If you’re getting to the stage where it's time to start applying for jobs, you might find yourself starting to wonder; what do employers actually expect of me?
While there will always be job-specific skills that your potential employer looks for, most employers will also want you to have a range of general or "employability" skills. These include skills like communication, teamwork, and problem solving. Having employability skills can help you get a job, keep your job, and work your way to the top. If you score an interview, chances are you'll be asked questions about your job-specific skills as well as your employability skills.
Foundation skills are often learned while studying and completing your course. These are perhaps the most beneficial to both you and your employer when entering the workforce. Foundation skills generally include written and oral communication, numeracy, the ability to learn, and problem solving.
Depending on your job, having solid communication skills generally means being a good writer or speaker. It involves being confident about speaking to people (both face-to-face and over the phone) and writing well enough to be understood in emails and other documents.
Problem solving is about being able to find or develop solutions when faced with difficulties or setbacks. Even if you can’t think of a solution straight away, you should have a logical process for figuring things out.
Learning is about having the ability to understand new things and being able to pick them up quickly. It also involves taking on new tasks and being flexible and adaptable when things change.
As much as some of us dislike group assignments, the interpersonal skills you develop during your course are invaluable in the workforce. Employers feel there is great value in teamwork and interpersonal skills, with most supervisors seeing this as an essential skill for their employees.
Teamwork means being good at working with other people. That includes both people within your business or organisation, as well as staff in other businesses that you will deal with.
Employers are busy people and they’d much rather get on with business rather than spend time micro managing or hand holding. For this reason, managers value proactive staff who can take initiative when needed.
Initiative is about being able to think creatively and make improvements to the way things are. It's about looking at the bigger picture and how the way you work fits into that. Self-management is about getting on with your work without someone having to check up on you every five minutes. For example, doing the next step without being told to. This is also referred to as the ability to work autonomously.
Time management is no doubt one of the most valuable skills anyone can have, yet many people see it as a difficult skill to master. When paired with good organisational skills it's a highly sought after combination by employers, and is considered an asset to any organisation.
Planning, organising and time management involves working out what is required to get a job done, and then working out when and how you'll do it. It's also about tasks such as developing project timelines and meeting deadlines. Once you've mastered these skills you should also be able to stay on top of your own workload and deadlines and be able to delegate tasks to other people to make sure things get done on time.
Even if you're not planning to work in a traditional office environment, basic computer skills are still often required and are an asset to any employer. Even jobs that once required little to no computer skills, such as truck driving or food service, now commonly involve using a computer to communicate with other employees, file progress reports, or submit time sheet information.
General computer skills that employers may expect you to have include being able to use a computer for word processing and sending email. More specific computer skills might relate to software, such as working with design or video editing software or knowing programming languages. Technology skills required may include knowing how to use an EFTPOS machine, cash register, or photocopier. These specific technology skills may be developed during your studies or on-the-job.