Employability skills

Top 10 employability skills

What are the skills that make you highly desirable to employers – no matter what the job?

BY FRAN MOLLOY

Although every job will have a slightly different mix of desirable criteria, there are some employability skills that will see you right no matter what the job is.

We analysed research commissioned by the Office of the Chief Scientist in 2014, which looked at the employment needs of more than 1000 Australian employers; scrutinised the Workplace Research Centre survey of 2,700 graduates and more than 500 employers about the skills they value; read through LinkedIn’s analysis of recruiting activity worldwide; and pored over the University of Sydney Business School’s International Employability skills list.

Combining the finding of these four key reports will show you – drum roll, please – the top 10 employability skills. You’re welcome!

1. Communication skills

Can you speak and listen confidently to your work colleagues at all levels in both social and work-related conversations? You should also read and write proficiently, and produce coherent written material in an appropriate tone, from emails and reports to presentations and short speeches.

2. Teamwork

Working with other people is important, and workplace collaboration is on the rise. Teamwork skills include learning to contribute ideas and accept suggestions within a group, sharing workload, responsibility and credit for work done, and giving and accepting positive and constructive feedback.

3. Problem-solving

Good problem-solving involves thinking about a problem logically and taking steps to resolve it. You should be able to approach a problem from different angles and keep looking for solutions when faced with obstacles or setbacks.

4. Initiative

Most employers don’t want to micro-manage. Taking the initiative means seeing a problem and resolving it, forestalling a potential crisis with pre-emptive action, acting on opportunities, setting appropriate priorities, and having a “can do” attitude.

5. Leadership skills

Show leadership by motivating and directing others, taking responsibility for the direction and activities of a team, setting goals and objectives, breaking down work into achievable and shareable components, coaching and mentoring colleagues and introducing improvements into work practices.

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6. Managing, organising and time management

This involves setting clear goals, breaking these into components, allocating time and resources to complete tasks and reviewing progress towards goals. It also means prioritising tasks so that more urgent jobs are done first and keeping track of work that has been done and that which is yet to be done.

7. Negotiating and persuading

Most jobs involve some level of negotiation with other people to achieve an objective. Good negotiators can discuss options with others to find a solution everyone can accept. Sometimes, you may need to convince someone to adopt your position; the ability to do this with tact and logic and making appropriate compromises is a very valuable knack for any employee.

8. Lifelong learning

Your willingness to learn, invest time in understanding something new and pick up a different skill or more information quickly are real attributes in today’s rapidly changing workplace.

9. Decision-making

The ability to efficiently clarify a problem, gather data, assess priorities, survey opinions of stakeholders and come to a logical conclusion on the direction to take is an important workplace skill.

10. Creativity and innovation

Can you apply your imagination to resolve problems by looking at them from a variety of perspectives? Are you able to ignore the obvious and look for a point of difference rather than following traditional patterns? In a competitive workplace, creativity and innovation will set you apart from the rest.

Employability Skills

“Are you able to ignore the obvious and look for a point of difference?”

Fast facts

1. Managers and employees have increased the time spent in collaborative activities by more than 50% in the past two decades. 

2. Both graduates and employers rated teamwork and interpersonal skills the most desirable in a new employee. 

3. Australian employers value active learning, critical thinking and problem-solving in new graduates.