Peak's Hard Skill Foundations
To be competitive in the workplace there are a few basic skills that every employee must have under their belt. Think of your career as a pyramid. Every good pyramid needs a strong foundation, each level gathering strength from the section below. By mastering these basic skills you put yourself above the average job seeker and prove to decision-makers that you care about your future.
1. Use of Software
Any professional office setting will require some use of
software. The most commonly used software is Microsoft Office. Becoming proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint allows you to jump immediately in to the office environment and understand basic document management, data entry, and presentation preparation. Do not confuse being proficient with Microsoft Office with having some basic previous experience with Microsoft Office. Each of these programs have many useful tools and abilities beyond the first impression. When entering the job market you should know how to do at least the following:
Quickbooks is a must for anyone interested in bookkeeping or accounting. Even if a company doesn't use Quickbooks knowing how to use the program will help in learning a different bookkeeping or accounting software.
And if there is other software specific to your industry make sure you are familiar with the software and have a basic understanding of how it works.
2. Office Math Skills
With today's technology it may seem arbitrary to refresh your math skills but knowing how to perform basic math skills will come in handy when you're in a pinch and there isn't a calculator to be found. Be comfortable working with decimals and percentages.; in almost any professional environment there will come a time when calculating time, rates, or money will be important. It is amazing how many people in today's workforce do not understand the basic principles of math. Without this knowledge even having a calculator will not help if one does not know what equation to input in order to get the correct answer. Be mindful of the order of operations (multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction) and know that differences when working with money, time, whole numbers, fractions, or percentages.
3. Writing & Grammar
Similar to the reliance on technology for today's math skills, writing, spelling, and grammar have become lost arts in the workplace. Proofreading is a crucial step in professional writing that often gets overlooked for the sake of time. Spell check is a wonderful invention but too many people rely on spell check as their first and only defense against spelling and grammatical errors. Instead look at spell check as a friendly reminder as you speedily punch out that important email. Sure it will fix that typo of "theere" to "there" but are you sure that you didn't mean to use "they're" instead of "there"? Sometimes our programs will even catch those types of errors and keep us from the embarrassment of using the wrong form of two in our professional documents but no spelling program, no matter how advanced can ensure that the words typed are the best in order to get the intended point across.
Read out loud, word by word, all documents, work emails, and professional notes to double check that what information you want to be transmitted is the information your writing delivers.
4. Typing & Data Entry
Speed and Efficiency. Nowadays it is unnecessary to know the exact number of words you can type per minute but being a fast and efficient typer is more important than ever. With more and more of the workforce utilizing technology, there in an increase in the need for workers who are not only comfortable with computers but excel at typing and data entry. Taking a free online test it a great way to gauge your typing skills. The faster and more efficient an employee can type, the more work (theoretically) can done, therefore making them more valuable. But remember, efficiency is just as, if not more, important than speed. It does not matter have fast a letter is typed if it is full of spelling errors.
This principle is especially important when dealing with numbers and data entry. All information must be correct. Trying to find a mistake in a spreadsheet can be just a tedious as finding a needle in a haystack. Be sure to double-check all information before hitting submit to save a future headache and possibly getting into trouble with higher-ups.
5. Organizational Skills
Being an organized employee is often a tell-tale sign of efficiency. Beyond the esthetics of having a clean and organized workplace, having one's desk and materials labeled and organized allows for a more streamlined workflow. If there is a specific place for all files of a certain type to go, everyone in the office will be able to locate their needs quickly, even if you are unavailable to assist at that moment. Likewise if there is a set series of steps to complete a task the chances of every task being completely fully and correctly are much higher.
On another note, be skilled in filing. Alphabetical and numerical order filing systems are common in most every workplace. Be sure to fully understand the filing system in place and adhere to the rules. You do not want to be the employee who does not follow the directions and breaks the entire system down. Have a collection of files that may benefit from being organized? Be the employee who takes initiative and create a system. Get approval from a superior and help everyone in the office by making files more accessible and easier to find.
6. Communication Skills
Communication is the cornerstone of every relationship, including your business relationships! Interpersonal Office Skills refers to the way an employee interacts with fellow coworkers and superiors. A professional relationship should always be kept within the office. Obviously you should be friendly with the people in the office, after all these are the people you have to see everyday however, be cautious about the types of jokes and language you use at work. Each business will have it's own unique environment that will give insight as to the level of professionalism expected. Treat every employee with equal respect and be mindful that just because something does not offend you does not mean that someone else may not be personally offended.
Take the level of caution and respect you think you should show customers and multiple that by ten. That is what customer service is all about. When speaking to a customer either in person or on the phone you are the mouthpiece of the company. You are representing how the entire company treats it's customers and no matter how rude, frustrating, or downright wrong a customer may be it is important to remember that without them your company is obsolete. Great customer service is a valued skill and extremely difficult to teach. Hone your customer service skills and telephone etiquette to put you ahead of the competition in today's workforce.
7. Common Sense
By far the most important ability to have in the workplace is the ability to use common sense. Simply put, think about your actions and the potential consequences before making a decision.
Should an employee use a company computer for personal use such as Facebook, twitter, or paying their bills? No. So don't do it.
Should an employee spend company time that they are being paid for, running personal errands or on personal phone calls? No. So don't do it.
Should an employee wear an inappropriate outfit to work that will misrepresent their professionalism? No. So don't do it.
Any one of these scenarios are grounds for termination in most professional settings. There is no way, nor is there time, to tell you every common sense decision that a good employee should make on the job. But one easy way to figure out the right choice when unsure about a decision is to think of it this way; if you owned and ran the company would you want your employee to make this decision? No? What decision do you hope they would make? Nine times out of ten by asking yourself these few questions the "common sense" answer will come to you and rather than falling into the mediocrity that is the rest of today's workforce you will set yourself above the standard and be on your way towards a great career!