You may think that being good at what you do is enough to guarantee employment. You may even think that being great at what you do can ensure you not only keep your job, but move up in your workplace. The good news is that how well you do your job still is one of the most important factors in your continued employment. The bad news is that it not only may not be the deciding factor, but in this economic climate there very well may be many people who can do your job as well or better than you, are more connected and experienced, and may even be willing to work for less money. How can you compete?
It’s no secret that the job market is more competitive than ever before, and seems to be getting tougher all the time. It’s recently been reported that college graduates are now putting the less educated out of work by pursuing lower paying jobs they would have, in the recent past, considered beneath them. Employers are hiring less, and slow economic growth is thought to be the future norm. In other words, when it comes to work, it’s a buyer’s market, and it’s getting harder and harder to sell yourself. Yet there are in-demand jobs and market sectors where employment has been – and is expected to continue – growing faster than the economy.
Being more employable these days can be a bit of a paradox. While there is an ever-growing list of necessary skills for the average office workers and executives, it is the technical specialist who has long commanded the highest wages and avoided downsizing. What accounts for both the jack of all trades and the master of one’s greater job security and paycheck? The answer is simple: The difficult to learn and indispensable abilities of the technical specialist means they simply can’t let them go. And as the workplace shrinks and machines make us all take on more responsibilities around the office, it is the jack of all trades that picks up the slack for missing employees.
Whether you’re out of work, looking to switch offices, or move up the corporate ladder, there are some catch-all skills that can help in any industry. You may be surprised at just what can be the difference between success and stagnation, or even failure. Read on to learn what employers really want.
5: You Make Great Coffee
OK, it’s not really about how well you make coffee (although the western world’s favorite drug is an essential office staple) but how well people like you. People spend a third of their lives asleep and half of their waking life at work. Making people comfortable around you and making them like you is the first step in getting them to really listen to you. Once they listen to you, can inspire them to participate, to give their all, to work as a team. You can mitigate conflict. You, coffee master, can make people genuinely happy to be at the office on those days when they didn’t even want to get out of bed. And all you had to do was become their caffeine dealer and remember birthdays.
The umbrella of talent known as interpersonal abilities not only helps you get hired, but stay hired as well. No one wants to work with a jerk and everyone wants to be around a ray of sunshine. But being good with people and having the incredibly important ability to build relationships is not just useful within the office – it’s also a sales skill. Just like every salesperson is instantly your friend, as your company tries to build relationships with other businesses it is important to remember that those relationships are relationships between people.
HOW TO GAIN THIS SKILL: Take a course or read a book on counseling. The ability to listen and empathize is the foundation of being more likeable, and in sales it is often the person who talks first that loses.
4: You Speak The Language
It’s always been important to be able for business people to communicate with people of various ethnicities. But whereas in the past it was once the province of a single employee with special knowledge to make deals with companies on the opposite side of the globe, nowadays any single employee may be called upon to interface with someone of a vastly different background.
From the retail location to the warehouse to the corporate office, cultural sensitivity – the ability to get along with people of different backgrounds from your own – is a key skill that can make or break the sale, attract or repel clients and employees or make the difference between a successful business trip and a hilariously tragic misunderstanding. Diversity is very big deal in the modern workplace. Demonstrate your multicultural awareness.
HOW TO ACHIEVE THIS SKILL: Step outside your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the media of different cultures.
3: You Are A Closer
The one thing all businesses have in common is that they all exist to sell something. You’ve either got a product or a service, and if you want to continue being a company you’ve got to get provide that product or service and get money for it. Simple, right? Not so much. Selling things is hard. It’s a very special kind of persuasion that varies subtly from business to business and product to product, but the common thread is competition. Even energy monopolies have to sell themselves to the government to maintain their position.
Salesmanship skills are some of the most valuable to any organization. There isn’t a company in the world that doesn’t value the employee that makes them more money than they cost. There’s a good reason that successful salespeople act like rock stars: To their bosses, they are! Well, actually, there is another reason: It takes that kind of confidence. That attitude generates sales and the sales fuel the attitude.
HOW TO ACHIEVE THIS SKILL: The old saying goes that the only product you’re really selling is yourself. Every good salesperson is a conman. Not a criminal, mind you, but someone who inspires confidence in his customers. Learn to act like every deal is already closed – and when it is closed, make sure you make good on your promises.
2: You Can Study
What everyone really learns in college is how to learn. And it’s a good thing, because the biggest challenge in everyone’s career is adjusting to the changing business world and workplace. Over the last five years, several companies that failed to properly adjust to their changing industries have really suffered. Some have simply gone extinct. I’m looking at you, Blockbuster. And where Blockbuster failed, Netflix thrived. Netflix analyzed the state of the world and noticed a demand for video and a better delivery method.
Netflix utilized research and analysis skills. You should, as well. One of the ongoing themes of this article is that the business world is continuously more challenging. This has always been the case and it doesn’t show any sign of changing. But even when business was different, it was characterized by puzzles and obstacles. If it were as easy as picking up cash off the street everyone would be rich.
Proper research and analysis helps a business overcome their ongoing challenges and emergencies. Everyday logistical issues such as sourcing and delivery can require a great deal of research and analysis to ensure profitability and stability. A supply chain is a complex thing and minor changes can mean big problems. A supply chain is just one example where research and analysis comes into play. The ability to simplify the complex is useful every day.
HOW TO ACHIEVE THIS SKILL: This is one of the more difficult skill sets to learn. The best way is to take classes, but the most natural way is to play games. Chess, poker and other games that require you to think several moves ahead all help wire your brain for analysis. To learn research, choose an arcane subject that interests you and read journal articles… and then read the citations.
1: You Can Write Computer Code
Chances are good that if you’re interested in this article you don’t know how to code… because it’s kind of a challenge to find an out of work computer programmer. Coders, as the cool kids in the programming set like to be called, are in high demand and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. It goes without saying that computers play an integral part of the vast majority of the workplace. While business software suites exist for virtually all common tasks, there are still plenty of businesses that require custom software. Every warehouse is a little different. Every manufacturing line has its own way of doing things. Many small business functions can be simplified or automated with a few lines of code, and the person who can do that for their boss can appear to be a wizard.
Programming skills not only make you more employable in your current workplace but, as you improve, they make you one hell of a hot commodity. Dedicated programmers cost a ton. So much so that the hiring of young college graduates creates a lot of turnover. The flip side of this is that a valued employee with some programming ability improves their salary prospects and job retention while still saving the company money. Having an invaluable skill without costing an arm and a leg? Business win.
HOW TO ACHIEVE THIS SKILL: Believe it or not, learning to code isn’t all that difficult. The hardest part really is patience. Coding is logic, and if you can form complex sentences you can learn to code. Get a book, a compiler, go on YouTube and carve out ten hours a week and you’ll be amazed what you can make your computer do.