As anyone who is currently looking for a job will tell you, it is pretty tough out there. With increasing numbers of people applying for every vacancy that arises, it can be very difficult to even secure an interview with an employer, never mind a job offer. Improving your employability has become a must, no matter what area you are seeking to work in. We’ve written previously about how learning a language and improving your I.T. skills can help; however there are other more general but yet essential skills which you also need to focus on in order to optimize your overall employability as a candidate.
Employers are not just looking for candidates who have certain qualifications or work experience; they need candidates who have excellent interpersonal skills, who can communicate clearly and effectively, who can interact well with others, who can engage on a social and polite level with their existing employees and with their clients and customers. You may have exemplary academic achievements, but the reality is that if you are lacking in “social graces”, an employer will be very unlikely to be impressed with you at interview. Likewise if you are shy and lacking in confidence, this can be detrimental to you getting a job.
One of the best ways to improve your interpersonal skills is by engaging with other people in a professional environment. Attending business networking events can help you to interact with others, and can considerably improve your self confidence, your social skills and in turn your employability. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for details of events that you can attend. Visit Meetup for details of group meetings near you in your chosen career sector or discipline.
This may seem unnecessary unless you are going in to a sales profession; however when you think about it, every one of us has to “sell” ourselves every time we apply for a job or attend an interview. As every good salesperson will tell you, once you learn how to sell, you can sell anything – the product doesn’t matter. Harsh as it may seem, you need to start looking at yourself like a product. Is your CV selling you adequately? Are you preparing properly for interview? Are you actually fully aware of what your “saleable” qualities are? If not, spend some time assessing what attributes you have that would be of interest to a potential employer. Then look at how you are currently “selling” those attributes. If you have skills and abilities that are not being emphasised in your CV and at interview, then it is time to change focus. Look too at your online brand – after all, increasing numbers of employers are checking out candidates’ online reputations and “brands” before ever considering them for interview. How does yours stand up? Are you making the most of your online social presence? Is it time to start cultivating a more professional image online and to start engaging with the right type of contacts to develop your career?
Work Experience Skills
Much as we all would like to only ever work in a job that is directly related to our career choice, it is not generally what happens. All work experience is valuable, irrespective of what area it is in. Communication and interpersonal skills, customer service skills and teamwork skills can all be improved by most forms of work experience. When jobs are scarce though, one of the best ways of doing this is through temporary employment. In a difficult and challenging job market, undertaking temporary or contract roles can be extremely advantageous and a surefire way of indicating to a future employer that you are keen to remain in active employment and truly recognise the value of all work experience.
Undertaking voluntary work will also serve to improve your employability and enhance your standing with any prospective employer.
Even if you have left education and are not working, it is still possible to be actively engaged in your chosen career or profession. Find out if you can join any professional bodies or groups for your particular field. Identify ways that you can undertake Continuing Professional Development. Are there newsletters or magazines that you can subscribe to which can help you keep abreast of industry news? To a potential employer, being able to demonstrate a keen awareness of relevant industry news and developments even if you are not currently employed in that industry will greatly enhance their perception of you.
We hope that these general pointers will go some way towards helping you improve your own employability. We’d love of course to hear what other ways you feel that this can be enhanced. Feel free to let us know via the comments section below.
Need some help on how to Search and Apply for Jobs – you might want to check out TheEmployable ebook.
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