What makes you “well-rounded?” How do you know if you’re a “great fit?” What about “fitting in” with the company culture?

The answers all point to one definition: employ-ability. As defined, employ-ability is, “the quality of being suitable for paid work.” 

Employment simply means that you have the skills to do the job. For example, if you’re applying to be an architect, you need to know how to measure, use Auto CAD software or other programs, and draw and read maps and blueprints. These are hard skills earned in a degree or certificate program. What about the soft skills, such as communicating with team members, meeting deadlines, problem-solving quickly, or responding to high-maintenance requests from clients and customers?  These are what give you the ultimate stamp of employ-ability approval. 

When interviewing for a position, employers are looking for someone who knows how to do the job, but they also want someone who is suitable to work with their teams. When I hire for my company, one of the first questions I ask myself upon meeting a potential employee is, “could I hang out with this person?” Our culture has our normal set at working the majority of our waking hours in the office with nothing but a thin carpeted wall between yourself and your co-worker. This makes for a forced intimacy between you and a complete stranger as soon as you start your first day. Knowing how to insert sarcasm in conversation, or help with problems between co-workers, or create events to help with improving company culture and coercion are just a few traits of someone who is employable. 


Employ-ability comes from real-life experience outside of the classroom. Let me say it again…outside of the classroom. You can only learn these skills by putting yourself in situations that break you out of your comfort zone, or in other words teachable moments or learning experiences. For example, you will not learn how to think quickly unless you’ve been in a situation such as traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language well. Getting off at a train stop that you’re unsure of while not being able to read the signs in front of you, will teach you very quickly how to make a fast-decision to get you to the right place. From a scenario like this comes vulnerability, adaptability, and critical thinking. All things that can not be taught on a whiteboard. 

What are some other experiences that may make you more employable? Traveling may not be in your future, but there are many other opportunities for you to position yourself outside of the classroom to develop your employ-ability. To name a few, joining a social club can teach you about event planning and organization. Playing an intramural sport can teach you about communicating effectively and working on a team. Volunteering at a charity or non-profit can teach you empathy, sympathy, fundraising, and community involvement. Again, things that are not taught by Ms. Smith in Sociology 101. 


The importance of getting involved, networking, meeting new people, and trying new things will teach you life skills that will make you stand out among others. These experiences are what will make you employable, and with the competitive job market that we are seeing today, you need to shine brighter. Go out there and start experiencing life as much as you can – and don’t forget to have fun doing it!


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