to prospective employers. The main benefit of having these traits is that it can help you stand out among other job candidates who are vying for the same position. While other candidates may have the same qualifications and experience, you may have a better chance of getting hired if you have employability skills that are particularly useful for the role.

Certain employability skills are more sought after in specific industries. You can prepare yourself for an interview or write your resume for a particular position by researching which employment skills are essential in your industry.

Examples of employability skills

Employers have high regard for employability skills because they are much harder to teach than job-specific skills. Some employable qualities come naturally, while others can be acquired through education, work or daily practice. You may already have some of the key employment skills, but you can work to improve those skills and develop new ones. Here are 10 common employability skills that employers look for:

  1. Communication
  2. Teamwork
  3. Reliability
  4. Problem-solving
  5. Organization and planning
  6. Initiative
  7. Self-management
  8. Leadership
  9. Learning
  10. Technology

1. Communication

Communication is one of the most important employability skills because it is an essential part of almost any job. The communication process involves five elements: the sender, receiver, message, medium and feedback. When these elements work together, you can deliver and understand messages clearly and efficiently, eliminating unnecessary misunderstandings and errors. Excellent communication skills make you more employable because they can enhance a company’s productivity and efficiency and help prevent the waste of valuable time and resources.

Being an effective communicator involves conveying your thoughts and ideas clearly to achieve certain outcomes, as well as listening to your coworkers’ instructions, ideas and intentions. Depending on the job you want, you may have to be competent in several different types of communication, such as verbal, nonverbal, written and visual. For instance, a customer-facing employee needs to have excellent verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

The best way to improve your communication skills is to communicate as frequently as possible. Some of the activities that can help you develop better communication skills include:

  • Communicating on social media
  • Joining a local club 
  • Practicing awareness of your facial expressions and body language

Read more: 4 Types of Communication (With Examples)

2. Teamwork

Good teamwork skills refer to the ability to work harmoniously with your colleagues to achieve a shared goal. Teamwork skills such as collaboration can increase your hiring chances because you may be able to help a company reach its goals more effectively. These skills can also contribute to a more positive work environment. To become a great team player, you need to be comfortable working with people, take responsibility for your share of work and contribute to team goals. 

There are many things you can do to boost your teamwork skills, including:

  • Volunteering to help coworkers with projects
  • Working with others in a local organization
  • Joining a sports team

Read more: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Reliability

Reliability makes you more employable because it promotes trust between you and your employer. You are a reliable employee if you can consistently complete your tasks on time, deliver quality work and make minimal mistakes. You must also be able to respond to inquiries and emails promptly and only make promises you can keep.

You can become more reliable by:

  • Consistently meeting or exceeding your expected levels of work performance
  • Creating schedules for your daily tasks and maintaining them
  • Acknowledging your mistakes and making a conscious effort to avoid them in the future

Related: Tips to Demonstrate Work Ethic

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving involves identifying key issues and their implications, having a clear understanding of problems and determining the most effective solutions. For more complex problems, you need to know how to divide them into smaller parts that are easier to understand and more manageable. 

Problem-solving skills can set you apart from other job candidates because they can help your potential employer maintain an efficient operational process and achieve objectives more effectively. If you are a good problem-solver, you can play an important role in troubleshooting issues, which can enable your team to overcome obstacles and solve complex problems. Depending on the position you are applying for, you may need a certain set of sub-skills to solve problems effectively, including research, analysis and decision-making. 

You can become a better problem-solver by:

  • Undertaking research assignments and projects
  • Participating in brainstorming sessions
  • Regularly developing your skills by solving puzzles and playing games

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Organization and planning

Being able to organize and plan effectively is important because it helps you and your employer save time, effort and money by improving workflow. It ensures that assignments and projects are completed on time and prevents confusion and errors that can be costly to the company.

To be a good organizer and planner, you should be able to identify tasks, prioritize them, create schedules for them and complete them on time. If you are in a leadership position, you need to develop systematic processes for achieving goals and delegating tasks appropriately. 

You can develop organizational and planning skills by:

  • Developing a timetable for your daily activities
  • Organizing an event
  • Writing down your tasks and activities in a planner

Related: Administrative Skills: Definition and Examples for Your Career

6. Initiative

Taking initiative means recognizing a problem and solving it, preparing for a potential crisis by taking preemptive action, taking advantage of opportunities and having a positive attitude. It shows that you can think for yourself and take the necessary actions without being instructed to do so. As a person with initiative, you have a strong drive to succeed and a desire to keep improving yourself through continuous learning, which makes you valuable to any organization. 

Employers consider initiative one of the key employability skills and value employees who possess self-motivation to complete tasks without being asked. The flexibility and courage of such employees can push organizations to innovate and achieve a competitive edge. 

You can improve your ability to take initiative by:

  • Approaching companies and other organizations to inquire about job opportunities
  • Proposing changes to the policies or activities of a group you belong to
  • Setting up a local club or fundraiser

Related: Character Traits: Definition and Examples

7. Self-management

Self-management refers to the ability to perform job duties satisfactorily with little or no supervision. For higher-level employees, it also means delegating tasks to ensure you complete them on time. Additionally, self-managed employees can motivate themselves to deliver solid work performance consistently.

If you have good self-management skills, you can help your supervisor or manager save time and effort simply because you need minimal guidance and assistance from them. Also, being a self-motivated person means you may be less likely to have productivity issues. These abilities can make you an appealing candidate to most employers. 

You can develop self-management skills by:

  • Asking for more responsibilities at work
  • Creating schedules for certain activities and maintaining them
  • Participating in volunteer work that allows you to work independently

Related: How to Get Motivated at Work

8. Leadership

Employers look for good leaders because they can benefit organizations in many ways. As a leader, you play an important role in ensuring that your team shares the same vision as the company and works in unison with other teams and departments to achieve a common goal. Additionally, you can develop strategies for achieving objectives, keep your team constantly motivated and monitor work performance to produce better results for the company.

Leadership skills are important at every level. If you are seeking a managerial position, you need to be a good leader to motivate your team members. You can also benefit from having some leadership ability in entry-level positions because it may help you stand out and climb the ranks faster. You can show leadership by directing and motivating your coworkers, setting objectives and goals for your team, improving work practices and coaching your colleagues. 

You can learn to become a better leader by:

  • Attending a leadership course
  • Starting a local group
  • Reading about the habits of successful leaders, particularly those in your industry

Read more: 15 Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

9. Learning

Having strong learning skills means understanding new concepts and methods quickly, taking on new tasks, adapting to change and having the tendency to improve your knowledge and skills continually.

Employees who have good learning skills may help employers fill challenging roles more quickly and reduce the cost of staff training. Good learners are especially desirable to companies that are at the forefront of innovation because they can help transition to new methods and technologies more smoothly. 

You can increase your ability to learn by:

  • Taking a course to improve your learning skills, such as a speed-reading, memory-boosting or an accelerated-learning course
  • Researching skills and activities related to your job, such as organizing, teamwork or presentation skills
  • Teaching yourself a new skill or hobby

Related: The Importance of Cognitive Ability in Your Career

10. Technology

Companies search for candidates with technical skills to help them use the latest technology and stay ahead of their competitors. Depending on your job, the technology skills you need may vary greatly, from word processing and sending email to video editing and using programming languages. If you can grasp technology-related concepts and learn how to use new technologies quickly, you may be more attractive to employers.

Technology skills are acquired through learning and practice. Some of the ways to develop and improve technology skills include:

  • Enrolling in a technology course
  • Trying out new apps and technology in your daily life
  • Staying up-to-date with the latest technology in your industry

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