The education, skills, and experience you list on a resume are essential to getting your first job. But these aren’t the only things recruiters and interviewers have in mind when they’re looking for the right candidate.
They’re also on the lookout for soft skills — interpersonal and relationship management skills that are harder to quantify on paper.
If you’re new to the job market (or planning on entering it in a few years), it’s easy to overlook the importance of certain soft skills to would-be employers.
We’ll outline some of the most important skills employers value beyond just degrees and expertise.
Excelling at a job isn’t just a matter of knowing your trade. It’s also about how well you can work in a fast-paced, real-world environment.
This is much different from the more structured learning environment you’d get at a high school, trade school, or university.
For instance, can you problem-solve on your feet? Are you able to easily pivot from one task to another without missing a beat? Can you adjust your skills and expectations to match the on-the-ground conditions of doing your job?
Your ability to adapt could differentiate you from a candidate with the same (or even better) qualifications who can’t adapt to changing demands of your job.
The so-called "Great Resignation" followed by months of employees "quiet quitting" means most employers are desperate for workers they can rely on.
Along with knowing you’ll show up to work on time, employers like to know that they can rely on you to follow through on tasks you’ve committed to.
This doesn’t mean you have to commit to working at a company for an indefinite amount of time, nor does it mean taking on more tasks than you can reasonably handle without help.
Instead, it means building a reputation as a trusted employee who stays on task, gets to meetings on time, and consistently finishes work projects on or before a deadline.
One of the most important parts of any job is how well you get along with other people, including clients, customers, bosses, managers, and coworkers.
No matter how good you are at your job, if you can’t communicate effectively and respectfully with the people around you, you’ll be more of a liability than an asset to your company.
Some employers still want (or at least think they want) employees who will stick to the status quo and won’t question the company’s practices or procedures.
In reality, though, the most valuable employees are often the ones who can see a longstanding slowdown, hang-up, or error and propose a working solution.
This doesn’t mean you should walk into a job and start criticizing everything you disagree with. But you can demonstrate your unique value to a company by addressing problems head-on instead of ignoring them and coming up with solutions.
Your desire to learn doesn’t have to stop once you leave school and enter the job market.
There’s almost always something new to learn about a job, skill, or company. Demonstrating your willingness to learn shows that you’re a dedicated employee who’s committed to growth.
Go out of your way to ask questions, puzzle through solutions, and dedicate yourself to getting better at your craft.
Not only will it make your current workplace better, but it will also set you apart in a constantly shifting job market where the desire to learn is a valuable commodity.
Critical thinking doesn’t mean criticizing or overthinking things. Instead, it refers to your ability to look at a problem from several perspectives, understand your own bias, analyze all available data, and create meaningful solutions.
Critical thinking is a crucial part of becoming a good problem solver and is also an essential component of self-improvement.
No one wants to hire an employee who can’t reflect on their own performance and commit to the constant process of getting better.
In most workplaces, you’ll need to do more than just communicate with your coworkers. You’ll also need to collaborate with them on projects, which means speaking respectfully, contributing fairly, and speaking to your expertise without stepping on their toes.
The best collaborators always do their fair share of the work, but they also know when to ask for help and how to take feedback.
Being the best you can be at your job’s technical skills is important, whether you work mainly by yourself or on a team. But those skills are often secondary to getting along with others.
Given enough time and dedication, you can teach someone to pick up practically any skill or job process. But it’s much harder to teach creativity, which is one reason it’s such a valuable commodity in the workplace.
If you’re creative, you can think outside the box to find novel solutions to problems. You see the world in a unique way and can assemble the pieces of a puzzle to make something new rather than reproducing the same tired thing over and over again.
Creative innovation is the main way companies grow, so showcasing your creativity at work can absolutely set you apart as an employee to keep around for the long term.
Few (if any) employers want to hire people they can’t trust. Being honest about things like when you get to work, how many tasks you accomplish in a day, and how you’ve spent your time at work helps you establish a reputation as an employee others can rely on.
Honesty is the best policy in a few other areas too. For example, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do at work.
Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time taking feedback and improving. It’s similarly important to be honest about any mistakes you make or questions you have.
How comfortable are you seeing things from another person’s point of view?
Are you open to listening and learning from other people’s experiences rather than centering your own life experiences? Can you easily put yourself in someone’s shoes, or are you trapped in your own perspective?
Answering these questions is important to anyone who works in today’s globalized, diverse world. Developing empathy will make you a better coworker too. This will be an asset no matter what field you go into or where your career takes you after your first job.
Along with perfecting your resume, brushing up on these skills can set you apart in a candidate pool and make you even more appealing to your future employer.
It could also help you get a better job so you can finally stop living paycheck to paycheck.
Plus, staying on top of skills like these is more than a great way to launch a career. It can prove crucial to establishing a decades-long career you’re both excited about and proud of.
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