New Year, New Job Skills
By Barbara Bellesi
A new year is upon us, and it's time to get serious about those career resolutions you've made. Is your current skill set where it needs to be to get the job you want? Consider these skills as you work to launch the 2012 edition of yourself.
Pat Partridge, vice president and chief marketing officer at Western Governors University (WGU), asks the million-dollar question: "What are you going to be able to demonstrate once you have gotten the job?" He cites higher-order thinking and problem-solving abilities -- which just so happen to be incorporated into every online degree program at WGU -- as keys to keep impressing the boss after you get hired. Employers value staff members who can rise to challenges, so Partridge says to "think about all the inputs...weigh those challenges, and look at competing views."
Work on it: Problem solving is more than just "thinking outside of the box"; it's about channeling that creativity into a viable solution. "[It's] a process of juggling [the challenge] intellectually and arriving at a better synthesis," Partridge says.
Even if you haven't exactly embraced Twitter and Facebook in your personal life, you need to recognize that community is king these days for many industries. Simply stated: Social media won't be dethroned any time soon.
Work on it: If you're a true newbie to using and analyzing social media, Mediabistro, an online resource network for media professionals, offers some excellent online courses and a social media certificate program that can get you up to speed quickly. But sometimes it's easier to learn it by studying what not to do. So hop on Twitter and observe how it practically blows up when someone makes a gaffe -- remember Ashton Kutcher's misinformed tweet about the Penn State scandal? Unfortunately, you won't have to scour the Internet for other faux pas.
Here's the hard truth: "Soft skills" are vital to not only getting a job, but also to ensuring that it will be a pleasant experience. Vicki Salemi, author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York, believes that when it comes to getting that coveted new job or promotion, the real question is, "Can you ace the lunch interview?"
"People want to hire people they like," Salemi says. She notes that a strong work ethic is always a plus in any industry, as is the ability to interact well with clients -- not to mention co-workers. Employers look for people who "are well rounded, but don't just keep their head down at the desk all day."
Work on it: How does one brush up on the proverbial water cooler talk? Network, network, network, advises Salemi. From industry cocktail parties to volunteer organizations, it's important to get out there and find like-minded people. Sure, Twitter chats and LinkedIn groups are one part of networking, but Salemi says, "It's also important to get out from behind your computer. Face time is important."
The Elevator Pitch
Consider yourself lucky if you can sum up your job with an "I'm a(n) ______" or "I work for _____" statement. But if your title or company is one that isn't easily recognizable to most people, you might need to work on summarizing your qualifications into a brief speech, commonly known as the elevator pitch. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner advises writers on her blog, though this tip is universal: "Keep in mind it takes roughly 30 seconds to deliver about 100 words, which is a nice length for an elevator pitch. Too much longer and you risk being convoluted and losing the attention of your audience."
Work on it: Yes, practice makes perfect, but don't make the mirror your only audience for your elevator pitch. Start with friends and relatives to gain confidence, but then progress to colleagues and peers at conferences and networking events. Who knows? One day, you might find yourself in the proverbial elevator situation with the CEO.
Add to and improve your skills often. As Partridge says, "Employers who are looking for people who are promotable, not just employable."
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