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10 Essential Employability Skills for Today's Job Market

Image: employability

Today's workers are faced with a unique challenge: maintaining strong employability in a job market that's constantly changing and evolving with new industries and technologies. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the average American worker changes jobs every 4.6 years,1 making it more important than ever to be able to adapt to new career needs as industries change and grow.

To keep up with today's workforce, you have to be learning and evolving with the market, possibly even willing to change careers later in life. To do this, it's essential to maintain a flexible set of skills known as employability.

What is Employability?

The concept of employability was introduced by Professor Sumantra Ghoshal in the mid-1990s in reaction to the changing needs of employers and employees in the modern workplace.2 Employability skills are considered the qualities and abilities that enable a worker to adapt to a constantly evolving job market. They are often alternately referred to as "soft skills" or "workforce readiness skills," as they must shift as needed to prepare one for new positions and challenges.

An employability assessment may take into account the extent to which a worker is able to adapt and respond to new information, processes and industry trends. Because the workplace is always changing, employability is considered an ongoing process rather than a concrete skill set that can simply be learned once.

Key Employability Skills for Today's Workforce

Working with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, the Perkins Collaborative Research Network has defined employability skills as being divided between three broad categories: workplace skills, applied knowledge and effective relationships.3 Skills in these categories are essential not only for excelling in current positions, but also for anticipating the future needs of any industry.

Below are 10 employability skills that can help set you apart in the modern workplace:

  • Communication – The modern business world involves corresponding via phone calls, web conferencing and email in addition to face-to-face meetings. This means today's workers must be able to communicate clearly and efficiently across many platforms. However, keep in mind that outstanding communication skills also involve the ability to listen and take feedback or instruction effectively.
  • Critical Thinking – Rapidly changing industries require employees who are able to analyze problems and make decisions in response to any challenge that may arise in the workplace. Critical thinking skills are crucial to being able to adapt to new and unforeseen needs in an industry.
  • Teamwork – Highly in-demand workers will demonstrate an ability not only to work collaboratively with others to achieve better end results than would be possible from any individual member, but also to fulfill specific roles as needed and mitigate conflict.
  • Adaptability – Adaptability is all about being flexible and open to changing needs or internal structures. Workers who have a positive attitude toward change as opposed to fighting against it may find it easier to stay ahead of industry trends and challenges.
  • Initiative – With the pace of today's workplace, many employers appreciate highly motivated workers who proactively look for ways to improve processes, products and services. Tackling potential problems before being asked by management is a great way to demonstrate initiative.

  • Reliability – An increase in remote and online work has made it more important than ever to demonstrate integrity and reliability on the job. This can involve everything from showing up on time and not missing work or deadlines to the ability to work independently and turn in quality work consistently.
  • Ongoing Learning & Development – It's important to stay ahead of the curve by demonstrating willingness and eagerness to learn more about the company and industry trends, new positions, and additional skill sets.
  • Leadership – In addition to acting as internal role models, employees should establish themselves as leaders who can be trusted to champion important tasks and projects.
  • Organization – Efficiency is incredibly important in any job. Proper time and resource management, knowledge of internal project management systems, and even the tidiness of one's workspace can all be indicators of an employee's organization skills.
  • Technology – Modern workers need more than just the ability to use modern technology. Develop and exhibit a deeper understanding of ways in which new technologies may be able to help improve performance, efficiency, and communication.

Interested in more career-related articles? Read our Career Development blog.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Employee Tenure in 2014," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm (visited 7/15/2015)

2Ghoshal, Sumantra (1997). "The Individualized Corporation: An Interview with Sumantra Ghoshal." European Management Journal 15 (6)

3Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, Employability Skills Framework, on the Internet at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/ (visited 7/15/2015)

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