by Rachel Vilsack

Workers just starting out in the job market know – or will quickly learn – that there are key skills employers expect of their workforce. Often called “soft skills,” these qualities are not always learned in a classroom or on the job. But workers will take these skills to every job they have during their lifetime. A new report highlights the six key workplace skills and how they relate to work.


Key Workplace Skills

  1. Communication is what we say, hear and see.  Communication is critical in the job search process, from what you write on a resume or job application to what you say in a job interview with an employer. Communication doesn’t end when you get the job. In the workplace, you have to communicate with your supervisor and coworkers. Understanding different communication styles is important.
  2. While an employer will be interested in the skills and knowledge that you can bring to a job, they will also look for candidates who demonstrate enthusiasm, or how you work in an upbeat and cooperative way.  A positive attitude signals to an employer that you’ll provide good customer service, resolve conflicts effectively, and work productively with others.
  3. A business will be successful when its employees can work well together. Teamwork might include cooperation, contributing to the group, respecting differences of opinion and preferences, and participate in group decision-making. Teamwork is often the first step in developing leadership skills.
  4. Most jobs are found through networking. When thinking about a job or career field, it’s important to talk with family members, teachers, and friends about your goals and interests.  Informational meetings with professionals can also help you learn more about jobs, industries and companies. Networking is a skill you have to practice.
  5. Problem solving and critical thinking are skills that refer to the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve problems. You may face ethical decisions and other peoples’ perceptions in the workplace, so it’s important to understand how to respond accordingly.
  6. Wrap up the five skills listed above and you have professionalism. A professional employee will arrive to work on time, be dressed appropriately, and take responsibility for their behavior. Professionalism gives you the edge and will help you get ahead in your career.


Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success is a new resource created by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Filled with activities to help youth understand soft skills and how they related to work, the materials were designed with youth service professionals in mind – especially those who work with youth age 14 to 21. Activities were created to be inclusive of all youth, regardless of disability or difference in learning style.