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The Skills Gap Is Real: 8 Skills You Didn’t Know You Needed

Have you ever handed in a resume, certain you’re a perfect match, but not gotten the job? The reason may have been a skills gap.

Skills gaps are increasingly common – but they are also easy to solve. Learn what skills gaps are and the eight most common gap skills you should master and add to your resume.

What Is a Skills Gap?

Sometimes, skills gaps are caused by employment gaps on your resume. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a few years, industry standards, software, and other elements may have changed.

But many careers are riddled with skills gaps right out of the gate. Workforce training resource Go Skills described the problem this way: “Eighty-seven percent of college grads believe they’re well-prepared for the workforce… only 50 percent of hiring managers think grads are well-prepared for the workforce. And another study found that a whopping 92 percent of executives believe American workers are underskilled.”

They further defined a skills gap as “the divide between the skills employers expect employees to have and the skills employees and job seekers actually possess.”

A 2016 report from Payscale identified a number of hard and soft skills that managers feel new grads often lack. The following are the eight most common – and some of the most important.

1.  Writing Proficiency

According to Payscale, “44 percent of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates.”

Writing is essential to most jobs. Whether you’re helping clients fill out paperwork, writing reports, or composing emails to your team, you need to be able to write clearly, concisely, and with few mistakes.

Believe it or not, reading is one of the best ways to become a good writer. Keep up with new publications in your industry or simply find something that interests you. Then, employ a proofreading program like Grammarly to catch your mistakes and help you learn to avoid them.

You can add writing experience to your resume by contributing to industry blogs or websites.

2.  Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

Sixty percent of managers feel that grads don’t have enough critical thinking or problem-solving skills. This is a long-standing problem. Decades ago, my father, who worked in sales, complained that his team often lost sales because individuals weren’t able to think through and solve customer complaints.

How can you improve your problem-solving skills? The next time you encounter a challenge, think through the six steps of problem-solving:

  • Identify the problem.
  • Research the causes.
  • Think about possible solutions.
  • Make a decision – choose the solution with the best probable outcome.
  • Act on your decision.
  • Analyze the results. If your solution didn’t work, go back to a previous step and try again.

3.  Attention to Detail

Fifty-six percent of managers cite attention to detail as a gap skill. Attention to detail is defined as “thoroughness in accomplishing a task through concern for all the areas involved, no matter how small.”

To improve your attention to detail, you should produce quality work in a timely manner. It is also recommended that you keep checklists, calendars, or similar documents to make sure nothing is overlooked.

4.  Communication/Public Speaking

Forty-six percent of managers said that new employees lacked communication skills, with 39 percent specifically citing public speaking.

Strive to speak clearly and convey the correct meaning. Alter your vocabulary and speaking style to fit the audience. Practice calming techniques to handle nerves when speaking before a crowd.

5.  Ownership/Accountability

Forty-four percent of managers listed ownership as a gap skill. At its most basic level, ownership and accountability mean taking responsibility for your own actions. When you “own it,” you feel motivated to do a good job, to work hard. You also admit your mistakes and accept the consequences.

6.  Leadership

Forty-four percent of managers also mentioned leadership as a gap skill. Good leaders should be decisive, able to motivate a team, dependable, and willing to teach. They should also master the other gap skills on this list, including communication, critical thinking, and teamwork.

7.  Teamwork and Interpersonal Skills

Thirty-six percent of managers cited teamwork and interpersonal skills as lacking. These highly sought-after soft skills are also transferable – you will need and use them in any job, whether you work remotely, in an office, or even in a band.

Both teamwork and interpersonal skills are linked to your personality and personal qualities. Though these take more time to change than hard skills, you can develop these qualities by seeking to get along well with others. Focus on traits like respect, active listening, conflict resolution, and kindness.

8.  Data Analysis and Industry-Specific Software

Second only to writing proficiency, data analysis and software skills were the most needed hard or technical skills (36 and 34 percent, respectively).

Develop these skills by becoming familiar with Excel, Tableau, Python, Salesforce, CAD, Quickbooks, or whatever programs are needed by your industry. Often, software providers make online tutorials and even certifications available to you. Don’t forget to include any certifications in that section of your resume.

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