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The Career Skills You Didn’t Know You Had

Topics: Career Advice
career skills
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What if we lived in a job climate where skills and interests like rock climbing, traveling, baking pies, or designing video game hacks could help us land a corporate job? Believe it or not, new research from the University of Missouri Science and Technology Department suggests that we might be closer to that parallel hiring universe than we think.

In the study, which focused primarily on individuals who played World of Warcraft online, researchers concluded that the video game helped prepare players for interpersonal communication in the workplace. For some candidates, things like staying level-headed under pressure and working as part of a team translated into an ability to communicate confidently with coworkers. And while it might be a bit of a stretch to compare someone’s ability to stay calm during a video game to an ability to stay composed at work, it does raise an interesting question: what job skills do we unknowingly possess, and what do employers think about them? And beyond that, could these “career skills” actually help us land a job?

Soft Skills Are the Key to Cultural Fit

At a time when many companies are making finding the right cultural fit a top priority, the competition for jobs is fierce. And more often than not, when it comes time to decide between two similarly qualified candidates, hiring managers aren’t so much looking at what’s on your resume, but what isn’t. Sometimes, it’s a feeling of ease between interviewer and interviewee — a “click,” if you will. But more frequently, managers say unique interests, or soft skills, give candidates a winning edge.

If you’re applying for a job with a smaller company, or reaching out to an actual human being, dropping hints about who you are outside the office and the little-known, unsung capabilities you possess might move you further along in the process.

For example, we’ve long since heard about how having traveled often makes an applicant more appealing — especially those who travel overseas. Why? Hiring managers have learned to read between the lines and infer certain shared personality traits about these kinds of applicants. In particular, the ability to pick up, move confidently and curiously through a new space, and collaborate within a totally foreign environment speaks not only to flexibility, but to awareness. Individuals comfortable with a little uncertainty are usually able to roll with the punches and play well with others. And who doesn’t want that?

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Additionally, PayScale reported that “44 percent of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates.” If you worked for the paper in undergrad, or fancy yourself a part-time poet, make sure your interviewer knows you know how to put a sentence together. It could be the thing they remember most.

But what if you haven’t made it South America yet? What if you spend most of your time testing out new recipes, working in your garden, playing basketball, or attending live theater? What does any of that have to do with hireability?

How Hobbies Can Get You Hired

Turns out, quite a bit, actually. At least it does if you put the right spin on it. Consider this: a hiring manager might not be interested in hearing about your sustainable garden on your resume, but it might make sense to bring it up in the interview, given the right framework. Hands-on, long-term hobbies (like growing and cultivating food) suggest a bent toward commitment, that you know how to stick with something, and that you like to keep an eye on progress as it unfolds.

Similarly, athletics have long-since been linked to a sense of cooperation, and to the highly coveted team-player attitude. In the same vein, theater provides an opportunity to better understand the world through storytelling, and to tap into human emotion and creativity. It also suggests an appreciation for thinking conceptually. A love of hosting parties practically screams relationship-building and client management, and your side hustle as an interior decorator suggests an appreciation for aesthetics, visual learning, and big-picture thinking. And as for the cooking? Who doesn’t want homemade treats in the break room?

The bottom line here is that being qualified for a job will only get you so far, and that these days, recruiters and managers have their eyes out for something more nuanced than mere technical capability. Sometimes it’s a certain personality. Other times, it’s being able to demonstrate complimentary creative interests that might lend themselves nicely to other projects.

To tap into the career skills you didn’t know you had, take a look at PayScale’s skills report, which is full of overlooked skills and tidbits to get your mind going. And the next time you’re vying for a job you really want, give the interviewer a sense for what they can’t read on your resume; it might just be the clincher that lands you the position.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever impressed a hiring manager with an odd hobby or skill? Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.


Megan Shepherd
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