The workplace of today is very different place compared to when you first stepped in school. Between the breakneck pace of technological innovations and changing market needs, employers now have certain expectations regarding “common sense” skill sets that members of their team “should” have.
And if fresh graduates expected their school to teach them everything, they would be in for a rude surprise.
Here are the top 8 essential skills needed to survive and thrive in today’s workplace.
#1 Social Media Etiquette
More often than not, employers or potential business associates use web searches and social media to get a glimpse of who you are, even before meeting up. And while angst-filled rants at 3am about how miserable you were feeling is fine when you were a student, it doesn’t exactly project the image you would want as a working professional or representative of your organisation.
Learn to manage and curate your personal posts by setting the right privacy settings, and go ahead to make private those albums containing photos of your antics from 2009 with your BFFs.
Do a Google search of yourself and if there are dormant social media accounts or blogs that have no value being public today, do yourself a favour and hide or delete them after you safely kept a copy.
#2 File Syncing/Collaboration Tools
If you haven’t heard of tools like Dropbox, Slack, Trello or the Google suite of productivity and collaboration tools, then you should get on them – pronto.
Understanding the difference between sharing a link to a folder and creating a shared folder is not something your manager should need to teach you about.
In the past few years, file synchronisation and collaboration tools have moved from the domain of geeks to essential everyday office tools.
Spend enough time in the workforce and you’ll inevitably be asked to prepare a budget, draft a proposal for a company event, organise a work trip, or make purchases for official purposes. In certain jobs, you might need to evaluate proposals and check financial statements.
Having a basic understanding of what a budget is, how income and expenditure is recorded, and how to prepare a statement of accounts will save you from a lot of headaches.
Writing is a very underrated skill. Sure, we all have basic proficiency in writing essays and answering questions in a test.
In the workplace, written communication is used on a daily basis. The quality of your writing will translate directly into the quality of work you output.
Whether its writing WhatsApp messages to communicate in a succinct and timely manner to sending e-mails to get multiple parties on the same page, having clarity of thought and expression is indispensable.
Bonus points for having empathy and the ability to write while taking into account the recipient’s state of mind, expectations and knowing when is the most appropriate time to send them a particular piece of correspondence.
#5 Basic Photography and Photo-Editing
With the widespread use of digital cameras and smartphones, everyone’s familiarity and expectations when it comes to photographs is the highest it has ever been. Blurry product photos or red-eyed portrait photos are just not acceptable.
Caring about the quality of work one puts out extends to the visuals. Even if you didn’t graduate from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, you need to learn to take serviceable photographs.
Being late for any professional, or even personal, engagement is extremely unprofessional and disrespectful. With apps like Google Maps and services like Grab, “I got lost” isn’t really accepted as a good reason for being late, no matter how remote the place.
Though no one is really “taught” how to read a map (digital or analog), the ability to get from place to place is given.
#7 Time Management
Time is a finite and very precious resource. In the crudest sense, every employee is paid to convert time into some form of productive output for the company. How efficient you are at delivering business value, determines how valuable you are to the company.
Most of the time, no one will be looking over your shoulder all the time and helping you determine what your priorities are from minute-to-minute. Unless you are a paramedic or doctor, in which case your priority is definitely to keep the patient in front of you alive.
Learning to prioritise urgent work while still being organised so that work is still done on a longer time horizon is something you need to learn to do, in your own way.
Knowing how to communicate early to other people whom you need their inputs on, and then working on your own stuff, is also an art worth mastering.
#8 Managing People
There is virtually no job that does not require interacting with people, be they your colleagues, clients, vendors, bosses, or subordinates. Understanding how other people work, what their concerns are, and how to tactfully get their cooperation is invaluable.
Group projects in school is vastly different from projects at work, where your team mates might have “grading criteria” very different from you and they might not even be in the same country.
The One Thing That School Imparted
One thing that we do pick up in school though, is to learn how to learn. In other words, school prepares us with the necessary theoretical foundation, mental aptitude and confidence to learn new skills and knowledge.
There is no doubt that with the right attitude, enough practice, and the help of Google, you will be able to pick up these essential skills and do well in the workplace!