Now that the United States economy and the job market has completely rebounded from the recession in 2008, there are more jobs available to more people. To stand out from the crowd of job applicants, to be more marketable in the work force, make sure that you obtain and perfect the following three types of skills in 2015: long term skills, immediate (short term) skills and universal / generic skills.
1. Long Term Skills
This category includes general education, and CE (Continued Education). These are the skills that you can get from professional education programs either on site or online. Consider this as an example: a nurse who wants to be a doctor starts working on her long term goals by attending medical classes at night after work. The skills she learns will not be put into practice the next day, or perhaps even the next several years, but in the long run she will need and use them. Whether or not you are currently employed it is vital to plan ahead – ask yourself what your long term goals are, and then identify what skills you need to achieve them. Adjust your priorities so that you will be where you want to be in ten years.
Continuing Education is about expanding your knowledge of the field that you are already in. Physicians learn about what medications to prescribe in medical school, but every year there are new pills, new side effects identified in the old ones, discoveries that the same medication can be used to treat different diseases, and more effective procedures that increase a patient’s chances of survival. Part of a doctor’s Continuing Education is to attend seminars and conferences about the new medications and techniques in the medical field. These workshops may be held at their own hospital or they might have to travel somewhere over a weekend. The bottom line is that they stay as up to date as possible. Nobody wants to be treated by a doctor who still bleeds people with leeches!
2. Immediate Skills
Immediate skills are ones that you will need to use today, tomorrow, and likely every day after. Let’s continue with the nursing example. There are steps in between the positions of nurse and physician. Nurses are not allowed to decide what medications, or changes in medications that a patient needs. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, have had the training to do that. A nurse whose long term goal is to be doctor could first get the necessary training to be a nurse practitioner. Those skills will immediately affect her current job, and help her get into medical school when she is ready.
Immediate skills also include on the job training. Because different companies use different software programs, or different tools, or different ways of performing a job, no new employee knows how to perform his or her job immediately. Consider the differences between a Windows PC and Macintosh computers. An employee might be highly computer proficient, but only with a Mac. His on the job training would include the immediate skill of learning how to operate a Windows PC. The best move that job applicants can make when it comes to immediate skills is to learn what to expect. You are more likely to be hired at a company that uses Macintosh computers if you are already experienced with them. Therefore, do your research beforehand. Find out what hardware a company uses, what software, etc. Learn that immediate skill before the interview to increase your chances of standing out of the crowd. The more immediate skills you have makes you unique.
3. Universal Skills
There are some skills that employers look for no matter what the job position is. That includes, for example, your ability to work with a team, ability to problem solve, ability to communicate verbally and in written or online form, ability to plan and prioritize your work, ability to learn and retain new information, ability to analyze quantitative data (e.g. charts, graphs, general math, etc.), ability to write and edit reports, ability to influence others in sales situations, and computer proficiency (as many relevant software programs as possible).
The problem with these generic skills is that you can’t get a college degree called “Ability to Prioritize” or “Influencing.” You can’t hand your interviewer a certificate that you earned from a generic “Planning” course. The trick with these skills is that you have to be able to demonstrate them and / or share very specific, detailed examples of your abilities. Naturally your ability to communicate effectively will be apparent in the interview. The cover letter is a good location to present a one or two paragraph sized stories about how you have analyzed data in previous jobs. Portfolios are a tool for sharing your work. If you claim to be able to write reports, and editing them appropriately, it would be prudent to include an example of that in a portfolio.
When you apply for a job, be sure to include references who not only know your personality and work ethic well, but specifics about your abilities. If you have shown leadership potential by doing on the job training or management at another job, remind your references to mention that. Include statistics like how much or how many of a product you sold, how your efforts improved company – wide profits, how quickly you improved your numbers, etc. Do not forget to have them list your other activities. For example, even though you have not had a management job, you might have learned all of the leadership skills you need from being a summer camp counselor or a Boy Scout troop leader.
Everyone wants to find the right place in the job market. They want employment that provides benefits, pays well, and gives them a sense of meaning and satisfaction. If that is what you want to achieve in 2015, be sure to have the long term, immediate, and universal skills that you need.
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