Looking to step up the career ladder?
What is it that employers are really looking for? What does it take for you to be chosen for the job over someone else?
Yahoo Finance spoke to three workplace experts and discovered that while your competence in the workplace is important, the make-or-break can ultimately come down to your personal skills.
Related story: Education or experience: What matters the most to employers?
Related story: The 12 skills you need to bulletproof your career
Experience vs education
According to independent workplace expert Conrad Liveris, employers are looking for a mix of skills and experiences from job candidates, and no two employers value the same thing.
“There is no hard-and-fast rule – people need to find employers that suit their experiences and where they want to go,” he told Yahoo Finance.
Director of recruitment firm Robert Half, Andrew Brushfield, observed that Australian companies were transforming in a major way.
“There is no perfect ratio of education, work experience, and informal learning for a candidate’s career advancement,” he said, adding that 78 per cent of hiring managers were finding it more challenging to find the right talent than five years ago.
“The skills and knowledge required are in a state of flux.”
Skills above everything
Ultimately, what the employer wants to feel confident about is that you have the skills to do the job.
And those skills can come from experience, or it can come from education, according to Liveris.
“Every employer wants examples of complex work executed well. They want to see you tested. So heavier experiences are always front of mind,” he said.
“But, as part of that, they want to know what you learned. Everybody is tested, but what was the result for both you and the organisation you worked for? That’s the undertone of what they are asking.”
According to Brushfield, qualifications are still highly valued in today’s job market, especially for employers seeking workers who are specialists.
For example, those in the finance industry who are Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Practising Account-accredited (CPA) professionals are in higher demand and can boost career prospects.
“As companies embrace new digital and automation tools, there’s no denying that real-world skills and practical experience offer benefits that go beyond the classroom.
“Businesses are typically looking for professionals with work experience in high-demand skills areas so new hires can hit the ground running.”
The importance of up-skilling
Experience and education is all very well – but for those who are taking an active approach to their career, it’s about staying ahead of the curve.
And doing just that requires upskilling and preparing for the future, LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand career expert Shiva Kumar told Yahoo Finance.
“Individuals who engage in informal learning courses will not only be better equipped with the skills they need to succeed in their current work, but will be more likely to fast track career progression, and have the ability to gain transferable skills if they choose to pursue an alternate role."
Australian employers felt that less than half (49 per cent) of their staff had the right skills to keep up with changes in their industry, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Future of Skills report.
Online videos and learning courses can help professionals stay ahead of the curve, according to Kumar.
The dealbreaker: Emotional intelligence
Despite all the experience, education and training in the world, Robert Half’s Brushfield indicated that another element was vital to the mix: emotional intelligence (EI).
“Soft skills, professional development, and strong interpersonal abilities are all valuable metrics against which to judge a candidate,” he said.
“At the end of the day, you can show someone how to use a program, but you can’t teach them to be a good cultural fit.”
Whether you’re at the lowest level of the business hierarchy or in the uppermost echelons, high levels of emotional intelligence will give you an edge, according to Positive Psychology.
“If we think of emotional intelligence in terms of managing stress and building relationships, the link between emotional intelligence skills and job performance is clear, with stress management positively impacting job commitment and satisfaction,” the blog post said.
Individuals with high levels of EI are also better able to manage conflicts and maintain good relationships in the workplace – and it’s something employers are taking note of.
“Increasingly, organisations are recognising the value of employees who exhibit the skills to cope with change and respond accordingly.”
Employers may be faced with dozens of candidates who can do the job: but they’ll be looking for someone they can visualise working well with the team.
“Most candidates have already met the base education and experience requirements,” Liveris said.
“A good candidate either exceeds them or is someone who makes the employer say ‘I want to work with them’.”
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