Top tips on boosting your 5 key life and work skills
Employers often talk about ‘employability skills’, and these are life and work skills that you can build over time to stand out in any job you do and any career direction you take. Proving you have these skills in job interviews can help you get hired in the first place, too.
So which skills can help your CV grow the way you want it to? Here are Youth Employment UK’s top tips on building the key skills of self-belief, self-management, communication, teamwork and problem solving.
To see how you can get regular free training in these skills if you’re aged 14-24, visit the Young Professional hub on Youth Employment UK.
In any job, project or new step you take in life, confidence counts for a lot. The good news is that confidence can be built over time. But what does confidence actually mean? It’s about having a positive attitude when recognising your achievements, job hunting and while working. It’s about being able to learn from mistakes and setbacks and keep moving forward. It’s about learning how to tap into your motivation to get things done.
Treat any critical feedback at work as a useful clue to help you improve and learn for next time
Offer to help work colleagues who are struggling with tasks
Go out of your way to volunteer, or bring a smile to someone’s face in the office by offering them a cup of tea or coffee.
Self-management is about being your own boss, but not in the sense of being self-employed. It’s about taking charge of how you handle things at work and in life to get results where you know you did your best. You’ll display initiative in being able to work without always being told what to do. You’ll be organised and able to plan ahead to reduce potential chaos. Finally, you’ll consider yourself responsible for results – both good and bad. You’ll won’t sit back, take it easy and file a failed project as someone else’s problem. Every employer wants someone with strong self-management skills on their team.
Arrive to your job every day and on time. If you think you can’t meet a deadline for a task, don’t be shy or proud – tell a team leader early on in the process so that schedules and processes can be revised if needed. This consideration of time shows you care about your job and understand the need for punctuality and planning ahead.
Plan your time and workload effectively, whether you are in a job or looking for one. Keep your diary planner up to date.
Note down useful contacts, details, resources and processes for any task – especially if you’re in a new job and still settling in.
Communication comes in three forms: speaking, writing and body language. We can all communicate, but how effectively do we get our message across? From first impressions in a CV and cover letter to coming across well in job interviews and handling yourself in team meetings, communication matters.
In job interviews it’s not just what you say but how you say it. Make eye contact, don’t slump and don’t fidget. If you’re not sure of the answer, it’s fine to pause, or take a sip of water, to make sure you understand what’s being asked and present yourself in an honest, capable and enthusiastic way.
Contribute to team projects and meetings – there are lots of opportunities to get your voice heard and contribute new ideas. When you present a new idea, aim to communicate its benefits so that people will understand why you think your idea is a good one.
Listen as well as talk. In a group interview, make sure you get your point across, but don’t interrupt other interviewees because that suggests poor communication skills. You can also reference other group interviewees (e.g. “so-and-so just made a really good point, because…”). This not only shows off your teamwork skills but shows you are really listening to others when they communicate.
Employers want to hire people who work well in teams because they need everyone supporting each other on a project for a business goal to succeed. From volunteering to being the one who plans office birthday parties, there are lots of ways to demonstrate your good teamwork skills.
In team meetings take everyone’s ideas on board, not just your own good idea. Teamwork means listening to others, encouraging them, and being flexible.
Be willing to go the extra mile if it helps your team perform and feel better. For example, maybe you’ll stay a little later to create a client report in time, or bring in snacks for the office when spirits need lifting.
Be willing to support others who need help, and be willing to take instruction from line managers and team leaders. A good team depends on everyone working well together.
Life and work are full of challenges to solve. Employers considering you for a position already know that problems will crop up in your job, and they’re expecting that. What they want to know is how you will deal with those problems. Problem solving tips:
In job interviews, be ready to give an example of a problem you solved or challenge you overcame. Employers will want to hear how you’ve dealt with problems in the past.
Describe the past problem, how you went about finding the root of the problem, and how you logically examined your options and applied a solution.
Remember that problems can come in all shapes or forms. Problem solving doesn’t just mean solving maths puzzles! They may be practical, mental or emotional. A problem could be a wrong part being delivered for a machine, a dissatisfied customer or someone at work needing to take sick leave before a deadline. You will always have problems you’ve overcome in life, so look back on your achievements and think how you overcame those challenges.
It’s never too early or too late to start learning these five key work skills, and they’ll give you the best foundation to thrive in work AND in life.
About the author: Youth Employment UK is the leading organisation championing youth employment, putting young people at the heart of what they do with free training, volunteering opportunities, youth-led campaigning, research, policy work and more. Their free Young Professional Programme helps young people aged 14-24 in the UK build the five top skills for life and work.