It is very likely that you are going to need six important competencies during your working life. Maybe you have heard of “future of work,” the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or “21st century skills?”
To help you, we have poured over reports and data on the subject and identified the six most important competencies. By focusing on developing these competencies, you prepare yourself both for the current and future demands of the labor market.
What do the employers want
1 Be adaptable
By now it might have the ring of cliché. But things become clichés for a reason – and this cliché there is no way around. The labor market is changing at an apt pace. People, money, ideas, knowledge, and goods move and spread faster and easier around the world than ever before. Therefore, it’s quite beneficial to be able to adapt to new fields of work, new procedures, and new methods.
Get ahead by practicing and training your adaptability while you are still studying.
How to prepare for a changeable labor market
- Engage in challenges and change with a flexible mindset.
- Focus on possibilities instead of limitations. Don’t spend all your energy worrying about what could go wrong, focus on all the things that might turn out just right. What positive sides are there to the change you’re facing? What positive influence could the changes have on your studies, work, or everyday life?
- Cease opportunities for being part of a change or instigate changes yourself.
With that said, changes can seem overwhelming or occur at an inconvenient moment. If you find a change difficult to cope with, it is ok to give yourself time to adjust to the new situation. We can’t all be adaptable and flexible all the time.
2 Identify problems and challenges
Here’s some good news: Identifying problems is what you do every day at the university. When you select a subject for your project or academic assignment, you look for problems, challenges, and unexplored topics. This ability to identify problems, challenges and unexplored topics is in high demand amongst employers, if you know how to transfer them to a business context:
- Does the organization have challenges that should be taken care of?
- Do they have any undesirable or inefficient procedures?
- Are there any new products or services the organization could start developing?
- Are there any new tendencies the company should be aware of?
Statistically, you are going to change job many times during your career. For every 100 new jobs created since 2010, 44 people have become self-employed. Therefore, you must be good at identifying where there are unsolved challenges that you can solve or codevelop a solution for – as employee or self-employed.
How you get good at identifying problems
The best thing to do is to practice identifying and solving problems in a business context, e.g. in an internship, a student job or by volunteering at an NGO. Be curious when you are at work. Are there any hidden potentials or possibilities? What is inconvenient or troublesome for your colleagues or boss? Talk to the people you work with. If you are attentive to other assignments than just your own, you might spot new problems or challenges that you could help them solve.
When you identify challenges in the organization, it is important that you analyze it and think about possible solutions – most employers appreciate it when you come with a solution instead of just a problem.
3 Prioritize and take responsibility for your tasks
At the current labor market, it is very uncommon for academic employees to get an employer who tells you what to do every day. You must plan your tasks yourself as well as take initiative to start new projects and solve more tasks.
Just like at the university, it will be expected of you that you can prioritize and structure your time and effort yourself.
Moreover, you must show initiative. Do you see any challenges or problems that are not taken care of? Talk to your employer about it. It won’t necessarily be you who must solve it, but your employer will appreciate that you bring his / her attention to the problem.
How to practice prioritizing your tasks
- Create an overview of your responsibilities and tasks
- Estimate how much time you will have to allocate for each
- Identify urgent tasks
- Set up deadlines for the different tasks
- Plan when to work on what
Do you find it difficult to prioritize your tasks? Then talk to your employer or a colleague and ask for help to do it.
Be proactive and show initiative instead of sitting idle, waiting for further instructions from your employer. Look around you – do any of your colleagues need help? Is there an outstanding task you now have the time to tend to? Or could you maybe do some research?
4 Be efficient at teamwork and collaboration
In your career you are going to work with complex problems that you can not solve alone. Therefore, you need to know how to work together with others
Moreover, most academic positions require that you know how to work efficiently in teams, e.g. that you know how to do cross-functional teamwork, that you listen to your colleagues, and that you take responsibility.
Become a good team player
You might have some unfortunate experiences with working cross-functionally or you might find study groups to be inefficient. It’s easy to point the finger at the people you are working with – but if all your teams and collaborations have been inefficient or difficult, maybe it’s time you take a look in the mirror consider a new approach:
- Get to know your own strengths, weaknesses, and priorities: What position do you often take in teams? When do you get frustrated? And how do you prefer to contribute? Consider finding and using a personality test to help you figure it out.
- Listen to the other team members: What are their opinions and values? What position do they prefer? What would they like to contribute with? What frustrates them?
- Share the responsibility and be verbal about what you expect from the others – and ask them what they expect from you. A clear contract is the most efficient way to avoid misunderstandings and long discussions.
There exists plenty articles and books about teamwork. The above listed tips are just the tip of the iceberg. Find more inspiration – but don’t get lost in theory. Practice and reflection upon how you can be a better teammate are the most important steps towards becoming a better teammate.
5 Communicate clearly
In a world full of change it is important to be able to communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings. If you work in teams, misunderstandings can easily arise if you do not communicate precisely. If you welcome a new colleague, you must be able to take him / her quickly and accurately through the procedures and tasks.
To communicate clearly is not just important when you have a job – it is just as important when you are looking for one. Because you need to write interesting, targeted cover letters and set up clear cut résumés. You need to select and communicate your competencies, skills and qualifications as well as how you can create value in the organization you are applying for a job at.
How to practice communication
- Pay attention to how other people communicate. What works well, and what doesn’t work? Try to copy what works well in the communication you see around you.
- Be aware of different genres. When you are writing an academic assignment, you use a more complex language than when you write a blog entry. Be aware of when what kind of language and structure is suitable for what kind of texts.
- Who is the reader / audience of your message? What kind of information do they need? Remember to keep your reader / audience in mind – it lets you target your communication.
You won’t get good at communication overnight. But you communicate everyday – on social media, through your assignments at the university, at your job and in all kinds of different context. Start paying attention to how you communicate – that way you can take a small step of improvement every day.
6 Learn new things
Some mistakenly think that when they graduate, they’re done learning. They couldn’t be more wrong. Learning is a lifelong process, and future employers will expect of you that you learn new things along the way: New IT-systems, new subject areas, new methods, etc. Combined with the fact that you statistically will change jobs quite often, the conclusion is clear: You are going to learn new things all your life.
Just like it’s important that you acquire new information and knowledge, it’s also important that you can filter the information and knowledge you are presented. Be critical and consider carefully what you spend your time at. How is it beneficial and interesting to you?
How do I become a lifelong learner?
- Be curious. Look for what interests you – but also remember to engage in new subjects that you know nothing about.
- Be critical. Not all information / knowledge is relevant or trustworthy.
- Get inspired by friends and colleagues.
Remember that there are many ways to learn new things. You don’t have to attend a course to learn something.