Last week, I asked Peggy Perry from Dot Foods about the top skills her company looks for in an employee. I also asked her to explain how students can prepare for their future careers after graduation. Here are her thoughts!
The top two or three skills we look for in a potential employee… I don’t know if I can limit it to just two or three! The number one skill we look for is communication skills. That’s the whole communications package, professional and positive verbal and written communication skills. It may start with a firm handshake and looking someone in the eye when speaking with them, but it doesn’t end there. It’s the ability to express yourself clearly, comfortably and confidently in speech and written communication. It includes being able to discuss ideas, processes, strategies and to create and/ or present information in different formats. And it includes, most decidedly, knowing when to listen and learn. Active listening is a huge but often overlooked piece of the communication skills package.
Another skill on our top two or three preferred skillset list is the ability to work professionally, comfortably and confidently within a group…also known as teamwork. If you’re a team player, you’re in it together, you’re going to build positive working relationships that help everyone achieve goals and meet business objectives. Set your ego aside a little bit and work together for the common good of the business.
I’m going to lump a couple of items together on this third skill, critical thinking (using logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems), problem-solving (identifying problems, then reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions) and judgment or decision-making (considering the relative costs and benefits of different actions to choose the most appropriate ones).
In addition to the skills listed above, we also look for business or commercial awareness (knowing/ understanding the business, what affects it, what the business wants to achieve through its products or services and how it competes), an interest/ effort in lifelong learning, computer skills, investigative and analytical skills, flexibility, time management, and self-awareness.
Preparing for the ‘real world’ of work – so much advice is available on this topic and some of it bears repeating again and again and again. Network, get involved in some activities that interest you, reach out for internships, network some more, get an internship or two during college, network some more, listen more than you talk, then network some more. How do you network? Put down your phone, computer, tablet, etc, take off your headset and talk to some of the people around you. Talking is where you can polish your communication skills, figure out whose style you appreciate, incorporate some of that into your own style and polish some more. Talking to some of the people around you is how you can learn about others, find out about opportunities, share your thoughts, ideas, questions. Some of that talking might lead to an internship opportunity and that can open up even more opportunities. Understand that you can always learn something from the people around you, no matter the age, gender, race, background, religion, job, etc. Understanding and embracing that mindset will serve you well in the years to come.