What are the most important skills that young people think are needed to secure a rewarding career?
That was the goal of a recent survey performed by the United Kingdom’s National Citizen Service (NCS), a government-run youth support organization. Over a 12-month period, the NCS asked 16 and 17-year-old participants what skills they thought were most important for getting a good job.
The survey revealed that teens believe solid work experience, a strong work ethic and good communication skills are the keys to getting ahead in life. However, although those attributes are likely to be important in the pursuit of any meaningful career, they are not necessarily the most sought-after skills today.
The authors of the study noted that problem-solving skills, an essential quality in an age where low-skill jobs are being phased out in favor of automation, were decidedly undervalued by the survey respondents. Only three percent of respondents identified problem solving as an essential skill to highlight on their CVs or resumes.
When recruiters look for problem-solving ability, they are really looking for candidates who offer “can-do” resourcefulness and a unique, fresh perspective to problems and challenges.
That is a concern, the study’s authors argued, because problem solving is essential in a job market where employers are looking for people who can embrace and adapt to a new and constant evolving workplace. There’s no escaping the fact that the best jobs are available to those candidates who are less focused on heavy lifting and more in tune with heavy thinking.
The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Future of Jobs Report clearly establishes a link between future job prospects and problem-solving skills. The report – which surveyed the 100 largest employers in a wide range of target industries along with the 50 largest employers in target nations – sought to identify the specific skills that will be most in demand by 2020.
The report found that by the end of the decade, 36 percent of all jobs across all industries will require “complex problem-solving” as a core skill, while less than four percent will require physical strength or dexterity.
Problem solving will become increasingly important in industries such as professional services and communication technology, both of which are expected to become “more complex and analytical” and require “a broader general understanding of the work processes of their company or organization.” This will be true even in industries such as sales, installation/maintenance and manufacturing/production industries, which are being transformed by advances in technology.
But what do we mean exactly by “problem-solving” skills? And more importantly, how can the average job seeker highlight their capacity for problem solving on their resumes?
In general, when recruiters look for problem-solving ability, they are really looking for candidates who offer “can-do” resourcefulness and a unique, fresh perspective to problems and challenges.
Candidates can establish their problem-solving credentials by accumulating “accomplishment stories” from their work history that illustrate the problem-solving value brought to previous employers.
Some of the key problem-solving skills organizations are seeking include the following:
- The ability to identify and implement measures to increase productivity, improve efficiency, develop a new product or enhance customer service;
- The ability to settle issues through effective conflict-resolution skills;
- The initiative and resourcefulness to identify potential problems early on before they become disruptive;
- An unwillingness to accept “I don’t know” as a valid response to a question;
- The flexibility and mental agility to quickly shift priorities and adapt to change.
A focus on your capacity for problem solving will help you stand out from the competition by highlighting the competencies hiring companies really want. Failure to embrace problem solving as a core skill will leave you in the undifferentiated ranks of an ever-increasing group of job seekers.