Skills for Employment Success

Employment Skills page Skills for employment go beyond that of qualifications and achievements. Companies are often looking for people who are qualified and those who make a direct connection between their skills and what the employer wants. It’s about demonstrating that you can solve the employer’s problems and that you can “fit” into the company’s culture.

To be successful in a job hunt, you will not only need to demonstrate an association between what the employer wants and your skills and accomplishments, you will need to be able to tell your story in a way that makes it obvious you have the ‘soft skills’ to get the job done.

What are ‘Soft Skills’?

Soft skills are those skills that are mainly based on self–awareness and interaction with others. Below are some examples of soft skills, what they involve and how you can gain them:

Skills that employers want and how they can be developed

Self-reliance skills

  • Self-awareness – purposeful, focused, self-belief, realistic.
  • Proactivity – resourceful, drive, self-reliant.
  • Willingness to learn – inquisitive, motivated, enthusiastic.
  • Self-promotion – positive, persistent, ambitious.
  • Networking – initiator, relationship-builder, resourceful.
  • Planning action – decision-maker, planner, able to prioritise.

People skills

  • Team working – supportive, organised, co-ordinator,
  • Interpersonal skills – listener, adviser, co-operative, assertive
  • Oral communication – communicator, presenter, influencer
  • Leadership – motivator, energetic, visionary
  • Customer orientation – friendly, caring, diplomatic
  • Foreign language – specific language skills

General employment skills

  • Problem-solving – practical, logical, results orientated
  • Flexibility – versatile, willing, multi-skilled
  • Business acumen – entrepreneurial, competitive, risk taker
  • IT/computer literacy – office skills, keyboard skills, software packages
  • Numeracy – accurate, quick-thinker, methodical
  • Commitment – dedicated, trustworthy, conscientious

Specialist skills
  • Specific occupational skills – specialist relevant knowledge, eg. languages, IT.
  • Technical skills – eg journalism, engineering, accounting, sales.

How the skills can be developed

  • Duke of Edinburgh Award;
  • Young Enterprise Award;
  • Music band (play regularly at local venues);
  • Participate in competitive sport;
  • Public speaking/debating society;
  • Amateur dramatics.

How the skills can be developed

  • Working in a shop/supermarket/restaurant;
  • Fundraising for charity;
  • Voluntary work;
  • Member of orchestra;
  • Play sport for team;
  • Guide/scout leader;
  • Air training corps.

How the skills can be developed

  • Young Enterprise Award;
  • Project work through studies;
  • Mensa membership;
  • Book club;
  • Member of local club/society;
  • Music grades.

How the skills can be developed

European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL); language skills; web design skills; writing for school/college newspaper; first aid at work qualification; NVQ qualification.

Key components of Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence

In order to make the most of these 'soft skills’ and be the best we can at developing them, we need to be aware of ourselves at individuals, how we react in certain situations and how we can improve on this. This is referred to as Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence helps you build strong relationships, succeed at work, and achieve your goals.

There are 5 key components of Emotional Intelligence, to ensuring the ‘soft skills’ above are achievable with maximum effectiveness:

The ability to recognise and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. This cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence encourages you to consider stepping back when you are feeling a particular emotion and acknowledging it. This leads nicely to the second area

The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, the propensity to suspend judgement. This ability to think before acting benefits not only you, but also improves others’ perception of your self-control

A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status. Building a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence in the face of obstacles improves your assertiveness and your ability to bring people along with you when influencing

The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. Developing a skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions separates you from others and allows you to incorporate emotive and memorable language and come across as more charismatic

Social Skill
Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. An ability to use your Emotional Intelligence to find common ground and build rapport means you are better able to not only support your direct reports, but also manage upwards much more effectively

Can I improve my Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence?

Yes, the best way to gain these skills is to go out and gain experience. Participate in voluntary work, work experience, committees, groups, societies and events. The more you interact with people as a leader or participant, the more you will learn how to work with different people and how to manage your emotions and reactions.

However, even though these skills come with experience, the process is on-going. It is important to remind yourself of how you can improve them and reflect on your past experiences. The University can help you to achieve this through:

Grad Edge

As part of the Grad Edge initiative, is a process that requires you to engage in paid or voluntary work experience. After this, you will complete a work experience profile to record your evidence and reflect on your experiences. This profile will prompt you to think about the skills mentioned above and how you gained them.

Speak to your academic tutor about the Grad Edge initiative and how it is implemented in your course.

Counselling and Careers Advice

The Counselling Service can help with building confidence in gaining employment and life/Emotional Intelligence.

They can also help on a 1-1 basis with confidence issues and how best to exercise self-awareness.

The Careers and Employability Service work regularly with employers and have an up to date knowledge of what skills they require. They often hold events on campus, where employers visit and will tell you themselves what they are looking for.

They can also help on a 1-1 basis with how you communicate and demonstrate the skills you have gained in an application or interview situation.

Related Links

Counselling news article – Did You Know – Emotional Intelligence Can Be About Taking Risks?

BBC News Item – - Students: 'Better at cracking jokes than taking risks

Help guide article – Improve your emotional intelligence skills

Share this page?