Nearly everyone that undertakes a job search wonders at some point what employers are really looking for. Sometimes it feels as if, no matter what we offer, it’s not enough.
I’ve observed that employers and recruiters are looking for three things, in addition to work experience. These are;
- People and leadership skills, called soft skills.
- Specific technical skills required for the role, referred to as hard skills, and
- Post-secondary schooling, or formal education.
People and leadership skills are essential for everyone.
Every employee, according to experts, must have soft skills. People skills could be more important than ever because workforces are likely to become more diverse in the coming years. That means employees will interact with co-workers, customers, and suppliers that are not like themselves.
Last year, I spoke with Dr. Elnora Tena Webb, a leadership coach, and Tomoko Ha, a certified career management coach, about soft skills and hard skills during a webinar you can watch on LinkedIn. Dr. Webb suggested a list of leadership skills she believes all employees should demonstrate. They include:
- Effective communications,
- Work ethic,
- Team building,
- Work in harmony with co-workers,
- Critical thinking,
- Innovative approaches,
- Problem solving, and
- Continuous learning ability.
People skills will, in our view, become more valuable than ever to employers in post-pandemic organizations because workplaces are changing. Labor shortages, and the quest for social and economic equity in the workplace mean that we will increasingly be working with people at all levels that come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. We won’t necessarily have much in common with the person in the next cube, or the next square on our Zoom screen.
A few days ago, I walked into a large retail store and did not like the music genre being blasted through the store’s speakers. As a customer, I simply walked out. If I worked there, I would have to accept the music the majority of the team enjoyed at work.
Years ago, the music in many locations was vanilla “Muzak™”, or “elevator music”. Chances are, many of the employees in a store or office would have come from similar neighborhoods, attended the same schools, and even had the same religious affiliations. This is less likely today.
Our technical skills are essential, too.
Employers know that everyone has to demonstrate soft skills. Each employee also needs the technical skills, or “hard skills” to do their specific job. These are skills you may want to list on your resume and LinkedIn profile. They are also skills employers will test you on to verify your competency. For example, the skills a client and I agreed to include on her resume targeting business analyst positions included:
- Business process improvement,
- Functional documentation,
- Requirements elicitation,
- Solutions design,
- System implementation,
- Product launch,
- Testing (SIT & UAT),
- Organizational readiness, and
- Agile & Waterfall methodologies.
The client landed a job in her field during the Pandemic.
Both technical skills and people skills can be acquired on the ob. While employers place a high value on professional experience, there is strong evidence employers also recognize the role education plays in developing technical skills.
The more you know, the more you earn.
Employers consider job seekers’ education level when assessing their skills. Many of us can remember endless debates about whether a college or graduate school education really improves our skills or makes us more employable. Whether we feel schooling has improved our ability to do our jobs or not, the statistics are clear, as shown below.
|Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment, 2020 Updated by DOL in April, 2021|
|Educational attainment||Median usual weekly earnings ($)||Unemployment rate (%)|
|Some college, no degree||877||8.3|
|High school diploma||781||9.0|
|Less than a high school diploma||619||11.7|
We think the Department of Labor said it best in their headline on the Web page—education pays. The unemployment rate for workers with doctorates was about 2.5% in April, 2021. Workers without high school diplomas had an unemployment rate approaching 12%.
The difference in earnings between those with graduate degrees and those without high school diplomas is even more striking. Workers with advanced degrees earn more than three times the weekly wage than those without high school diplomas.
Of course, it’s fair to say the majority of the workforce doesn’t have advanced degrees, and are not high school dropouts. Those with bachelor degrees earn 167% more than workers with high school diplomas. Workers with high school diplomas earn a median income of $781 per week while those with four-year college degrees earn a median income of $1305 per week. In other words, you do not need an advanced degree to reap the economic benefits of education.
Now, we cannot say that you will land your dream job, or earn the salary you think you are worth if you attain the best possible education, and then hone your skills through experience. It is clear, though, that you are likely to earn more with higher levels of education, hard skills, and soft skills..