The Value of Skills
By Tanya Kett.
Recently, I read some interesting CPC Facebook Group posts on the topic of career-changers and the challenges they face. Those posts sparked the idea for this article on the value of skills.
Job Seekers Often Need Help Deciphering Job Postings
I work with job seekers who frequently misinterpret job postings. They mistakenly determine that they should not apply for the job because they’re lacking certain requirements, or they don’t have the requested years of experience.
For experienced career professionals, it’s second nature to be able to work out strategies to deal with such issues. But for job seekers who fall short on job posting requirements – particularly new grads or career-changers – perceived shortfalls can seem like insurmountable barriers.
I tell my clients that I quickly skim a job posting looking for a “qualifications” or “skills” section. I do this because the most important information about the employer’s requirements will be found in these sections. The top of a posting usually describes job duties (which are trainable), but reading those duties first may scare off job seekers if their experience doesn’t match. They never make it to the “qualifications” section of the posting.
Then there’s the dreaded years of experience. Job postings frequently ask for experience, whether it is two years or 10 years, and job seekers may abandon the idea of applying if they don’t fit the bill. Career-changers and new grads alike will face the challenge of overcoming the experience gap.
Of course, employers prefer to hire someone with job-specific experience because it is usually faster and easier to train an experienced new hire. In reality, though, employers are often very flexible in regard to a candidate’s previous time in a role. I say this based on many success stories of job-seeking clients and on personal experience. I landed my first professional role straight out of university even though the job posting asked for two years’ experience. I attribute this achievement to a successful interview and to having just graduated with current, relevant educational credentials.
Leverage Clients’ Skills to Boost Their Confidence
I encourage clients to carefully look at job postings to determine what tops the list of requirements (not job duties or responsibilities). Often, they’ll find a list of required skills – skills that are transferable, such as communication, teamwork, positive attitude, leadership, adaptability, etc. These skills have probably been honed in different job settings but can be readily showcased in job-search documents to demonstrate how the candidate aligns with and adds value to the employer’s needs.
Job seekers may not recognize the value in their transferable skills, but employers do. Duties and responsibilities involved in a job can be trained, but attitude, cultural fit, and personal qualities cannot. Employers typically seek a candidate who is able to demonstrate how his or her unique value proposition will benefit the team and the company.
If your clients’ experiences are not a perfect fit for a job posting, help them to focus on the transferable skills that speak to the prospective employer.
The Conference Board of Canada’s Employability Skills list is one of the resources I recommend to clients in order to reinforce the value of commonly sought-after skills. I encourage them to start developing stories about how they gained these skills and the results of deploying them.
Focusing on these skills and incorporating them into the résumé/cover letter – along with keywords from the job posting – usually gives a short-on-experience job seeker a boost in confidence. I’ve witnessed such clients change their attitudes about the potential of landing an interview. Once they recognize the value of the skills they possess, they start thinking about how they’ll prove their value, in-person, to the prospective employer.
Skills for the Future
Technology and globalization play huge roles in career development, resulting in emerging jobs and new skills. This fact makes it very important for career professionals to stay on top of trends.
In an interview with CBC, Stephen Harrington, a senior manager with the consulting firm Deloitte, states that “Canadians are going to have to get creative to future-proof their careers.” It’s worth reviewing Mr. Harrington’s 7-minute interview in this CBC article.
Skills will continue to be vital for success in the workplace and they will evolve over time. No matter what the list of desired skills looks like in the future, I have no doubt that we, as a community of supportive career professionals, will continue to encourage our clients, helping them to showcase and leverage the valuable skills they already have as they move forward in their careers.
Completing CPC’s Certified Employment Strategist certification course is an excellent way to ensure you’re equipped with current strategies and techniques to help your career transition clients achieve successful outcomes.