We all know the basic social skills students and young adults need to get and sustain a job, but what specific skills are employers really looking for these days? With new laws, practices, ideas and ever-changing (often hard to keep up with) technology, the workplace is constantly evolving. Students and young adults can benefit from being prepared not only with basic job skills, but with the newest, current “Gotta-Have” job skills as well. Here some skills that experts believe are becoming more relevant in this day and age:
*Note: While these skills can be applicable to a wide range of cognitive levels, some of the suggestions in this list are geared more towards higher functioning students. We are presenting these skills in the hopes that you will pick and choose the ones that are appropriate for your student population.
Good communication is essential for the workplace, and it requires a foundation of respect and understanding about the reality of your employment. Bosses want to know that their employees are able to both listen to and understand instructions and get their points across to customers, coworkers and the boss. Being able to communicate with customers, coworkers, and the boss effectively requires an initial understanding of reality, so to speak. Students often enter the workforce with unrealistic expectations of their job that hinder their communication skills (for example, you definitely don’t want your students treating their boss like their mom, do you?)
Teach students to be realistic about what they can expect from their jobs. Demanding special treatment will not come with rewards, and it will likely lead to problems.
Back in the day, job seekers presented themselves on the day of the interview and that was that. Now, job seekers, whether they are aware of it or not, present themselves way before they ever step foot into the workplace.
Hiring managers and HR officials introduce themselves to the “online version” of the job candidate before they actually meet him or her.
What they find can determine if the job candidate even gets a chance to interview. Encourage your students to piece together their online identities and make necessary adjustments to ensure they appear professional. Make students aware that potential employers are not only looking a social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter but will also conduct an online search and could find any blogs, videos, and posts they are a part of. If a student finds that he or she is squeaky clean in the eyes of the Internet, have him or her take the opportunity to build up a representation online. Keeping a professional and informative blog or creating a LinkedIn profile can speak volumes of your overall skills and create networking opportunities.
Flexibility has always been an important job skill, however it is especially important in today’s ever-changing world that job seekers learn to get out of their comfort zone. New programs, technology and ideas are presented daily and employers tend to want to stay at the forefront of change. Thus, it is essential that job seekers and employees can easily adapt to new rules, ideas and practices.
Ask your students the following question: If your boss were to come to you and ask you to start doing a certain task a different way than you would normally, would you: a) Do as they say; b) Keep doing it the old way; or 3) Pretend you didn’t hear them?
If they answered “A”, they are flexible workers and will go places in this world. Communicate to students that they have to roll with the punches. Procedures change over time. If an employee doesn’t keep up, someone will come along who will.
It’s easy to just go to your place of employment, do your job, go home, lather, rinse, and repeat. Depending on the job, this kind of work ethic may be acceptable if an employee simply wants to stay at an entry-level position without the promise of advancement or higher wages. However, if your students wish to advance in a career, it is important that they are proactive. Companies and businesses today are constantly looking for new, fresh ideas about how to improve operations or create new initiatives. They want employees who bring something original and exciting to the table. Employers also want employees who will anticipate and understand the needs of the company without having to be told.
Communicate to your students that if they go the extra mile, they will most likely be rewarded in the end.
Teaching students these 4 “gotta have it” work skills is even more effective through Videomodeling. For students with special needs, Videomodeling shows the smart vs not-so-smart way to behave in the workplace—this gives students the opportunity to experience what happens when you make a bad decision… without going through the painful lesson themselves! Our best-selling First Job Survival Skills program shows students the consequences of their decisions—how their boss feels when they slip up, and how their coworkers feel when they’re being treated disrespectfully. For more information, click here.
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The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.