What Are Foundational Job Skills and Why Do They Matter? 

It is understood that a job description and the skill set it requires will vary from job to job. Each job and its industry may require an individualistic set of talents, knowledge, educational degree, and skillset. However, an outstanding job candidate possesses foundational job skills that hold relevancy no matter the job at hand. The ACT WorkKeys system explains that “foundational skills are the fundamental, portable skills that are essential to conveying and receiving information that is critical to training and workplace success. These skills are fundamental in that they serve as a basis—the foundation—for supporting additional operations/tasks and learning.” Foundational skills are well rounded, versatile, and improve what you may offer as a candidate or employee in any industry.

The Importance

For explanatory purposes this skill set is best divided into two categories. Labeled as Character Skills and Action Skills, the combining of these elements will lay the ultimate structural foundation of work ethic that can withstand and support the unexpected weather of a day on the job — no matter the job title.

Character Skills – define the personality traits that are to fuel actions

  • Communication
  • Initiative
  • A desire for learning and growth
  • Self Management
  • Resilience
  • Humility
  • Positivity

Action Skills – define the abilities that are achieved through practice, learning, and experience.

  • Technology/Computing skills
  • Problem solving
  • Literacy/Numeracy
  • Organization and plan making

Multiple avenues can lead individuals to the development of these listed skills. Some may be strengthened or earned through practices of character while others may require the effort of accumulated time spent in a classroom or other environments of a learning setting.

Character Skills

Personality traits and social behaviors can at times be an underrated component of the job seeker’s portfolio. A resume commonly presents a list of qualifications, experience, educational achievements, and technical skills specific to the line of work before a resume will explain a candidate as a hard-working, adaptive, positive to work among – team player. Perhaps this is because often times it goes without saying that employers are looking for a candidate qualified by not only experience and talent in their area of work, but are seeking candidates of reasonable and outstanding character.

Employees that go beyond action skills to contribute positively in the social environment of their workplace role will often obtain an upper hand in opportunity. This set of skills will strengthen the employee’s foundation so that no matter the difficulty, problems in need of solutions, or projects at hand, an employee can steadily fulfill tasks in their most efficient and positive form. Which allows contributing to a more harmonious and productive environment for their clients or colleagues. Having the proper attitude at-hand can allow for the actual qualifications, education, and technical talents acquired to shine without the distractions of a poor attitude.

Many believe that traits such as efficient communication skills, initiative, desire for growth, resilience, humility, self-management, teamwork skills, and optimism are qualities that you either have or you don’t. However, this category of attributes is labeled a “skill” for a reason. Skills can be taught, practiced, and strengthened. These “skills” are the true champions, as they are achieved without fact and formula. With no perfect blueprint to outline these tools, the candidates that are mindful to display them are more likely to stand out.

Despite the less direct nature of practicing these skills; outlines, research, and guidance do exist for those looking to equip themselves with the character aspect of their foundational job skills.

When it comes to strengthening character skills, consider these resources on tips to enhance one’s character:

  1. Strayer University’s Buzz: https://www.strayer.edu/buzz/9-ways-enhance-your-soft-skills
  2. Skip Richard, 7 Ways to Improve your character habit: https://www.skipprichard.com/7-steps-to-improve-your-character-habit/

Action Skills

The fundamental action skills are common skills that may be called upon for even the most basic functions of modern day life, whether in the workplace or at home. Reading, writing, counting, and the foundational understanding of mathematics is considered the baseline of skills. In many cases, general education brings these ideas and skills into play at a very young age. As we advance in our learning, students experience the importance of abilities such as communication and information retainment or problem-solving strategies. Though to some these skills become intuitive over time, there is still a system and structure that is taught. Job seekers of all ages, backgrounds, locations, and experiences may find themselves at different levels of understanding when it comes to job skill material. Whether it be starting from the beginning or brushing up on literacy/numeracy or technology/computing skills, formal and non-formal learning resources exist for any level or need.

When it comes to developing Action Skills, consider these resources:

  1. Local resources: workshops, educational institutions, short-term courses, the library, workbooks, private tutoring, and lectures.
  2. Online resources: online courses (i.e. Coursera), webinars, topic specific chat rooms, video tutorials (i.e. Lynda), relative social groups (i.e. Facebook), Youtube, articles, free quizzes, online textbooks, research reports, and podcasts.

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Ivan Betancourt

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