Careers advice: Develop skills to succeed in the workplace now

26 May 2021

As the old adage goes, ‘the only certainty in life is uncertainty' and the last 12 months have certainly provided plenty of evidence of this. There are a lot of unknowns about what the world will look like post-Covid but one thing is certain - the workplace won’t return to how it was before the pandemic. As new job opportunities start to emerge once more, what can you do to make sure you’re a strong candidate when navigating a competitive job market?

The most recent annual, post-Covid ‘Corporate Recruiters Survey’ conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (a global association of leading graduate business schools including WBS), identified the skills possessed by graduates from top business schools, which give recruiters the confidence to continue to recruit them.

The top skills mentioned by recruiters in the top 100 US companies were:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Strong communication skills
  • Versatile skill set
  • Ability to navigate the challenges of technological disruption
  • Ability to take on leadership roles
  • Ability to handle a complex global business environment.

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking skills are among the most highly sought-after management competencies. Why? Because employees capable of thinking critically, logically, and strategically can have a tremendous impact on a business’s trajectory. If you want to improve your strategic thinking skills, the good news is that with the right mindset and practice, you can.

Strategic thinking encompasses:

  • Analytical skills – to create a strategy that helps your organisation reach its objectives, you must be capable of analysing the current reality your business faces
  • Problem-solving skills - to understand a problem and find solutions to it
  • Implementation – once you’ve identified the solution to an issue, you need strong strategic planning (and management) skills to bring everything together.

Strong communication skills

When hiring business school graduates, companies aren’t just trying to simply fill a position, they want to build their leadership pipelines. They seek to hire managers who possess both the technical skills the job requires, and the interpersonal and communication skills to develop into strong, effective leaders who are capable of inspiring others and keeping their teams engaged.

With 81% of corporate recruiters identifying interpersonal skills as important, it’s worth unpacking this statistic and asking specifically what some of these skills are. In the context of the 2020 survey, these interpersonal skills include competencies that are inherent to compassionate and empathetic leadership, such as active listening, social perceptiveness, coordination, persuasion and negotiation, time management, and management of personnel resources.

Again, this is a skill which can be developed and finding ways to develop and improve your communication skills - such as presenting, writing, listening, and negotiating - is always a good idea. 

Versatile skill set

Particularly in these uncertain times, employers need managers who are adaptable and able to develop and implement new strategies based on changing market conditions. Managers who can work well under pressure, adjust to new and unexpected deadlines, take on additional responsibilities to meet business needs, and think creatively and find innovative solutions to business problems, are especially valuable when market conditions are in flux. As the pace of change in business continues to accelerate post-Covid, innovative managers will grow in value to top employers.

Ability to navigate the challenges of technological disruption

Employers who had already hired managers adept at leveraging new technologies and tools have seen great dividends paid on their investment during the Covid crisis, as many workplaces have had to quickly adapt their core business strategies to digital platforms. Looking to the future, corporate recruiters believe that artificial intelligence and automation will continue to act as major industry disruptors and that any individuals with skills in this field will be highly sought-after.

Leadership

Leadership skills are not just for leaders - anyone can demonstrate good leadership.

Having strong leadership skills is not strictly about supervising or managing others. Instead, it’s about communicating your strategy and vision while encouraging others and being willing to seek and act on feedback from colleagues and superiors. Being self-aware and holding yourself accountable is particularly important during these challenging times.

Ability to handle a complex global business environment

While we’ve seen machines and digital technologies take on roles in analytics and business operations, human beings are still unique in being able to think outside the box.

Creativity is not only associated with typically creative professions either - it is essential across every industry and sector. In the coming years, the business landscape is going to need to evolve and adapt rapidly, so anyone aspiring to work in business will need to be able to tap into a creative mindset, in order to steer their business through the challenges and opportunities it faces.

If you are a member of the WBS alumni community and you need support with your career or professional development, please contact alumnicareers@wbs.ac.uk

If you want to continue your professional development, or upskill to remain competitive in the job market, have a look at our Executive Education offering. Our Executive Diplomas are designed  to offer immediate impact and long-term development for both individuals and organisations, and attract an alumni discount.

Join the conversation

WBS on social media