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Identifying Your Skills

What employers want – Analytical Skills and Critical Thinking

What employers want –Regardless of the type of job that is on offer, we all know that employers are looking for a fairly standard set of skills that allow candidates to be productive and work with colleagues and clients.

Knowing this gives you, the candidate, the edge.  But how do you use this information to your advantage.

I am providing a series of short posts about these skills and will set you a task to help you respond to selection criteria or interview questions.  This task has two components.  After reading the post I would like you to reflect on how you have demonstrated that skill during 2020; and then turn that reflection into a story.  You will then be able to use your story in your application or interview.

Today I have clustered two skills together because they go hand in hand when problem solving – Analytical Skills and Critical Thinking

What are these skills?

Analytical skills relate to your ability to gather information, visualise and solve simple or complex problems with the information available. 

Critical thinking involves observing a situation or critically reading a piece of information, then using the facts to form an opinion.

Essentially managers want to know that you are capable of thinking for yourself and have the ability to resolve a problem.

There are many different ways to resolve problems, including techniques such as the 5 Whys (really great for root cause analysis) or the Fish diagram (also known as the Ishikawa Diagram).  Then there is the 6 thinking hats (a true classic), problem definition process, and many more.  For a really good list of problem solving techniques check out this article: 35 problem solving techniques and activities to create effective solutions | SessionLab.

However, before you can find the right solution for a given problem, you need to identify and define the problem that needs to be solved. ften we will try to short cut the process and go immediately to what we think the solution is going to be, that is, we jump at the solution before we critically evaluate whether it will be the best solution.  This is essentially put the solution first without doing the thinking.  The solution should come at the end of the process when we have moved through all the steps. 

The 7 step process:

1. Identify the problem or the issue

2. Understand everyone’s interests

3. List all the possible solutions (options)

4. Evaluate the options

5. Select an option or perhaps the best two options

6. Document what was agreed

7. Agree on contingencies, implement the solution, then monitor and evaluate.

An even simpler framework with fewer steps is:

1 – Define the problem

2 – Generate alternative solutions

3 – Evaluate and select a potential solution

4 – Implement and follow up on the solution

And yet another is:

1. Identify the problem

2. Prioritise the major problem (if there is more than one)

3. Investigate solutions and analyse the evidence

4. Consult and seek advice

5. Identify a solution based on your evidence

6. Make a recommendation

7. Implement the recommendation

8. Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution and monitor for any unforeseen consequences.

So, what is your problem solving story? 

To get you started you might like to develop a response to one of the following potential interview questions:

  • Describe a time when you had to solve a problem?
  • When did you participate in a problem solving process?  What was your role and what did you contribute to the eventual outcome?
  • Describe a time when you saw a problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

Use the SAO method to develop your experiences into a great story which you can recount at interview or place into your cover letter or selection criteria.  Your story should be specific enough that it provides sufficient detail for the interviewer/reader to understand:

Your framework is:

  • What the situation was
  • What action you took; and
  • What the outcome was.

Write it down and refine it.  Then save it away in your interview question database.

If you need help to develop your cover letter or selection criteria – contact me for assistance.

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com

If you have enjoyed this article please tell a friend and send them to my site.

If you have any questions or suggestions for a blog post drop me an email.

Cheers for now, Kate.

Categories
Identifying Your Skills

What employers want – Communication Skills

Regardless of the type of job that is on offer, we all know that employers are looking for a fairly standard set of skills that allow candidates to be productive and work with colleagues and clients.

Knowing this gives you, the candidate, the edge.  But how do you use this information to your advantage.

This is another post about these skills and set you a task to help you respond to selection criteria or interview questions.  This task has two components.  After reading the post I would like you to reflect on how you have demonstrated that skill during 2020; and then turn that reflection into a story.  You will then be able to use your story in your application or interview.

Today’s skill is Communication

What are communication skills?

Communication has four elements – listening, speaking, reading and writing – and you need to be competent across all four elements. Communication skills is one of the broadest skills group categories because it can cover everything from having a conversation with a manager, colleague, client, supplier or other business related person, to writing a letter, a report, a memo, a business case or giving a presentation to a small work group or a full auditorium at the annual conference.

In essence communication is about the way you interact with other people, not just about sending messages, but also the way you hear the message and respond.  Communication is a two way process both in the verbal and written domains.

Verbal communication skills are used to

  • Resolve conflicts
  • Provide advice and guidance
  • Give instructions
  • Negotiate an outcome
  • Ask questions
  • Persuade
  • Explain a concept
  • Offer words of comfort
  • And so much more.

All jobs need communication skills – you may be required to:

  • Make sales calls
  • Respond to customer enquiries
  • Run a meeting
  • Provide advice
  • Interview job seekers
  • Negotiate services or prices
  • Write a report
  • Develop a case study
  • Draft an agenda and write the minutes
  • Undertake research and present your findings
  • Write a speech
  • Develop a press release.

Managers want to know that you have appropriate communication skills in relation to who your audience is and that you can prepare and present information appropriately to others.  You must be able to listen for meaning, seek understanding and respond appropriately as well as overcome any communication barriers.

So, what is your communication story?  When during the last year have you needed to communicate well?  How do you make a story from these experiences?

To get you started you might like to develop a response to one of the following potential interview questions:

  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult client who had made a complaint?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to explain something complex to somebody that had no knowledge of the subject matter?
  • Provide an example of a report that you wrote that contained advice or recommendations?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to get agreement from people outside of your team?
  • Describe a time when you had to correct a miscommunication?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to really listen for meaning.  Why was it important and what did you learn from the experience?

Use the SAO method to develop your experiences into a great story which you can recount at interview or place into your cover letter or selection criteria.  Your story should be specific enough that it provides sufficient detail for the interviewer/reader to understand:

Your framework is:

  • What the situation was
  • What action you took; and
  • What the outcome was.

Write it down and refine it.  Then save it away in your interview question database.

If you need help to develop your cover letter or selection criteria – contact me for assistance.

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com

If you have enjoyed this article please tell a friend and send them to my site.

Categories
Identifying Your Skills Job Hunting

What Employers Want – Adaptability

Regardless of the type of job that is on offer, we all know that employers are looking for a fairly standard set of skills that allow candidates to be productive and work with colleagues and clients.  Knowing this information gives you, the candidate, the edge.  But how do you use this information to your advantage.

I am going to deliver a series of short posts about these skills?  Read on to find out more.

Today’s skill is Adaptable

What does being adaptable mean?  It is when an individual, team or organisation is able to adjust to changes.   It is

  • where adjustments happen easily, and a new course of action can be identified and followed
  • being open to change and taking action to make that change occur. 
  • having a flexible mindset to allow us to consider alternative options and propose new ideas.

We are all fairly familiar with how changes in workplaces and technology have required us to adapt.  Evidence of this is in the number of workplaces that have transitioned to an agile workplace and moved away from desk top computers to individual laptops that get put away in lockers or taken home at the end of the day.  In the face of Covid-19 there has also been the mastery of Teams and Skype. 

During Covid-19 many businesses changed their operating mode rapidly transitioning from sit down café culture to take-away only.  Who would have ever thought that McDonalds would be selling bread and milk from their drive-throughs?  Or restaurants creating ‘make it at home’ packs of their most popular menu items.

As customers could no longer come into an office or a branch to perform their transaction they were obligated to go online.  For many, this was a new experience, so companies had to empower their call centre staff to coach and train their customers on how to create on-line accounts, place orders and make payments.  These may be things that many take for granted, but some in our communities are not so savvy and need additional assistance.

So, what is your adaptable story?  When during the last year have you needed to be flexible and adapt to changes? How do you make a story from these experiences?

Use the SAO method to develop your experiences into a great story which you can recount at interview or place into your cover letter or selection criteria.  Your story should be specific enough that it provides sufficient detail for the interviewer/reader to understand:

  • S = What the situation was
  • A = What action you took; and
  • O = What the outcome was.

Write it down and refine it.  Then save it away in your interview question database. This response can be used to respond to a multitude of ‘tell me when or how questions’.   For example:

a) Tell me about a time when you participated in a change at work?

c) How do you adjust to changes you have no control over? [Think Covid-19]

b) Tell me when you needed to respond to unpredictable changes at work, for example a sudden resignation?

d) How do you re-adjust your schedule when your manager asks you to prepare some information for a report within an hour?  How do you make sure you don’t fall behind your regular tasks?

Your activity has two components.  After reading the post I would like you to reflect on how you have demonstrated that skill during 2020; and then turn that reflection into a story for you to use during your job search.

If you need help to develop your cover letter or selection criteria – contact me.

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com

Categories
Identifying Your Skills Job Hunting

Where are these skill shortages anyway?

This is a continuation of previous blog post – Have you heard about the skills gap?  You might like to read that article first.

Before I start please be advised that I am writing about this topic from an Australian perspective.  The comments and points I discuss in this article may not apply to your particular location if you are not currently living in Australia.

A caution: Labour markets are fluid and a skills shortage does not guarantee you a job even if you have trained or re-trained in a particular field.  This is because shortages are often in occupations that need specific skills, qualifications and experience.  So, any job or training decisions you are making should not be made just on predicted skill shortages.  Make sure that you are interested in the field you are entering and have the capability (intellect, physical and emotional) to stay the course.

It would be an understatement to say that Covid-19 has had a major impact on jobs and employment.  In April 2020 we began to see jobs being lost and vacancy rates fall dramatically.  Now in December 2020 we can see a significant rebound with jobs returning to the hospitality and retail sectors and a strong demand for construction trades.

The period between March and now has seen a shift in focus to those occupations that are considered resilient.  Australia’s National Skills Commission has a formula for identifying these occupations and the list of the most resilient jobs include:

  • Professionals such as speech pathologists, audiologists, medical practitioners and mid-wives.
  • Community and personal service workers including aged and disabled carers, as well as security officers.
  • Machinery operators and drivers working in agricultural, forestry and horticulture, as well as plant operators and delivery drivers.

And the industries that these jobs fall within are:

  • Health care and social assistance
  • Education and training
  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Transport, postal and warehousing.

You can see from these lists that many of the ‘essential’ workers fell into these categories, along with public administration and emergency services.

Let’s take a closer look at three categories.

Health Professions – Around 45% of employers had unfilled vacancies in 2017-18 with strong shortages in audiologists, sonographers, optometrists and medical diagnostic radiographers. Part of the demand is the need to service an increasingly ageing population as well as the need to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Growth has meant that bachelor degree graduates are highly likely to obtain a job soon after graduation.  Employment in the health care and social assistance industry is projected to expand at double the pace of all industries over the next few years to May 2023.

Food Trades – In 2018 one third of employers did not have any suitable applicants for their vacancies with major shortages for pastry chefs, bakers and butchers.  Only 31% of vacancies for bakers were filled.

Almost all employers required applicants to have at least a Certificate III qualification and were expected to have two to four years post apprenticeship experience.

Initial demand was due to international tourism which has now declined as a result of Covid-19 but demand is now growing because more Australian’s are holidaying at home and taking staycations. 

While supply is declining partly due to a decrease in available apprenticeships, employment in the food trades is expected to grow by over 14% in the next few years to 2023.

Construction trades – The Australian federal and state governments have fast forwarded their infrastructure projects and this, along with the HomeBuilder program which supports jobs in the residential construction sector, is a strong source of jobs growth.

Even before the pandemic only 44% of vacancies were being filled.  Glaziers and wall and floor tilers were in demand the most, with only 24% of glazier and 21% of floor and wall tiler vacancies being filled.  Other trades in high demand include painters, carpenters and joiners, bricklayers, plumbers, cabinet makers, plasterers and stonemasons. 

85% of the vacancies required candidates to be trade qualified. 

Demand is driven by the value of building work in the pipeline.  National employment of construction trades is projected to grow by 6.5% in the period to May 2023 and there are some indications that apprenticeships are on the increase.

So, where does this leave you?  Are you looking for your first job or changing careers?

Let me help you to develop your resume or craft your cover letter. 

Please contact me now.

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com

Categories
Identifying Your Skills

Have you heard about the skills gap?

Before I start please be advised that I am writing about this topic from an Australian perspective.  The comments and points I discuss in this article may not apply to your particular location if you are not currently living in Australia.

Sometimes there is a bit of confusion between a skills shortage and a skills gap.  So, let me try to explain the difference.  A skills shortage occurs when employers find it difficult to fill a skilled job vacancy when they are offering market based wages, standard working conditions and the jobs are in easily accessible locations (think cities and highly populated regional areas).  Often, the employer will need to offer a higher salary and/or better conditions to fill the job.

A skills gap applies to candidates and is the difference between what skills the candidate has and what skills are needed by the employer to get the job done.  This means that some people don’t have the right skills for the jobs that are available.  They could be underqualified (such as a kitchen hand not having barista training or skills) or overqualified (such as an overseas trained accountant working as an accounts payable clerk to gain local entry level experience).

Skill gaps can occur because of technology, such as artificial intelligence and automation; education, while we have lots of graduates there are gaps in the basic skills such as literacy, numeracy and IT; and training, graduate roles are declining and the practices of taking on trainees is diminishing.  Employers are prioritising experience over potential.

This presents a problem for both businesses and candidates.  For businesses, it means there are less qualified and/or experienced staff and jobs take longer to fill.  This can then have a further flow on effect, possibly resulting in lost productivity (not making and selling enough widgets), not being able to expand the business, overworking existing staff who may then suffer low morale from stress.

For candidates it may mean the need to retrain which can be a very daunting prospect.  Firstly there is pressure to make the right decision regarding what course to undertake, followed by the time and effort to learn the new skills and the potential cost, including course fees other expenses such as equipment and course materials.   All of this may need to be juggled with an existing job and family commitments.

If you believe that the skills gap might impact you there are some things that you can do about it, including a self-analyse of your existing skills, finding ways to close the gap (undertake training/get different experiences), know your work related strengths and be confident to sell yourself in order to get the job you want.

Let me help you to demonstrate your appeal to an employer by developing a strong resume and a crafted cover letter.

Please contact me now.

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com

If you have enjoyed this article, come back soon as I am going to write more on the skills gap next week.

Categories
Identifying Your Skills

Sample interview questions

I came across these sample interview questions and wanted to share them with you.

For high-stress jobs, such as a senior management position:

“Can you tell me about a stressful experience you faced at work recently and how you handled it?”

For jobs where teamwork is important (isn’t that most jobs?):

“Can you tell me about a time when you had to work with someone whose personality was very different than yours?”

For jobs that are client-facing, such as a sales position:

“Describe a time when making a good impression on a client was particularly important. How did you prepare, and what did you do to impress them?”

For jobs that involve problem-solving and customer service, such as an IT professional:

“Tell me about your experience with high volumes of requests. How have you managed this in the past while still providing a friendly and helpful service?”

How would you respond to these questions?  Would you be able to provide strong and thoughtful answers?

Is writing a job application or preparing for an interview stressful? 

Want some advice and assistance?

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com

Cheers Kate

Categories
Identifying Your Skills

2020 Turn Challenges into Skills

Has there ever been a more challenging year for you?

We are almost at the end of 2020 and I am sure that it has proven to be challenging in more than one way for most people.

For many that challenge has been with their employment.  Some people lost their jobs, others had reduced hours or perhaps even increased hours depending on the industry.  For some there was the challenge of working from home, perhaps coupled with home schooling.  For others it was the challenges that their work places presented, whether that was dealing with retail customers or caring for those affected by COVID-19, while others were making important decisions in situations that they have never faced before and no doubt never want to face again.

Whatever the case has been for you, now is the time to reflect and think about how you can use those challenges to highlight your personal strengths and build them into your new resume.

What new skills did you master?  Even if you were unfortunate and lost you job – reflect on how you handled that situation – did you call on your inner strength and use your resilience to stay positive and identify skills that you could enhance.  Did you take any free online training courses?

What about the decisions you needed to make over this time?  How did you go about solving problems, juggling work and life?  Were you coordinating a variety of activities?  Perhaps scheduling a busy day/week?  Were you managing a significantly decreased personal / work budget?  How did you priortise the funds available to you?  Did you branch out and turn your side-hustle into something more substantive?  What hurdles did you overcome to make that transition go smoothly?

Did you come up with creative ways to beat boredom or to stay in touch with your family and loved ones?  Did you make a conscious effort to keep in touch with friends or relatives who live a long way away? What did you do to celebrate the small wins?

Did you contribute to your neighbourhood or community in some way?  Were you sewing facemasks or did you make a donation to a local foodbank?  Did you keep a watchful eye on your neighbours or friends that you know that may have needed some extra support?

All of these things demonstrate your skills and abilities – both hard (technical) skills and soft skills (your personal characteristics that make you who you are). 

So, take some time now, grab a notebook and pen, or your favourite online app, and think back over the last six months and do a stocktake – I am sure that you will find that you have come a long way since March 2020 and are headed into 2021 with some skills that you have sharpened and can be proud to list on your resume.

Need help to create a new resume?

Email: kate@professionalresumesandjobapplications.com