How To Make Yourself More Employable
How can you make yourself more employable? Whether you're a new graduate or an experienced employee, the current economic turmoil means the competition for new jobs is growing fiercer every day.
This article was first sent to Fools as part of our Afternoon email campaign.
Here's how to increase your employability and boosting your earning potential - so you at least can get through the recession unscathed.
What employers really want
The first step is to make sure you understand what employers are actually looking for.
In a recent `employability' survey of members of the Institute of Directors (IoD), the following ten skills and qualities were rated as being the most important for recent graduates to possess:
- Honesty and integrity
- Basic literacy skills
- Basic oral communication skills
- Being hardworking and having a good work ethic
- Numeracy skills
- A positive, `can do' attitude
- The ability to meet deadlines
- Team working and co-operation skills
Interestingly, 64% of directors said that these `employability' skills were more important to their organisation as an employer than the specific occupational, technical knowledge and skills associated with a graduate's degree.
So in other words - if your degree didn't go as well as you hoped, don't panic. Take the right approach now and you're still in with a good chance.
And even if you're a seasoned worker, this top ten is a good starting point. These are highly-valued skills at any level and (let's be honest) we all know experienced employees who let the side down on some of these points.
Focus on you
Next, have a think about the skills and qualities you need to work on. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
There are several online `coaches' which should help you get off the starting blocks with this. For example, Windmills Interactive is a useful tool for people looking to change careers or progress faster in the one they're in.
You can use the site to help establish the employability qualities you need to work on, as well as find out what sort of work might actually make you happy and fulfilled!
On a more practical note, think about the specific skills or competencies you lack, and how they might be holding you back.
To do this, decide on the job type you really want, then look online or in the papers for ads offering that job. What skills and qualifications are flagged up as being `essential' time and time again?
For example, if I wanted to become a sub-editor, general computer literacy would be unlikely to help me. The vast majority of job ads tell me I'd need to know InDesign and Photoshop software inside out.
A big step, but at least that gives me something specific and manageable to work towards.
Improving your skills set is going to take time, but it doesn't have to cost the Earth. There are plenty of online tools that will help you brush up on everything from your literacy and computer skills to your languages and business acumen.
For example, Vision2Learn (funded by the Learning and Skills Council) offers free online courses on a range of subjects including computer literacy, customer service skills and business technique.
Learndirect also runs a wide range of online courses, which start at £19.99.
And on a slightly different note, Toastmasters is a non-profit organisation designed to help you hone your communication and leadership skills and improve your job prospects.
You can use its search tool to find a speaking club near you, and begin to perfect your public speaking at regular meetings.
Polish your online reputation
Research shows that the majority of employers now `Google' job applicants - and many even hunt them down on Facebook, Bebo and MySpace.
So - remove all embarrassing postings, apply maximum privacy settings and generally polish your online reputation until it shines!
There's no point doing all that skills training only to have your prospects wiped out in a second by that photo of you sitting in the gutter with pants on your head.
On the other hand, you can make the net work for you. Use `professional' networking sites like LinkedIn to build an impressive profile, contact others in your industry and post your up-to-date experience and qualifications.
And if you're web-savvy, you could also set up your own website to present a unique professional face to the world. Done well, this can demonstrate your communication skills, initiative and creativity to really good effect - a sort of professional `shop window' for you.
Temp your way in
If you're trying to break into a particularly competitive field, consider getting temping work in that area first. Temps who prove to be trustworthy, talented and hardworking are often offered more permanent roles.
Another perk of being a temp is that once you're registered with an agency, you may well get access to the free software training facilities the agency lays on.
Have a look at my article How To Make Temping Work For You to find out more.
Work experience is crucial
In the increasingly competitive fight for jobs, it's extremely important that you can show a demonstrable commitment to the career of your choice, and self-motivation.
So - in a nutshell - get as much work experience as you possibly can. This will give you an inside view of your chosen sector, as well as (hopefully) some useful contacts.
This applies to experienced employees as well as new graduates. I've spoken to employers who are wary of older applicants because - rightly or wrongly - they feel they won't be willing to `start from scratch', will be set in their ways and may take criticism badly.
If you can show you're willing to get your foot in the door with an unpaid work placement, this may help allay those sort of fears.
So - are you ready to start applying for those jobs? Visit the Job & Careers Advice discussion board to chat about work and employment issues with your fellow Fools.