Many young people find applying for their first jobs hugely difficult and demoralising. This is because often they assume that they are not qualified. For the most part, this is not the case. Many entry level jobs do not require special qualifications or prior experience, just a number of transferable “skills”.

A drain cover with the words communication written on it

Image Credit: Alan Levine/

This language of “skills” can be confusing to young people. Often they just presume that they will not have any of the skills required but this is unlikely. Many of the transferrable skills employers ask for can be gained through part-time jobs, volunteering, hobbies and extracurricular activities or even just by going to school. A young person may not understand what it means to be a good communicator or a self-starter but that does not mean that they have not picked up these skills during their education.

This is where parents come in. You can really help your child sift through their many achievements and translate them into the language of “skills”. This will give employers a much better impression of why your son or daughter would be good for the job.


Required Skills:

Below is a list of the skills most commonly asked for by employers:

"Core Skills"  Further Skills 
Communication Skills   Problem Solving
Attention to Detail   Computer Skills
 Organisational Skills  Team Working
 Self Motivation Independent Working 
 Time Management  Leadership Skills
 Interpersonal Skills

The group of “Core Skills” are those necessary for pretty much every job. They imply that the candidate will turn up, carry out their work with care, get thing done on time and generally conduct themselves properly.

However, do not worry if your child does not have all of the above skills. Everyone cannot be good at everything. Students should aim to have two or three of the other skills listed above, depending on what sort of career they want to go into.


Helping Your Child Understand Their Skills:

Now that you know what skills employers are after, you can sit down with your child and help them to determine which of these they have. The best way to do this is to go through all their strengths and interests. Get them to list all of their hobbies, extra-curricular activities and anything they do in their spare time, however small or silly it may seem. Then ask them to list a few subjects at school that they think they excel at.

Now they can see all of the places that they may have gained the skills that they require. It is important to note that they may have gained skills directly, from a hobby or subject, or indirectly. For example, leadership skills gained as captain of a sports team, would be gained directly, but organisational skills gained from doing a hobby, working and doing well at school simultaneously, would be gained indirectly.

Go through their lists with them and discuss any skills that they may have gained directly or indirectly from their time at school, their hobbies, their part-time jobs or other life experiences. For more information about where your child might have gained certain skills, see our related blog posts.


Helping your Child Build Their Skills:

Once you and your son or daughter have a better understanding of what skills they have, you can start to look at filling in the gaps. For example, they may already have many of the core skills they need but if they wanted to go into a sector like retail they might need to improve their communication skills. Equally they may need to develop more specialist “hard skills” necessary for particular industries, for example maths for Engineering.

They can build these skills in a number of different ways. Volunteering is a great way to build soft skills as it is easier to get into than a part-time job but can provide many of the same experiences as working. Finding a hobby or joining a club or team is an excellent way to build interpersonal skills, test organisational ability and learn how to work in a team. Finally, carrying out one of the many different types of work experience will help young people build up their office-based or professional skill set.

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