While there will always be job-specific skills that an employer is looking for, most employers will also want you to have some general skills. These general job skills are sometimes called "employability skills".
Having employability skills can help you get a job. They can also help you stay in a job and work your way to the top. If you score a job interview, chances are you'll be asked questions about your job-specific skills and your employability skills.
Generally speaking, there are eight skills that employers want you to have, no matter what industry you’re working in:
- Problem solving
- Initiative and enterprise
- Planning and organising
Depending on the job, communication is about being a good talker or a good writer. It involves being confident about speaking to people (face-to-face or over the phone). It also involves writing well enough to be understood in emails and memos.
Examples of ways that you can develop or improve your communication skills include:
- Writing assignments and reports as part of your studies
- Blogging or using social media
- Making oral presentations as part of your class work
- Working in customer service (face-to-face or on the phone)
- Volunteering to host a community radio program
Teamwork means being good at working with people - both the people you work with and other people that come into contact with your organisation.
Examples of ways that you can develop or improve your teamwork skills include:
- Doing group assignments as part of your studies
- Volunteering for a community organisation
- Thinking about how you can work better with other people at your workplace
- Joining a local sporting team
Problem solving is about being able to find solutions when faced with difficulties or setbacks. Even if you can’t think of a solution straight away, you need to have a logical process for figuring things out.
Examples of ways you can develop or improve your problem solving skills include:
- Doing research assignments as part of your studies
- Dealing with complaints at your workplace
- Doing a study skills course that looks at problem solving
- Talking to other people about how they solved the problems they faced
Initiative and enterprise are about being able to think creatively and to make improvements to the way things are. They're also about looking at the bigger picture and how the way you work fits into that.
Examples of ways you can develop or improve your initiative and enterprise skills include:
- Approaching organisations and businesses about work placements or internships
- Setting up your own community organisation or business
- Making or proposing changes to the way a group you belong to does things
Planning and organising are about things like working out what is required to get a job done, and then working out when and how you'll do it. They're also about things like developing project timelines and meeting deadlines.
Examples of ways you can develop or improve your planning and organising skills include:
- Developing a study timetable and sticking to it
- Organising some independent travel
- Managing your time around work, study and family commitments
- Helping to organise a community event
- Doing chores regularly around your home
Self-management is about getting on with your work without someone having to check up on you every five minutes. You should also be able to stay on top of your own deadlines and be able to delegate tasks to other people to make sure things get done on time.
Examples of ways that you can develop or improve your self-management skills include:
- Doing a work experience placement or internship
- Asking for new responsibilities at work
- Developing a study schedule and sticking to it
- Joining a volunteer organisation
Learning is about wanting to understand new things and being able to pick them up quickly. It's also about being able to take on new tasks and to adapt when the way things are done in the workplace change.
Examples of ways to develop or improve your learning skills include:
- Doing a short course or online course
- Doing some research into learning skills and learner types
- Starting a new hobby
- Joining a sporting or volunteer group
General technology skills that employers want include things like being able to use a computer for word processing and sending email, or knowing how to use a photocopier.
Some more specific technology skills relate to software, like using social media, working with design or video editing software or knowing programming languages. Other technology skills relate to hardware, like knowing how to use EFTPOS, a cash register, a photocopier or scanner, a camera or a recording studio.
Examples of ways to develop or improve your technology skills include:
- Doing a short course or online course
- Asking for extra training at work
- Finding out what technology is used in the job you want and researching its use
- Identifying the technology you're already using in your day-to-day life
Now that you've identified the employability skills you have, and ways you can improve them, you're all set to use them on your job applications.
To find out more about applying for jobs, including how to write a resume or cover letter, check out our Applying for jobs pages.
Department of Education and Training - Employability Skills (.pdf, 99KB)
Teaching resource with some good information about employability skills.
Monash University Careers -Developing Your Skills
Advice on employability skills, including video interview with Monash graduates about how they got their skills.