DEVELOPING YOUR SKILLS
Why do skills matter?
Employers need employees who can bring the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes that can help them to succeed.
Employees are hired to help make things, sell things, work with customers, fix things, and several other functions. You're expected to be able to ADD VALUE. If you cannot add value to a business owner, why should they pay you?
Keep in mind that you're not the onlyperson looking for a job. You have competition. To stand out and get hired, you need to look better than others and that comes by having more qualifications.
How you get those qualifications? It starts by knowing what those qualifications are. Then it comes by getting the education and training you need to become qualified.
It may also require some experience in those areas. That may come from work you can do now - part time work, summer jobs, internships, and work based learning opportunities can all count toward your success!
WHAT SKILLS ARE EMPLOYERS LOOKING FOR?
Almost all employers will tell you that they would prefer a candidate with any real world work experience. Workers who bring on-the-job experience usually know what it is like to work with other people, know how to receive feedback, can communicate better with others, and demonstrate professionalism on the job.
Employers typically look for a variety of skills and qualifications in workers. Many differences depend on the industry, company, and specific job. However, "soft skills" and "hands-on experience" come up the most often as qualities that are valued by employers.
"Soft Skills" / "Foundational Skills" / "Power Skills"
No matter what you call them, these are people skills that help you be successful no matter your job. They help you to be successful to work with others, communicate well, participate as a team, and work well to achieve goals. You can problem solve, come to work on time, work through conflict, contribute to the solution, and jump in where it's needed. These are what we referred to as Employability Skills. Here are what employers say...
"We hire employees based on personality and soft skills first, job qualifications second...or last..."
"Communication is as important - or more important - than technical skills."
"Employees must understand new ways to think about the entire business and how they help to contribute to the bottom line, and not just their job."
"We need employees to be innovative partners as though they are a part of the business. Why? Because they are. Their wages and benefits depend on us continuing to make a profit. If we can't be profitable, we can't pay them."
"Customer service, work expectations (like coming to work on time, dressing appropriately, following the rules), and professional behavior are lacking in many employees. They are also the main reasons we fire people."
Employers also say that new employees are much more marketable and attractive if they have practical experience when they apply for a job. This comes from having worked in the job or type of work they are applying for. For new employees fresh from school, any work experience is a benefit. Comments include:
"Some experience like an internship is critical."
"Students can benefit from ride-alongs, job shadows, or similar experiences to gain exposure to jobs."
"Manufacturers would like to see graduates with experience where they work with machines."
"It's important for colleges to provide fellowships, externships, residencies, and similar programs to help students transition from student to employee.
WHY ARE SKILLS IMPORTANT?
Does it really make that big of a difference? YES!
You'll be seen more positively by employers, which will help you get a job.
You'll feel more confident during job interviews, which will help you perform better and help you get that job.
Your resume, cover letter, and job application will be stronger...and you'll get that job.
How Can I Expand My Skills?
As a student, you can gain skills from:
Working part-time jobs, including after-school, weekends, or summer jobs.
Take advantage of youth apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeship programs.
Contact the public library about free classes offered to improve basic work skills such as computer skills.
Contact WorkSource to learn about courses available and programs to help improve skills.
Review Occupational and Employability Skills for more ways to develop your strengths.
Find employers willing to let you job shadow or tour their facilities to learn more about jobs.
Find businesses willing to let you join them when attending Chamber of Commerce functions to network and meet other business leaders, managers, and employers.
Join clubs at school that include simulations and skills development such as DECA, FBLA, FFA, and others.
The following resources can provide additional information on skills specific to your job search and preparation.
Identify competencies, knowledge, and skills needed to be successful in specific careers and industries. Check out specific skills based on the types of industry you are looking for. See the links in the section below for additional information.
Look at resources to learn more about those skills that will separate you from the competition to help you get the job you are looking for. These include skills for any job, any industry, and any career that can help you achieve success by having the skills and behaviors needed in today's work environment. Click for more.
Consider these competencies and skills needed as you identify careers and industries.
Industry leaders among manufacturing employers have provided guidance on the top skills and competencies they look for and have identified in their top employees. Here are resources to help you see what they look for.
This link takes you to a "competency clearinghouse" that provides an overview of the most commonly sought-after skills among manufacturers.
Automation professionals can differentiate themselves with these top competencies.
This links to competencies sought after among top aerospace employers.
This links you to the competency model for mechatronics-related careers.
Learn more about the demand for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math skills in Washington. Consider the following resources:
Skills for ANY Industry
Want to learn more about opportunities to develop your skills? Here are a few other resources you may consider.
Find Careers, Explore Job Trends, and Identify Education and Post-High School training options that can prepare you for your future employment opportunities.
Washington Workforce Portal (AWB - Association of Washington Business)
A portal for students to find resources for employment, career development, and opportunity to prepare for their futures.
Learn about several careers and employers. Watch videos that show a "day in the life" of several careers from employers around the State of Washington.
If you are thinking of college or university, here is a resource to learn more about programs, institutions, and ways to pay for college. We cover more on our page about Education but click here to discover more from the State of Washington about the resources available to you.
Want to work on your career training BEFORE finishing high school? Consider enrolling in a program if you are near a Skills Center. Learn more by following this link.
Find out more information about careers that are in demand around the state.
Identify options and resources that may help you develop resources and skills needed for your career choice.
Download the PDF report on jobs available in the State of Washington for students.
A free job seeker's guide offered by The Career Gateway to support your career development.