It doesn’t matter which year of university you are in. It is important to develop employability skills for your chosen career path before graduating. Don’t be fooled by the term “entry-level” jobs. Although they claim to accept those who have minimal experience, you are often required to be proficient in at least a few skills. These can be in the form of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those that are related to technical knowledge which is developed through previous work experience, education, or training. Examples include knowledge of important computer software. Soft skills are usually seen as personality traits that you innately possess or have developed over your lifetime. Examples include interpersonal and teamwork skills.
Why Are These Skills Important?
One of the key reasons why acquiring these employability skills is all in the name. It increases your employability. Employers view an applicant who has the necessary skills to succeed in the role more positively. This is especially true for soft skills. Although hard skills are very important, they are much easier for an employee to pick up because employers can provide on-the-job training. On the other hand, soft skills are much harder for an employer to teach as a large chunk of them depends on your personality. They are also used to screen whether you would be a good fit for the work culture of the company. No matter how good your technical skills are, if you have poor communication skills, you might not get the job.
Here Are Some Important Hard Skills to Have
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have heard of Microsoft Excel. You will probably have used it in school as well. It is an incredibly useful tool, allowing users to organise data effectively, calculate complex mathematical functions, convert data into graphs and charts, and perform forecasting predictions. With such a plethora of capabilities, it is no wonder that so many jobs require knowledge of Microsoft Excel. For instance, jobs such as auditing, administration, market research analysts, teachers, investment bankers, project managers, and even salespeople use Microsoft Excel as part of their job. Being highly proficient at Microsoft Excel is a huge plus. Thankfully, Excel is relatively easy to pick up. Even if you did not use it previously in school, there are a multitude of free online resources to help familiarise yourself with Excel. Websites such as Coursera or even Youtube are great resources.
Knowledge of multiple languages is extremely beneficial especially in a multi-cultural country such as Malaysia. This is especially true for jobs that require a lot of client interaction. Some clients may not have good English and it is up to you to communicate effectively in other languages to serve them. This is especially useful if your company has a large foreign client base. For example, it would be much easier to converse with Chinese clients during meetings if your Mandarin is fluent. It also gives you the flexibility to move around between different company locations. For instance, in the event there aren’t open positions in Malaysia, you will have a higher chance of getting hired as your employer will be more confident in reallocating you to a different country if you are multilingual.
Take advantage of online resources such as Memrise and Duolingo to help brush up your multilingual skills. Remember to constantly practice speaking the language with someone else as well for it to be fully effective.
Expertise in computer programming languages can help you stand out from the rest of the applicants in a competitive job market. Although some companies do teach you how to code when you join them, most companies expect you to have some essential knowledge of a programming language. Also, programming languages are extremely versatile as they are used in a variety of jobs such as UX/UI design, stock trading, actuaries, and software development. Notable programming languages that are incredibly useful are Python, R, Java, C++, and SQL. Knowing at least one of these will set you up for a much easier job hunt. Although it is arguably harder to pick up than Excel, there are abundant resources available online like Excel.
Here Are Some Great Soft Skills
Communication is important in every job that you plan to do. Even if your job doesn’t require much client interaction, you will still have to communicate well with your coworkers and employers. Whether it is verbal or written communication, your employer expects you to be capable of communicating with people on the job. However, this doesn’t just mean being an expert at conveying your views. Having excellent communication skills also means being a great listener as well which means that you should be empathetic and genuine towards others. Having communication skills is especially useful when it comes to sales pitches and negotiation meetings. If you want to improve your communication skills, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Join clubs such as debating and public speaking organisations such as Toastmasters. Volunteering is also another great option to meet new people and improve your communication ability.
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinkers obtain the best solutions by analysing information. It is not surprising why it is a highly demanded soft skill. One reason why it is highly sought after is that individuals who have exceptional critical thinking skills can quickly devise creative solutions. Indeed, critical thinkers are great at thinking out of the box when it comes to problem-solving. Another reason they are highly attractive to employers is that critical thinkers tend to be adaptable. They are great at improvising due to their ability to come up with creative solutions. Although it is not easy developing critical thinking skills, it is still possible. Building self-awareness is one way you can improve your critical thinking skills. It allows you to assess the way you approach a situation. Another way is to think about the consequences of your actions and how it will impact your job and others.
Time Management Skills
Knowing how to manage your time is crucial if you want to increase your employability. It communicates to your future employer that you can handle the workload of multiple tasks. It also shows your employer that you are organised and you are great at delegating your tasks. Your potential employer will think that you are efficient and can constantly meet project deadlines. One way to improve your time management skills is to prioritise your assignments. A general rule of thumb is first things first. By completing the most important tasks early on, you eliminate a lot of the stress associated with last-minute rushes. Another way to improve your time management skills is to regularly set short-term and long-term goals. Like prioritisation, it helps you understand what needs completion within a certain time frame.
Overall, employability skills are crucial when it comes to differentiating yourself from other graduates. Hard skills are important for demonstrating your technical ability to your future employers. On the other hand, soft skills are important for determining your fit for the job. In general, soft skills are more important because they are harder to teach.