By developing your employability skills you will improve your chances of getting a job, securing an Apprenticeship and thriving in your career. In order to develop these skills you will need to understand more about them.
Employability is best understood as a set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess, to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace – to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy
What does that mean to you as you think about how you develop the types of skills that employers value?
To help you, let us explain the following:
- What employers mean when they talk about employability skills
- The main categories of employability skills
- Why employers value these employability skills, and what skills every employer values
- How you can develop your employability skills and evidence them (so you can stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for a job)
What do employers mean when they talk about employability skills?
Different employers talk about similar skills in different ways. If you read or hear about other employability skills they will probably fit into one of the definitions used here.
You may hear employers talk about these employability skills as being ‘transferable’ skills, as you can apply these skills in different situations and jobs. Because these skills are transferable, they are valuable regardless of which job you end up doing.
The most important characteristic that employers look for is having a positive attitude. Whatever job you end up doing (and especially if you end up being self-employed) you will need to be willing to take part and be open to new activities and ideas, as well as having a desire to achieve results.
The main categories of employability skills
Having a positive attitude underpins and links together the other key categories of employability skills.
Self management is all about showing that you can prioritise, work efficiently, productively and manage your time well.
It’s important to be able to show employers how you decide what is important to focus on and get done, as well as how you go about meeting deadlines.
You will have examples of planning your time at school; to revise for exams, complete homework, work on your projects and fit in your extra curricular activities too.
If you plan and organise your time effectively, you can avoid feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, which can ultimately help you get better grades and better opportunities.
Employers are keen to employ people who have these skills because they usually are the more efficient and productive members of staff.
Team work is one of the most valuable employability ‘soft’ skills that you can develop while you're still at school. Whether you have worked in a small group on a project, part of a sports team like netball or football or involved in a group challenge, working as an effective team is essential to get good results.
Whether through your application or in an interview, most employers will look for some evidence of you being a team player, so its essential to have some examples to draw on.
Business and customer awareness
Employers really like it when you have an awareness of the business sector. They like it even more if you have an awareness of their business and their customers. Knowing this shows that you are interested in the industry and the company.
It is important to know what the industry the company works in, who their customers are, how the business is structured, where you would fit into that structure and what their plans are.
Knowing this is really helpful for when you apply for a role, but even more so when you attend the interview. If the interviewer can see that you have done your research, you’re already off to a good start.
You should be able to find out all of this information on the company’s website.
Problem solving is highly thought of by employers and is another one of the most valuable employability ‘soft’ skills that you can develop while you're still at school.
Problem solving is all about finding solutions to difficult or complex issues. We face potential problems from the moment we wake up. This may include finding an alternative way of getting to school if your bus breaks down or resolving a conflict or argument between a group of friends so that no-one looses face. This is problem solving!
Most jobs require an element of problem solving; in fact, you could argue that some roles consist of nothing but solving problems!.
Effective communication skills are essential for you to be successful in the future. In today’s competitive world, communication skills are the most sought after employability skill required by employers. Reading, writing and listening carefully are the three most important communication skills for students.
At work, college, university or socially, you'll be communicating with a range of different people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, experiences and professions. It is important that you are able to adapt your communication style to suit the audience that you are engaging with.
You use communication skills every day, whether you're talking with your parents about your day at school, texting your friends, answering teacher’s questions or working as part of a team.
Application of numeracy
Numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers. You would have learnt a lot about numeracy within your maths lessons at school. What’s important here is how you use these skills within your everyday life, especially later on within your work environment.
Whether you’re out shopping and see a percentage-off sign, you’re traveling five miles in a bus and need to work out how long it will take, or you’re converting basic imperial numbers to metric numbers, this is all numeracy skills.
This is an essential skill for employers because they are keen to employ staff who are numerate and literate.
In some occupations, like accountancy, there may be a requirement to have a more in depth knowledge of mathematics.
Application of information technology
Information technology skills are all about the ability to use computer software for storing, retrieving, and sending information.
Most employers will expect you to have basic IT skills in common software packages, such as Microsoft Office, so the ability to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint, or other branded programmes, is very important.
It would also be important to show that you know how to set up and use email effectively, as well as being able to search the internet, download documents and save them in folders.
This shows that you can research and organise your information, which is an essential set of employability skills.
In some occupations, like computer programmer, there may be a requirement to have a more in-depth knowledge of information technology.
Having a positive attitude and approach is important for your happiness well being and success. Positivity is about being able to see the good points in any situation or circumstance or open and optimistic.
If you have a positive attitude you will
- Be willing to take part in unfamiliar activities
- Be open to new ideas and concepts
- Be able to accept constructive criticism without being offended
- Have a desire to achieve
- Take responsibility for your own actions
- Be able to recover quickly from disappointment (Resilience)
As explained in our problem solving section, we face potential problems from the moment we wake up. If you have a positive attitude you will not let any of these issues that come up impact negatively on you or your day.
Employers are keen to employ people who are positive because it means that they help create a good work environment, where happy staff are productive staff.
Why employers value these skills
Some employers and some job roles will require someone who has a specific set of technical skills and to find out what these are you’ll need to research different job roles and vacancies. You can find out more in our Careers Builder section, or via other sources such as Prospects and the World of Work website.
There are certain skills however, that will be valuable to every employer, no matter what the job role; these are called transferable skills. Transferrable skills can also be known as soft skills, attitudes / behaviours or employability skills. This is because they are the behaviours that make people employable and they are transferable from one job to the next.
Employers would prefer to recruit someone who has the right soft skills or attitude and train them for the technical skills than recruit someone who had the technical skills but lacked the soft skills or had a bad attitude. Even if you’re not sure what career you’re interested in, it’s important to work towards developing these skills.
The world of work is changing so fast and it is hard to predict how the world of work might look in the future, but it is safe to say that these skills will be valued by employers no matter how the world changes.
How you can develop your employability skills and evidence them
If you can evidence and talk about your employability skills you will stand out from other applicants when it comes to applying for a job. Employers often say that your qualifications might get you through the door for an interview, but it will be your ability to evidence your employability skills that will secure you a job.
All the employability skills can be developed if you pursue opportunities to do so. For example, being part of a team doesn’t necessarily mean you have good teamwork skills, but it does give you the chance to develop them. So, if you are part of a team, think about how you can go that extra mile. What can you contribute? Have you noticed something that you could improve as a team to get better results? Have you communicated these to your fellow team members or coach?
As you understand more about each employability skill, think about the things you currently do that involve that skill. Think about what you could do to enhance those skills. Once you have gathered some evidence make sure you note them down.
PwC have a number of useful resources on their Employability Hub, from video interview to assessment day e-learning tools, to resources to help you with your wellbeing and looking after yourself. Find out more here: https://pwc.to/2Zr9yco.
BT have just released their ‘Stand Out Skills’ employability modules. There’s a whole host of independent employability tasks, as well as some live webinars, expert advice and some familiar celebrity faces! You can access Stand out Skills via this link: https://bit.ly/3dyEwb9
Gov.uk have introduced ‘The Skills Toolkit’, an e-learning repository to help you learn new skills. Have a look at the range of free courses available here: https://bit.ly/3qGGWIt
Barclays ‘LifeSkills’ is an extensive resource with a range of employability activities, blogs and tips. You can access the hub here: https://bit.ly/3bhZxnk