Have you ever felt that you have no "real" skills? When recruiters glance at your resume, do they turn their noses up because you don't have a single speck of STEM on your qualifications list?
While the demand for hard skills isn't going away anytime soon, it's also true that soft skills are more valuable than ever. If you spent years cramming for term papers, juggling school and your social life and negotiating with the roommate from hell, chances are, you've already developed these valuable skills:
1. Critical Thinking
This might seem obvious, but judging by the number of employers complaining about hires who can't think critically, it's not. If you're capable of sifting through tons of data, making sense of it all and translating it into a form most people can understand, you'll bet there's a company waiting for you to show up on its doorstep.
How To Develop It: Read, listen and observe a lot. Pay attention to how people argue, which of their arguments are and aren't effective, and why.
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Mention an incident when you had to consider a ton of facts before coming up with your solution. Explain why you thought that solution was the best, given the circumstances.
If you think making funny GIFs or off-the-wall jokes is a waste of time, think again. Anyone who can see things in a way no one else does is an asset to at least 41 percent of employers.
How To Develop It: Hone your creativity by taking one or more of these challenges.
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Talk about a problem you solved in an unconventional way.
Believe it or not, even fields like engineering and IT need people with this skill. When you can write about your subject of expertise in a clear, accurate and engaging way, it doesn't matter if you're not Shakespeare or Hemingway.
How To Develop It: If you ask full-time writers how they hone their skills, most of them will say, "Read and write a lot."
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Think of your resume and cover letter as your first writing samples. Make them spiffy, check for spelling and grammatical errors and ask a writer friend for help just in case.
Remember those PowerPoint presentations you gave in college? You'll be doing more of those once you're in the corporate world. For example, if you want to let a client know how a project is going, a pie chart or bar graph can help him or her follow what you say.
How To Develop It: Learn how to give an effective presentation. Practice what to do before, during and after a presentation. Practice with a friend, if you can.
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Mention a presentation you gave and how it persuaded your audience to act in the desired way.
5. Management Skills
This isn't just for leaders, by the way. If you're used to setting (and following through on) goals, creating a study system and estimating how much time it takes to finish a paper, you already have the basics of management down.
How To Develop It: Think about your approach to daily tasks. Which approach can be improved, and how?
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Talk about how you delivered results because of a system you created from scratch.
Of course, you're not the only person you need to manage. When you're able to work with different people and persuade them to work toward a common goal in spite of your differences, that's a handy skill to have in any company.
How To Develop It: Be more involved when your social group makes decisions. Mingle with people outside that group. Learn when to persuade people to come to your side, and when to let them be.
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Discuss how your personal contributions helped lead to a successful outcome. ("I helped my team by doing this and that.") But, don't hog the limelight, either. ("I — and I alone — was responsible for the victory.")
7. Willingness to Learn
Sometimes, you'll be required to do work that's not within your expertise. In fact, 31 percent of college grads 35 and above have jobs unrelated to their degree. But that's OK. As long as you can pick things up fast, you're doing something you love and you earn a decent living while you're at it, you'll do great.
How To Develop It: Learn something new every day. Use it to better yourself or the world around you in some way. Be open to any challenges to your deeply held beliefs.
How To Sell This Skill On Your Resume or In An Interview: Instead of writing "willing to learn" and leaving it at that, write about instances showing your willingness to learn. ("I learned to code through online lessons and a programmer friend's guidance.")
Over to You
When it comes to developing "employable" skills, you have two choices. You can either start from the ground up with a skill you know nothing about, or take stock of what you already have and make the best of it. Which will you choose today?