We have all experienced that moment– you are up against someone who is equally qualified for that job, or promotion you’ve been waiting for. When the playing field is level, you need every possible advantage over your competition to win the odds.
Your education and a college degree will usually provide you with the skills you need to perform your job, but here are some universal skills that you would benefit from learning, regardless of your career.
Hard skills are measurable professional abilities that can be learned, either through certification or previous work experience. Your college degree, mechanical know-how or even something as simple as driving; these technical skills are specific to an industry and typically form the basis of most job descriptions.
These skills are industry-specific. Then there are abilities that can boost your prospects, regardless of your choice in career. These hard skills are sure to catch a recruiter’s eye:
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Write Like A Pro
Good writing should not be optional. Whether you’re sending out emails or writing detailed reports, every field of work requires some level of proficiency in writing. Using the right words and phrases can set the tone, grab attention and win people over in an instant.
Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White: A classic handbook with great advice on refining your writing. Though some of the rules may be a little outdated, it is still a useful guide to own.
HBR Guide to Better Business Writing by Brian A. Garner: A concise guide to clear communication. Garner breaks down concepts with simple explanations and provides tips to apply to your daily life.
CopyBlogger: If you’re interested in learning to write beyond the business basics, this one’s for you! CopyBlogger is a fantastic website with scores of articles on writing copy for marketing and content writing
Crack That Code
Learning to code can help you communicate with technical members on your team, better understand marketing tools like SEO and Google Analytics, and make you more independent and confident in the digital era!
CodeAcademy: This is where most beginners go, and for good reason. This is an interactive website that teaches 12 different programming languages. For something as intimidating as coding, CodeAcademy’s approach makes it very user-friendly and easy to learn.
CodeWars: Battle your way to the top with this martial-arts themed website! CodeWars relies on the user to complete challenges or “kata” to increase ranks. Once you get into it, it’s quite addictive.
Learn A New Language
Most Indians are bilingual, if not fluent in multiple languages. Whether you’re relocating to a different state or working for an international corporation, bridging the gap between cultures and communicating efficiently is an enormous asset.
Hindustan Times published a survey that found the demand for bilingual candidates rising by more than 20% per year. The languages with the highest demand were Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and German. And although not as well-paying, the demand for candidates fluent in Punjabi and Bengali have swelled as well.
The bottom line is that expertise in a different language is bound to give you a competitive edge.
Mobile Apps: Free apps like Duolingo and Babbel that can help you learn a plethora of foreign languages. These are a great way to get started and figure out what language you enjoy learning.
Language Learning Center: Institutions like Alliance Française and Goethe-Institut have branches all over the country that teach French and German respectively. There’s bound to be one for nearly every language. They say immersion is the best way to really learn a language, look up one in your city and sign up!
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Soft skills can either be your interpersonal skills or personality traits. Are you an efficient worker? A competent leader? These are attributes that cannot be formally taught and are subjective to each person. While hard skills are proven with a certificate, soft skills are demonstrated in person and cannot be measured. Something as simple as working with a team is a platform for you to display (or absorb) these skills. Here are some of the most important ones, and how you can pick them up.
Good communication is all about able to relay information clearly, break down complex issues and adjust your tone according to the situation. Great communication is being able to do the same while getting exactly what you want and keeping everyone happy. Whether you are negotiating with your client, pitching a new idea to your boss, giving out constructive criticism or settling an argument with a colleague, this is an essential skill to master across all industries.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg: This is an excellent reference that can learn how to resolve problems peacefully, build trust and prevent future conflicts – all by simply changing your language. You’ll find yourself improving not just your professional life, but your personal relationships as well.
Toastmasters Club: Another way to improve your communication skills is to sign up for a local Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is an international educational organisation that promotes public speaking. There’s no better way to improve that actively practising what you learn, and this is a fun way to get over your fear of speaking to an audience. Along with better communication, you’re bound to pick up some leadership skills too!
Time Management & Organisation
Delivering consistently under tight deadlines is a prized ability; any job will benefit from an employee who can work well under pressure and prioritise tasks efficiently. But with the internet at our fingertips, the distractions have only mounted and it has become much easier to fall victim to procrastination.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen: This isn’t your typical self-help book. GTD is all about practical implementation – straightforward, concrete steps that help you assess, categorise and perform the task ahead. This isn’t just a book, it’s a whole system that could help you organise your life for the better. Start scoring things off that to-do list today!
Problem Solving & Critical Thinking
“Problem-solving” is a vague term that people love to toss around. Anybody can solve a problem, but how do you know if you’re doing it right? Problem-solving is not just about finding a solution, it is being able to think through a problem, form connections, evaluate and process information and arrive at a viable solution.
TED talk by Samantha Agoos: Critical thinking is a crucial real-world skill that many of us have failed to pick up. Methodically analysing a problem helps you better understand the issue and draw well-informed conclusions. While there isn’t a definitive guide that can show you how to think critically instantly, this video should get you started.
It is important to note that since there is no actual proof of these soft skills, you should ideally provide examples that show how you’ve applied them successfully to a situation.
But the bottom line is that hard skills and soft skills are two sides of the same coin. Neither one is better or more important. Both skills work best when applied in tandem. We hope this article helps you achieve a little more of this balance!