Land a Dream Job with Preschool Skills (Part 2)

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This is the second of two-parts. Read last week’s Land a Dream Job with the Skills We Learned in Preschool (Part 1).

It may seem like the transition to adulthood required that you adopt a completely new skill set, but the qualities employers are looking for, the ones you can rely on to help you succeed in your career are, in many ways, directly connected to the skills we learned in childhood.

Foresight has become the hallmark of all successful businesses. Not only are innovators and designers required to foresee trends and make them a reality, but employees in every market also need to be able to forecast what's on the horizon in their fields. When the executive assistant anticipates and meets the needs of her CEO before being told, she is making herself into an invaluable and trustworthy resource for her boss and co-workers. If the firm manager spots and counters a downward spiral in sales due to a competitor in the neighborhood, he has not only boosted the firm's potential, but also enhanced his own marketability. Often, foresight can be as simple as anticipating a busy week of meetings and projects and making a schedule that will reduce the amount of stress you might experience.

Technology  is the quietly humming life-force of every office. Learning to master the programs and software relevant to your field will keep you competitive.  According to employee performance expert Dr. Jennifer Rosenweig, "employees who are comfortable using some of the new software tools, and are very fluent in the basics such as Microsoft Word and Excel, are demonstrating that they're smart and efficient."  

IAAP member Jessica Jones encourages administrative professionals to take charge with new versions of software and jump on learning. This year, she made it her goal to learn SharePoint because she sees it being used heavily in business and believes it has helped boost her resume. If reading instruction manuals and mining software help sections seems tedious to you, try approaching someone in your office who’s a whiz with technology. See if they’d be willing to create cheat sheets for you or, even better, sit down and walk you through easy steps to make you more efficient with the office software we all use daily.

Bilingual employees are in high demand, so learning a second language can greatly improve your marketability. The need for bilingual employees is rapidly increasing in the healthcare, finance and public service sectors. You don’t have to be employed at a company that serves the global market to use your bi-lingual skills. According to the U.S. Labor Department, employment of interpreters and translators is expected to increase 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. Additionally, even if you don’t work in an environment where you interact with customers and clients who speak another language, most offices occasionally receive or send a document that needs translated. What a great way to prove that you’re an indispensable part of your organization.

Specialized skills are as important as soft skills like communication and networking. Being an expert in the skills necessary to succeed at your job will make you a top pick in your field.

Employees Only Founder and CEO Mario Apurzzese encourages employees to master the specific skills needed in their fields. "Everyone wants to be a generalist, but to the extent that someone can become a subject matter expert, it will serve them." 

Becoming an expert doesn’t always require going back to school. You can work toward mastery while maintaining a job by staying current on your certifications, becoming an active member of associations and committees related to your field, and taking classes at your local community college. According to Apurzzese, employers want to see that you’re staying involved in your field even if you’re currently unemployed.

These qualities can serve a guidepost to answer the “but what skills are they looking for” questions that may arise along your career path. As I found over the past five months, more often than not, all it takes is applying the skills we first encountered when we were young.

(This post originally appeared as an article in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of OfficePro magazine. Ruth Hoffman has a degree in English and works full-time as a legal assistant in Kansas City, Mo. In her spare time, she’s a freelancer with a passion for creative writing.)

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