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17 things every job seeker should know how to do

Dive In
  • Writer's pictureThe CareerBeacon Team

If you’re over 20 years old and looking for a job, or to advance your career, there are certain skills you should master. The ability to do these things will make your life easier, and your career trajectory smoother and faster.

If you’re over 30 and have yet to master these things, you should really do that right now. Like step away from the computer and go learn them all.

Here are 17 things you should know how to do if you want to get anywhere in this life.

Write. You should know how to write compellingly, and how to spell and use proper grammar and punctuation. You don’t have to know how to write an international bestseller. But an email, a cover letter, a blog post…you should know how to write these. Writing is a key element of the job search and a much sought-after skill.

Talk. You should know how to speak properly without using slang, jargon, or too many filler words like “um” or “uh” or “you know.” You should know how to speak clearly and how to get a point across. This is imperative in interviews and across your career.

Listen. Much more difficult for most than talking, listening is a skill that many people do not possess. Listening isn’t waiting your turn to talk or to argue, or tuning out and thinking about something else. It’s giving something or someone your full attention, and hearing what is being said. Listening makes you smarter and more likeable. Being smart and likeable helps you get ahead.

Code. It’s become a bit of a cliché, but knowing basic coding can help you in many situations and make you more attractive to employers.

Take direction and criticism. Many of us hate being told what to do, and we often react by getting defensive and/or annoyed. But only by taking guidance from others can we learn and improve. Learning to take criticism and direction is a key element of success.

Dress for the occasion. Know what “casual,” “business casual,” “business attire,” “semi formal,” and “black tie” mean. But also know how to interpret these and to read an invitation or situation and figure out how to dress for it. When in doubt, overdress.

Shake hands. A handshake should be firm, but not too firm. Don’t be a limp fish, and try to make sure your hands aren’t sweaty and clammy. Don’t be too perfunctory, and don’t hold on too long (that’s when it gets weird). Your handshake is your first impression. Make it a good one.

Tell a story. Stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end; and have either a moral, a point, or at least be entertaining enough to be worth telling. They should also be relevant. Don’t be that person who tells long, boring stories with no point. That person is annoying and makes others uncomfortable.

Read body language and facial expressions. Learning to read body language and faces can help you gauge how others are reacting to you and what they’re thinking. No, it’s not true that you can learn how to automatically tell when someone is lying (eye contact has little to nothing to do with it, despite common misconceptions. Nor does looking up and to the right, or whatever), but you can still learn a lot.

Make small talk. Small talk has a bad reputation, but it’s useful in networking situations – and every social or professional situation in which you’re not the only person in the room is actually a “networking situation.” Know how to easily start a conversation, and keep it going.

Make others comfortable. Do you stress people out or make them uncomfortable? Or do people like being around you because your presence puts them at ease? And which one of these do you think is going to help you in your career? If you said the latter, you win.

Use social media. Your online presence can make or break your chances of landing a job and/or promotion. You social media accounts – be they Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or Instagram — represent your personal brand. And in many cases you also represent your employer’s brand. Know how to represent successfully.

Remember names. Never say “I’m sorry I forgot your name” again. Learn tricks to remember names and forever change the way people react to you. Everyone loves to feel that they have made an impression.

Apologize. It’s hard to admit you’re wrong and to say you’re sorry. But the inability to do so – don’t we all know people who are incapable of apologizing? – will hold you back in life. We are all going to make bad decisions and do things that will negatively affect others. Knowing how to take responsibility and apologize is key to moving past these experiences.

Say “thank you.” “Thank you” should be said often and freely. People enjoy being thanked and it makes them feel warmly towards you.

Self teach. You can learn just about anything yourself these days. Use that to make yourself smarter and to improve your skills. Also, you know what is super annoying? Being asked how to do something that the asker could easily have learned to do by Googling it. The same goes for information. People are busy. Be autonomous in your learning.

Solve problems. Problem solving is a skill, and if you want to get ahead you are going to need this skill. Why? Because you are going to encounter problems. Learn to solve your own problems, and your personal and professional life will improve dramatically. Learn to solve other people’s problems and half your problems will be solved.

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