Want to level up your career? You might want to brush up on those writing skills. In PayScale’s 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report, hiring managers said writing was the hard skill most lacking in new grads – beyond data analysis, industry-specific software, or coding.
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These were the hard skills hiring managers said recent grads needed (together with the percentage of managers who identified that skill as most lacking):
Writing proficiency: 44 percent
Public speaking: 39 percent
Data analysis (Excel, Tableau, Python, R, etc.): 36 percent
Industry-specific software (Salesforce, CAD, Quickbooks, etc.): 34 percent
Mathematics: 19 percent
Design: 14 percent
Coding/computer programming: 12 percent
Foreign language proficiency: 11 percent
SEO/SEM marketing: 7 percent
Whose Job Is It to Provide These Skills?
Workplace expert and author Dan Schawbel, who partnered with PayScale and Money Magazine on the report, says that schools bear responsibility for turning out students who are not prepared for the workplace.
“Our school system continues to focus on topics that aren’t relevant in the professional world,” he writes. “Furthermore, colleges keep increasing their tuition, yet their curriculums are becoming more and more irrelevant; they simply aren’t adjusting fast enough to keep up with the demands of companies.”
What’s the answer?
“I’ve always said that companies and colleges need to work together more closely,” Schawbel says. “School presidents need to meet with heads of HR to discuss the skills required in the modern workplace and then create a curriculum that produces students who possess those skills. For instance, based on this data from PayScale, it’s obvious that no student should be given a degree without taking both a writing and speaking course.”
Of course, unless you’re a school president or a corporate decision-maker, such large-scale change is out of your hands. As an individual worker, the best approach is to assess honestly your skills and try to bridge the gap on your own.
How to Bridge the Gap
1. Get feedback.
The first and most difficult step might be figuring out what you’re lacking. If you’re already employed, and have a good relationship with a manager, now’s the time to encourage constructive criticism during your one-on-ones (way before review time, when cash and/or promotions might be on the line). Even if your manager doesn’t have any top-of-mind advice, he or she will be impressed with your willingness to seek direction – and if there is something you can improve on, you’re more likely to hear about it if you’re open to discussion.
If you’re still looking for a job, it never hurts to ask hiring managers if they have any thoughts on why the perfect candidate (the one who was just hired for the job in question) got the job. Many times, hiring managers will demure, but sometimes you’ll get the honest feedback you need.
In any case, you can often figure out where you need to improve by paying attention. If there’s an issue that comes up again and again in your career, or a skill that would make your job easier, you’ll notice – as long as you’re looking.
2. Do research.
Where do you want to be in five years, or even next year? What do people with those jobs have that you don’t have? This is where LinkedIn and your personal network will come in handy. Look for the skills that seem most essential to the job of your dreams. Ask people with those jobs how they got where they are, and what advice they have to offer. Get in the habit of thinking of your career in terms of a journey, instead of just a series of jumps from Point A to Point B.
Once you’ve figured out where your own personal skills gap is, fill it. Take an online class, or start working toward a certification that’s valuable in your field. If your writing skills are lacking, for example, take a business writing course at your local college. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You’ll need to do that again and again over the course of your career; there’s no better time than today to get started.
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