Looking for a job can feel a lot like dating—full of nerve-wracking first impressions, a good amount of sweating, and frantic thoughts on what they are looking for in a person.
However, thanks to the Internet, a lot of the guesswork has diminished. Just as you can now learn more about a potential first date online before signing on for that first coffee meeting, you can also use the Web to conduct research on what employers want. And in this competitive job landscape, research is your hero, and ignorance is your enemy.
Fortunately, in this case the research has been done for you, thanks to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Take a look at the organization’s Jobs Outlook 2014 survey to see the top 10 qualities today’s employers find important:
1. Ability to work in a team structure: It’s all fine and dandy if you prefer to work alone (I do), but the capacity to interact well with your coworkers is vital. No company is going to want someone who rubs others like sandpaper.
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems: Work is not a good place to rely on the game of, “I don’t know. What do you think?” Employers want people who they feel can do the job confidently. It’s fine to consult with others for their perspective and expertise, but make the final decision your own.
3. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work: Every morning, set aside five minutes to list out the tasks that require the most attention and which ones you think your boss’s boss would find the most important. This will help you complete your tasks in a timely fashion while supporting the business needs.
4. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization: How you communicate in person can make a strong impression. You don’t have to be the most eloquent speaker, but if you represent yourself well, you’ll represent the company well.
5. Ability to obtain and process information: Comprehension skills are important to employers. If you feel yours could use improvement, try to eliminate multitasking when you are receiving information. Tackling too many projects at once can blur your focus and memory.
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data: Not everyone is a math whiz, but you should be able to create and analyze charts so you can determine – and then communicate – whether the overall theme is good or bad.
7. Technical knowledge related to the job: If you’re looking to apply for a certain job, make sure to review the list of programs/applications that the job uses. It’s okay if you don’t know everything on the list, you can always learn! If you already have a job, it never hurts to brush up on your skills—you might even learn something new.
8. Proficiency with computer software programs: Computers aren’t going anywhere. In fact, it seems as though they’re everywhere. Fortunately, if you’re not a computer whiz, there are options for you. Check out your local library or park district or your school’s learning center, as most will offer classes in commonly used computer skills and applications.
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports: With texting on the rise, full sentences and spelling often fall short. That style doesn’t work in the business realm, especially given that today’s communication takes place largely through email. If you are grammatically sound and can communicate effectively, employers breathe a sigh of relief.
10. Ability to sell or influence others: We’re not talking about selling ice to an Eskimo here (unless you’re applying for sales, that is). Influence is a quality of true leaders. It shows that people trust you, respect your opinion, and will support you.
Not sure if you’re scoring 10 out of 10 yet on this list? Don’t worry! Every day gives you opportunities to practice.