Internships Advice

Employability & Soft Skills

What is Employability?

[Employability is] a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.”- Mantz Yorke

Employability refers to the attributes and skills of an individual that ultimately contribute to their success in the workplace. Often labeled as ‘transferable skills’ – employability also includes soft skills that are non-technical and useful in nearly every job. 

Hiring managers and employers consider soft skills to be some of the most highly sought-after competencies in the workplace, which is why it is so important to recognize and develop these skills!

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are usually personality-driven and have little to do with technical knowledge or training. These traits are typically very strongly correlated to your innate disposition, but can also be practiced and perfected after identifying areas of weakness or potential growth. 

That being said, the path towards developing soft skills is not a straight one. It is often affected by our past experiences, emotional states, and overall self-awareness. While soft skills can be learned, this process may involve the kind of self-awareness and inner work that takes months or even years to develop. 

On the other hand, ‘hard’ or technical skills are usually quite straightforward to master when given the appropriate education and training. Our inner emotional landscape and personality do not typically affect our ability to simply ‘do the work’ involved with acquiring technical skills. Simply put, ‘hard’ skills can be taught, experience and qualifications can be gained – but soft skills are “the difference between adequate candidates and ideal candidates.”

This discrepancy is why soft skills are becoming more highly sought after by employers. If a hiring manager has narrowed down their search to the last two potential candidates, they will value the candidate with the strongest soft skills.

What are the Top Employability Skills?

The most in-demand soft skills seem to change every year, especially with the rise of automation, technology, and artificial intelligence. Compounding the effect of tech on the workforce is the fact that higher education is increasingly necessary to enter the job market. This means that there are more candidates applying for jobs today that hold advanced degrees and certifications, and possibly even a few years of relevant work experience. When the competition is that fierce, we have to look towards our soft skills as another way to stand out professionally. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some soft skills that are currently in demand:

  • Creative Problem Solving: Employers value candidates who can think creatively and outside of the box to come up with solutions for some of the toughest problems. You can highlight this skill on your resume by listing specific situations where you had to use creativity to solve problems in the past. 
  • Communication: This is one of the most crucial skills in any industry. It’s not just about what we say and how we say it – communication also takes place nonverbally, visually, and through written mediums. As remote work becomes more commonplace, it’s important to know how to communicate effectively via email, chats, and video calls. Being a good, active listener is another aspect of communication that is vital in the workplace since communication is a two-way process.
  • Time Management: Knowing how to manage your time effectively is a valuable skill in the workplace, especially when balancing several projects and deadlines, or working remotely from home. There are many tools available that can help you manage your time, such as calendars and project management apps.
  • Emotional Intelligence:  According to a survey by Careerbuilder, 71% of employers say they value emotional intelligence over IQ. Some of these key traits include the ability to stay calm under pressure, peaceful conflict resolution, empathy, taking responsibility, and listening skills. Some ways that you can demonstrate emotional intelligence during an interview are through active listening, genuinely displaying your emotions, talking about your growth, and asking questions about the company culture.
  • Collaboration & Teamwork: Effective collaboration means genuinely listening to the input of others and working towards a common goal. Trust goes a long way towards fostering an effective team, as well as encouragement and enthusiasm.
  • Adaptability: Being able to ‘go with the flow’ and adapt quickly to change is seen as an important trait by employers, especially in today’s rapidly changing technological world. Often, unexpected hurdles may affect the workplace, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many offices had to quickly adapt to remote work and all the challenges that come along with it. Demonstrating your adaptability lets employers know that you can be trusted to accept change and thrive in a changing environment.
  • Leadership: Mastering the above employability skills will certainly attract the interest of prospective hiring managers. However, employers want to hire someone who is capable of taking on additional responsibilities and potentially growing into a leadership role in the future. During an interview, be sure to discuss any additional responsibilities or promotions you received in past roles to demonstrate your leadership potential.

Why are Employability and Soft Skills Important?

The importance of employability and soft skills extends beyond the job search. In the process of developing these skills, it is an inevitable result that your self-awareness will improve. Exploring the self and developing a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses can help you grow in all areas of life. Skills like adaptability and emotional intelligence help us deal with unexpected life events with more resilience and acceptance.

When it comes to securing employment, employability can make all the difference in a competitive job market. Today, a degree is simply not enough – and employers are increasingly looking for candidates who can demonstrate their soft skills in addition to the technical skills needed for that specific job.

Want to learn more about this topic? → Check out our upcoming webinar Employability & Soft Skills happening on April 1st, 2021 at 9:00 am (UK)!

Sources

  1. What is employability and why is it so important? 
  2. Soft Skills List
  3. 8 Soft Skills Employers are Looking for in 2021
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Career-Builder Survey
  5. The Importance of Showing Emotional Intelligence in Your Job Interview