Guest blog by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK’s largest student money advice site.
Whether you’re struggling to land interviews or want to shimmy up the career ladder, skills are your secret weapon – and you have more to shout about than you think.
When it comes to crafting an effective CV, there are two types of skill to understand:
Regardless of the work experience you have (or lack), it’s the skills you bring to the table that show you’re a fit for the job.
The job advert will list any essential skills you need before you can apply – and these usually vary according to the role.
That said, certain skills are popular in many fields. Developing these could help widen your job search or give you an edge over other applicants:
Adding hard skills to your CV is fairly straightforward: list any you have along with any grades, dates or experience you want to mention.
Soft skills are transferable between roles, companies and entire industries. That makes you versatile. Some employers even consider soft skills to be more important than hard skills when hiring (source) – good news if you don’t have bags of work experience.
What’s more, if you compare the top soft skills from a decade ago, you’ll find the same core attributes popping up. In other words, developing soft skills is smart thinking.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. There may be others you want to include (and you don’t need to develop all 10!)
It’s also worth considering skills which chime with your employer’s world view: social responsibility or cultural awareness, for instance.
Start by looking for evidence of the skills you already have: think of a time you used it to achieve, manage or overcome something. Your example can be professional or personal, so make use of work experience, hobbies, sports, your student days or family life. Craft each example around this pattern: situation, skill, outcome.
If you find job ads commonly ask for skills you don’t have, find ways to develop them – throw yourself into new experiences or challenges, for instance. You can even get training in soft skills for free online (FutureLearn covers many of the ones listed above).
Soft skills are best shown on your CV with examples – if you followed the tip above, you now know how to write these. You can also draw on these stories when answering application forms or interview questions (these typically start “Tell me about a time you …”).
Getting your head around how skills work is empowering. Hurrah. But, while it’s easy to get into a self-improvement frenzy, don’t go overboard.
Always keep your goal in mind: that might be the career you want a year from now, or the application you need to submit today. If time is limited, keep your efforts (like your skills) job-specific, and let the rest develop naturally.