What makes a prospective employee valuable? Is it their training? Whether they have a university degree? or something else?
I believe that what makes an employee valuable to an organization comes from their aptitude rather than their credentials. I know a few people who are currently applying for jobs but have been discouraged to see how many positions list a degree as a requirement. Although they have the required skills along with a proven ability to quickly learn new systems and adapt, they often don’t get interviews simply because they lack a piece of paper. To me, many employers are missing out because they have focused on the wrong set of metrics when it comes to looking for valuable employees. A degree does not necessarily indicate whether someone can develop the skills for a particular position.
Although I’m our in-house editor and proofreader here at ACHIEVE, I wouldn’t say my English degree fully prepared me for the role. Sure, I read a lot of books and wrote quite a few papers, which certainly helped me develop my abilities, but my actual skills came from my capacity to think critically and learn on the job.
When you have a technical or somewhat tedious task on your to-do list, take a moment to think about your current systems and how you can make your work a little easier.
When I was first given the opportunity to edit copy at ACHIEVE, I could make the writing flow, but I couldn’t necessarily tell the author why they should adjust their wording in terms of grammar. ACHIEVE graciously gave me the resources I needed to learn the necessary skills, which has given me the technical language required to explain my changes.
In a Forbes article on “The 12 Most Important Skills You Need To Succeed At Work,” they place learnability at the top of the list. This is because, “in an environment where new skills emerge as fast as others fade, success is less about what you already know and more about adapting your skills by growing and expanding your knowledge base.”
Of course, there are other qualities that make someone a good employee (e.g., communication skills, empathy, ability to collaborate, etc.), but when it comes down to the work, the ability to distill information and learn new skills are at the top of the list.
In a Harvard Business Review article, they state that “Eighty percent of CEOs now believe the need for new skills is their biggest business challenge.” The article was written in 2019, and I imagine this percentage has only increased since many businesses have had to adapt their practices and procedures due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Here are three tips for improving your ability to learn on the job and improve your skills:
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of approaching tasks with curiosity. When you have a technical or somewhat tedious task on your to-do list, take a moment to think about your current systems and how you can make your work a little easier.
For example, I recently had to pull some data off the backend of our website, which required me to tick over 2,500 boxes so I could then export the data to a spreadsheet. But to my surprise, our website does not have a “select all” option! Rather than clicking all 2,500 boxes individually, I did a quick search for a browser extension that would select every box on a given webpage. This saved me a lot of mind-numbing, repetitive clicking – what might’ve taken me hours took just a few minutes.
Know who to ask for help.
Make sure you know who you can ask for help if you’re struggling with a project. Consider who in your organization might have done something similar, and don’t be afraid to ask them for their input. After all, you are working for the same team and hopefully have a common mission in mind. On the other end, if you know someone has been given a project and you have some experience you know would be relevant, let them know they can reach out to you for support.
At ACHIEVE, a lot of our tasks have been passed around, so we’ve naturally developed a culture of collaboration and flexibility when it comes to sharing knowledge.
Notice what would be valuable to learn.
Pay attention to when you have to ask for help with the same task or type of work more than once. These are probably things that would be helpful for you to learn, and then you can pass that knowledge on to someone else who may need it.
There were times that I was asking our database coordinator about how to do the same tasks, so I set up a meeting so he could teach me how to do them. This saved both my time and his as I was able to continue working on my projects without having to wait for him to be available to grab a report for me.
I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity I had to attend university in order to learn about something I’m passionate about. However, I think a person’s ability to learn should be of the utmost importance given how quickly we need to adapt in our roles. Using these three tips is a good place to start when learning new skills on the job.
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