General Labor Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

August 19, 2021

You may use general labor skills in various physical jobs throughout your career. Developing these skills can help you perform tasks that involve lifting, lowering, pulling, pushing and other physical actions. Learning about these skills can help you further develop your ability to perform them and emphasize them when applying for jobs. In this article, we define general labor skills, provide examples of them, explain how to improve them and share how to highlight them during the application process.

What are general labor skills?

General labor skills are a wide variety of abilities used when working general labor jobs, which are physical jobs like construction, manufacturing and housekeeping. These skills help general laborers complete tasks like cleaning, moving and landscaping. General labor skills can also include soft skills, like teamwork and organization.

Related: What Is General Labor? Definition and 22 Jobs To Consider

Examples of general labor skills

General laborers can use a wide variety of skills that involve physical actions or mental processes to complete their duties. Here are several examples of general labor skills:

Tool operation

Many general labor jobs require the use of tools, such as hammers, drills, handsaws and staple guns. For example, a general laborer may use a hammer to remove nails from wooden boards during a demolition project. Knowing how to operate tools properly can help general laborers ensure they're using them effectively and safely when working on projects.

Unloading and loading

General laborers are often skilled at unloading and loading materials from trucks, buildings and other containment structures. Unloading may require proper lifting techniques and procedures to lift items with two or more people. Loading may require general laborers to place items in a particular order and create stable structures of stacked materials. For example, a general laborer may stack tires within a box truck to ensure the safe transport of the tires.

Following instructions

It's also helpful for general laborers to know how to follow detailed instructions when completing tasks for employers. This ability to remember verbal and written instructions can be helpful when completing longer tasks. For example, a general laborer may need to read a list of tasks to complete throughout a working day and be able to finish these tasks in a particular order.

Forklift operation

For general laborers, forklift operation involves driving a forklift while operating several other buttons and levers to lift heavy objects. For example, a general laborer may use a forklift to lift a pallet of tires so other team members can more easily load them into a box truck. Operating a forklift often requires certification, such as a certification from the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA).

Read more: Forklift Operator Certification: What Is It and How To Get Certified

Snow removal

Snow removal involves the use of a shovel to remove snow from outdoor surfaces. For example, an employer may ask a general laborer to remove all the snow from a sidewalk in front of a retail store. Physical endurance and strength are important for consistent performance in this skill.

Demolition

Demolition involves using tools to take apart structures, such as residential homes and commercial buildings. For example, a general laborer may use a sledgehammer to demolish a wall within a residence during a home remodeling project. This skill may require knowledge of safety procedures to ensure structures remain stable.

Debris removal

General laborers may remove debris from construction sites and residences during restorations. For example, a general laborer may carry drywall and fiberglass debris from a demolition site to a dumpster. Debris can include heavy items, like concrete as well as objects with sharp edges, like glass.

Communication

Communication is also an important skill for general laborers, who may need to communicate with their team members and managers to complete collaborative assignments. For example, a general laborer may need to coordinate team efforts when planning an unload of a truck. Speaking clearly and professionally is an essential component of this skill.

Identifying materials

Employers may ask general laborers to identify specific materials when working in positions that involve metals, lumber, plastics or composites. This skill requires knowledge of the appearance of many types of materials. For example, a general laborer may need to search through a pile of debris for a specific type of metal so their employer can recycle it.

Related: 21 Interesting Careers in Labor That Pay $60k or More

How to improve general labor skills

You can follow these steps to improve your general labor skills:

1. Seek training

Many employers offer training to employees working as general laborers. This training may provide advanced knowledge of company-specific procedures or provide certifications you can use when working for other employers. For example, an employer may provide pallet jack training that certifies you to use a pallet jack for their organization and for future employers.

2. Find a mentor

Finding a mentor in your industry can provide you with the opportunity to develop general labor skills through training. You may improve your skills by observing your mentor perform general labor tasks and by receiving feedback when you perform tasks. For example, you may seek mentorship from a master carpenter to develop your skills for working on construction projects.

3. Read manuals

Manuals can help you develop basic and advanced knowledge of many general labor skills. Manuals may include procedures for using these skills and strategies for ensuring safety while performing these skills. For example, you may read a manual on how to use a table saw to ensure you can operate one safely and efficiently.

4. Get feedback

Asking for feedback when performing tasks may help you identify skills you can improve. Consider asking managers, team members and customers for feedback on your performance. For example, a team member may provide valuable feedback by explaining that you can operate a table saw more safely and effectively by securing it to a stable surface.

Related: What Is Unskilled Labor?

General labor skills in the workplace

Here's a list of tips for using general labor skills in the workplace:

  • Use extensive planning: Planning out activities before attempting them can help you increase efficiency, safety and effectiveness when using your skills. You may plan activities yourself or with team members to ensure every member can collaborate effectively to complete common goals.

  • Maintain physical fitness: Maintaining your physical fitness may help you perform physical duties to an employer's standards and sustain your performance throughout your work shifts. Stretching, lifting weights and performing aerobic activities may help you maintain your physical fitness.

  • Ask questions: Asking questions before performing general labor tasks can help you better understand your responsibilities, increase your efficiency and ensure team safety. You may ask a manager or a team member with advanced knowledge of tasks questions to clarify responsibilities or safety procedures.

Related: Skilled Labor: What It Is, Skilled vs. Unskilled and Types of Skilled Labor Jobs

How to highlight general labor skills

Here are some ways to highlight general labor skills during a job search:

General labor skills on a resume

To highlight these skills in a resume, you can describe your experience using general labor skills in sections like work experience and education. For example, in the work experience section, you may describe how you operated power tools efficiently when performing general labor tasks in a previous position. In a resume summary, you may highlight specific skills you have experience performing throughout your career, such as operating forklifts for eight years. You may also list your general labor skills on the skills section of your resume.

General labor skills on a cover letter

In a cover letter, you may elaborate on the information from your resume using examples to illustrate your specific skills. For example, you may list several general labor skills you have the most experience performing or have an interest in developing. You may also describe how these skills have prepared you to work in specific general labor positions.

Related: How To Write a Laborer Resume Objective

General labor skills in a job interview

In a job interview, you can describe your level of expertise in specific general labor skills when employers ask you to provide a background of your work experience. Additionally, you may include descriptions and examples of your skills when answering interview questions. For example, if an interviewer asks you to describe a time you worked in a team, you may describe a time when you worked with a team to unload and load several trucks filled with heavy merchandise.

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