With over 155.76 million people in the American workforce, job competition is fiercer than ever. Snagging a high-paying job isn’t as simple as walking through a business’s front doors and asking if you can start tomorrow.
It requires a strategic resume that allows you to stand out amongst the 118 other applicants.
But if you want a career you’re passionate about, you need to do more than wow during the interview and graduate from college with a 3.75 GPA.
Fine-tuning these seven must-have skills will help you secure a position in today’s dog-eat-dog job market.
Almost every task and project you spearhead in the workplace will involve communication. Maybe you volunteered to lead a presentation for another department. Or, perhaps you’re responding to an email chain that includes your supervisor and other higher-ups.
Either way, communication takes on four forms:
- Oral or verbal (casual chit-chat, meetings)
- Written (emails, notes, Slack messages)
- Visual (drawings, charts, graphs)
- Non-verbal (facial expressions, gestures, listening)
Mastering communication means having total control over the words you blurt out and how others respond to them. But it also includes how you carry yourself and how well you get your point across (is your message clear?).
Employers want workers willing to listen and respond to their peers confidently and respectfully. (Being able to motivate the team would be a welcome bonus!)
Tip: Run your emails and Slack messages through Grammarly and Hemingway before tapping send. For projects and meetings, ask a colleague to proofread your piece or script for errors.
America, “the melting pot,” draws millions overseas toward the U.S. for a better opportunity. In turn, the number of Americans speaking a language other than English at home ballooned to 67.3 million in 2018.
Being able to speak another language fluently opens up plenty of career-oriented doors. Bi-lingual workers allow a company to reach a broader customer base and finally overcome the language barrier.
The best language to learn depends on your industry and where you live.
But generally, the top five are:
- German & French (a close-tie)
Tip: Are you years beyond high school Spanish I? Download the Duolingo smartphone app to learn a new language in as little as 5-10 minutes per day.
Leadership skills are the last thing running through your mind as you attempt to lock down an entry-level position. But if you want to move up the ladder rung by rung, being a skilled leader will undoubtedly come in handy.
When employers ask about leadership, they’re looking for someone willing to:
- Take on a new project
- Guide the team when struggles arise
- Motivate them when morale is down
- Handle making challenging decisions
- Offer patience and empathy in high-tension scenarios
However, this is the one skill where you can actually damage your reputation if you don’t approach it delicately. There’s a fine line between lending a helping hand and overstepping your position or coming off as demanding.
Tip: Accept projects and tasks that are slightly out of your comfort zone. If you have expertise in a subject, step up into that leadership role.
About half a century into the digital age, it’s no surprise that technological know-how is a make-or-break quality in the workplace. You might spend seven hours a day glued to a computer screen in a cubicle.
Learning the ins and outs of Google Workspace, Adobe programs, and Microsoft 365 are the obvious launch pads.
Mastering these suites can tackle the day-to-day basics:
Checking emails, creating spreadsheets, and more.
But don’t stop at a surface-level understanding!
Knowing shortcuts and formulas can help you save time and look like a tech wiz. For example, Alt +Tab on PC allows you to switch windows without using your mouse or touchpad. The Ctrl + Alt + 2 shortcut on Google Docs will turn a text into a header 2.
Tip: Tinker around with your digital platforms to learn more about the hidden features. Look for program or device shortcuts to save you precious time.
The phrase “time is money” is never more true than it is from a business owner’s perspective. Every minute an employee is unproductive means reduced ROI, missed deadlines, and less efficiency.
Research shows that 21% of employees waste 5+ hours a week while on the clock. That’s precisely why time management is a skill that never grows old.
A qualified candidate knows when to say “no” to an ever-piling workload and can focus on nearing deadlines. You aren’t distracted by Instagram, Pinterest, chatty coworkers, or sheer boredom.
The more you can accomplish in a shift, the better the company and the entire team succeed!
Tip: Take regular five-minute breaks to refresh your mind and refocus. Don’t accept a new task or project until you’re sure it fits into your schedule.
How neat or cluttered your desk drawers get by Friday is the last thing on your boss’s mind. Yet, your organizational skills in almost every sense can turn you into an A+ recruit.
In the workplace, excellent organizational skills can include:
- Color-coding and labeling your files (digital and paper)
- Sprucing together well-put-together documents
- Delegating tasks that won’t fit into your workweek
- Not over-booking appointments and meetings
- Staying on track when deadlines are months in the future
In other words, your boss won’t hound you constantly, wondering about last week’s spreadsheets or asking why you canceled a new client meeting. You don’t need a boss taking time out of his schedule, breathing down your neck.
Tip: Use a calendar to keep track of your upcoming deadlines. Also, give each file a clear name and organize them into neat and orderly folders.
The final skill on this list is perhaps the most important in the long haul: teamwork. Unless you’re a solopreneur acting as your own boss, you’ll work closely with colleagues, supervisors, and vendors multiple times per shift.
With solid teamwork skills, you can zoom out, look at the bigger picture, and brainstorm ways to benefit the entire team (or department). You’re willing to share and listen to new ideas to bring fresh perspectives to a project or task.
Teamwork includes collaboration, critical thinking, active listening, and a goal-oriented mindset.
Tip: Work up the confidence to share your ideas when tasked with a new challenge. Don’t be afraid to ask for input from other team members either.
If you’re a few years — or even a few decades — into your career, it’s not too late to learn these skills and earn a pay raise or qualify for a promotion.
Writing tools like Grammarly and Hemingway can rid your emails of careless spelling mistakes. The language app Duolingo can teach you how to speak more than 19 languages. And, tinkering with Google Workspace can turn you into a tech pro in no time.
Or, you can always try old-school strategies like buying a daily calendar and offering to take on a heftier workload.
Set your sights on growth!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Arch at Bloomington to help them with their online marketing.