When it comes to skills to list on your resume, it's not quite black and white. Every career has a vastly different skillset in terms of technical skills needed to do the job. The skills a doctor needs versus the ones a lawyer, marketing manager, or firefighter need are all completely different.
Some skills, however, are the same across industries and career paths. Hiring managers and company owners look for these transferable hard and soft skills on your resume, like communication, time management, and teamwork, in applicants for every job posting.
Even if you’re a college freshman, you can start developing these skills now, especially this summer. It’ll help build your resume and give you a leg up on the competition come graduation day in four years.
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Leadership is a quality all employers look for. A good leader is able to motivate those around them, simply by their behavior. They actively listen, are decisive, and take the initiative. They aren't afraid to get their hands in the dirt, but also know when to let someone who is more qualified shine.
You can develop these qualities and this skillset by taking on leadership roles, even small ones, during your summer break. If your summer job doesn’t have you in a managerial role, be proactive and volunteer for events. Anything from coaching a little league team to leading a fundraising drive will demonstrate and improve your leadership abilities.
On your resume, then, you won’t simply have to include “leadership” as one of your skills. You’ll be able to prove it, by saying something like “Headed a fundraising effort for our local animal rescue, in which our team of 30 volunteers raised $4,000.”
Clear communication is another key trait that employers look for on your resume. Whether you’re a team leader or staff member, you need to communicate clearly and effectively to your peers, your boss, and to customers, clients, audience, or patients.
Being unclear causes problems. If people don’t understand exactly what they’re supposed to do, tasks aren’t performed properly, on time, or at all. The same goes for talking to your boss. If you can’t articulate a problem (and possibly provide a solution), your job performance will suffer.
Furthermore, being able to communicate your wants and needs regularly leaves little opportunity for mistakes to happen. The less you beat around the bush, the more direct you are. The more direct you are, the fewer questions you'll have to answer and so on and so forth. Listing examples of strong communication as a skillset on your resume is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You can develop your communication skills in whatever summer job you have. If you’re in sales, for example, you’re already using negotiating skills. You're assessing customer needs and compromising with them in order to close a deal. If you do cold calls, you are developing strong presentation and persuasive speaking skills.
Just as you listed your leadership skills on your resume using an example, do the same with communication skills by creating a strong bullet point as your listed experience under a specific job.
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Sports may be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of teamwork. But just as group projects are common in school, many jobs involve teamwork. You need to work well with other people. That means:
Many summer jobs are team-oriented, from restaurant servers to cashiers. If one person doesn’t do their job, the ripple effect will make everyone else’s tasks that much harder, opening the door for inefficiency and mistakes. No thanks!
Good teamwork needs everyone working together. You can demonstrate this by helping your team get a job done – even if you’re doing work that’s not part of your job description.
- Communicating effectively
- Delegating efficiently
- Staying on track
Being skilled at solving problems requires good analytical skills as well as the ability to make decisions. You need to be able to:
Customer service jobs can build your problem-solving skills. If you can turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, by solving their problem, you have a marketable skill that employers look for and value.
Problems aren’t always at the customer level, of course. An inefficiency at work can cost your boss time and money. If you can come up with a solution to make that process more efficient or cost-effective, you immediately become more valuable to that company.
- Assess the situation
- Determine what the actual problem is
- Come up with a solution
Be creative in how you express that you're a problem solver. Employers want to see real-life, tangible skill, rather than just something you list and can't expand upon in an interview.
Grammar and writing skills
While most job descriptions won’t specify that you need to have good grammar and writing skills, all hiring managers pay attention to it. That’s because good grammar shows attention to detail and goes hand-in-hand with good communication. When you email a client or customer, awkward wording and spelling mistakes are not only unnecessary – they make your company look bad. No one wants to talk to someone who is seemingly too lazy to proofread their work.
Your cover letter and resume will demonstrate your written communication skills to potential employers. Make sure your first impression is perfect.
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Hiring managers and employers obviously assume college graduates have basic computer skills. However, it’s still important to list specific software you are familiar with as well as any advanced computer skills.
If you’re not sure your computer skills make you competitive in your field, one way to check is by looking at requirements in job postings. Look for technology-related requirements in your industry of interest, and then develop them either at your current job or by taking a workshop or course.
If they are part of the job requirements for a position you’re interested in, make sure to include your computer skills on your resume.
Time management skills
Time management is not just a skill to learn for your resume, it’s one that will serve you well throughout life. In order to manage your time well, you need to:
As a successful college student, you’re developing time management skills all the time. You’re juggling classes, reading and homework, assignments and due dates, tests and exams, plus you’ve got part-time work and a social life.
The best way to demonstrate your time management skills on a resume is to include it under your job description. Let’s say you’re an appointment scheduler at your summer job. Instead of just writing that you made calls to book appointments, you could describe how you improved the job: “Implemented new booking app, which increased scheduling efficiency by 20%.”
- Be organized
- Be able to prioritize tasks
- Set goals
- Make plans
Being organized is fundamental to good time management. At work, organization can often mean the difference between a report turned in on time and one that’s turned in late. It can even be more fundamental than that. People who tend to be late for work often are not very organized in their personal lives. This personal lack of organization spills over into their professional lives.
The best way to become organized in the first place is to make a schedule. If you’re having trouble getting to work on time, start with that. Schedule each aspect from what time to wake up to what time to get out the door, and stick to it. Being organized at work relies on the same system of making the best use of your time and minimizing interruptions. This is best known as time blocking and it really forces you to be deliberate and intentional about how you spend your time.
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Customer service skills
While we mentioned customer service above when discussing problem-solving, it’s worth mentioning on its own as well. Every industry relies on its customers. Being able to effectively communicate with and help customers is a skill that business values deeply.
It’s a skill that embraces a number of qualities:
Adding this skill to your resume is probably best accomplished by giving an example. If you are a customer service agent, for example, you could say that you achieved a time to resolution of 8 minutes. Make sure to compare that to the company average (e.g. 40% lower), so that anyone reading understands the importance of that quantified time.
- You need to be able to actively listen, which means fully concentrating on what the customer is saying and then saying it back to confirm you understand.
- It means being adaptable to the situation at hand, which requires creativity and decision-making.
- You need conflict resolution and negotiation skills as well, in order to turn an angry customer into one who is once again happy with the service.
Having a good work ethic may be an attitude that’s hard to show as a skill to list on your resume, but by taking the initiative to better your resume this summer, you’re well on your way to demonstrating a good work ethic. Meeting deadlines and due dates also prove a good work attitude.
Dependability and responsibility are part of a good work ethic. The very fact that you are in a four-year college program and getting good grades proves to employers that you have work values they look for.
Other ways to show a good work ethic are to hold a part-time job or to stay active in the community while in college.
If you happen to work with the same company throughout your college career, you’re demonstrating dedication and commitment, which is part of a good work ethic. Remember to stress the continuity factor of your employment in your resume.
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