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Returning to the Workforce: What Job Skills Do Employers Want?

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By Susan Hoffman
Managing Editor

Maintaining a work-life balance between the demands of your job and your family is a challenge, especially if you’re a parent. Some parents, for example, might choose to leave a job in order to raise young children or care for elderly parents. These parents often return to the workforce later in life.

But returning to the workplace after a long absence (such as 10 years or more) presents its own challenges since employers will be wondering what you did during that time gap on your resume. While individual employers have different needs and preferences regarding who they hire, there are multiple hard and soft job skills that all employers value.

According to Indeed, here are the top 11 job skills employers look for in their applicants:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Teamwork skills
  4. Interpersonal skills
  5. Learning/adaptability skills
  6. Self-management skills
  7. Organizational skills
  8. Computer skills
  9. Problem-solving skills
  10. Open-mindedness
  11. Strong work ethic

Volunteering Is One Way to Acquire Job Skills

So you might be wondering, “How do I acquire these job skills if I haven’t been in the workforce for so long?” One way to acquire job-relevant hard skills and soft skills is to volunteer for a local organization.

For instance, the volunteer work you do for an organization could involve working with a team, acting as a leader of a team, or sending internal or external communications such as emails. You might also help people resolve queries or problems (interpersonal and problem-solving skills) and learn to adapt to a fast-paced environment. All of those skills are useful in the business world.

Local Libraries and Online Sites Are Useful Resources for Learning Job Skills

If you want to polish up your computer skills, there are various ways to boost your knowledge. For instance, check to see if your local library or workforce education center offers computer workshops for commonly used Microsoft programs such as Excel and Word.

Also, don’t forget to investigate online resources. For instance, GCLearnFree.org, sponsored by Goodwill, offers useful free tutorials on a wide range of topics.

Similarly, YouTube videos can be a good learning aid. If you choose to learn from online resources, be sure to pick tutorials and videos that discuss the most recent version of the software you want to learn.

Don’t Forget to Research Job Ads to See Which Skills Are Most in Demand

Websites such as Indeed, Monster, Idealist, and LinkedIn have information on many jobs and what employers want. If you have a certain profession in mind, review ads on these sites and note the job skills employers desire in their candidates. If you see the same job skills frequently called for in multiple ads – such as a knowledge of MS Office Suite, WordPress or Google Docs – take active steps toward acquiring these skills.

Read Articles and Talk to Mentors to Acquire Industry Knowledge

Many employers want job candidates to have a knowledge of their particular field. A good start is to read industry-related articles to understand past and current trends.

Also, consider talking to people who already work in that industry. Ask for their advice about other resources worth exploring.

The University Is Here to Help

Acquiring a new job takes time and effort, as well as patience and organization. If you are a current AMU or APU student or alum, consider reaching out to our Career Services department. Career Services offers various complimentary services, including:

  • Career exploration assistance
  • Resume reviews
  • LinkedIn profile reviews
  • Mock interviews by phone or Zoom
  • Career coaching

For more information or to chat with a Career Coach, email Career Services.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at APU Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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