Skills Employers Want You To Have And How To Get Them: An Enternships Guide

What’s stopping you getting a job you love? Well, according to a report published this week, it might just be something really, really simple. We’ve compiled a list of our top ten skills employers want- and shown you exactly how to get them. With the aid of some space games, some boxed cats and a surrealist compliment generator. 

Brush up on a skill in five minutes a day, tops. Five minutes. Just for us? There we go. Splendid. That’s our girl/boy/massively employable human being. 


(This kitten in a tie is so ready to learn skills with you. Even in space. This kitten in a tie is so happy you’re here.) 

1. Work Experience

What: It’s obvious, really- the amount of time you’ve spent in an office before actually being employed in one will have a tangible effect on a) how much you enjoy being there, and understand how they work, and b) how much they enjoy working with you. Most people (71%) come out of education believing they’d have profited from more work experience, and it’s been slated as one of the major targets for improvement in the coming years. For now, though, you’ll have to organise it yourself- and you can.

How: You can go it alone- write to a company (with the handy tips below) and ask for their policy on work experience- or, better, you can stick with us at Enternships. Lots of lovely work experience in a way that suits you.

2. Literacy

What: How fluently you read, write and speak English has a significant impact on the way you are perceived by employers, right from the moment you submit your CV. 55% of employers cite this as a major weakness in their workforce- whether your spelling is atrocious or you just can’t tell your theres from your theirs and your they’res, brushing up your literacy skills might prove the boost your application has been waiting for.

How: Go back to basics here, or if you fancy yourself a bit of a grammar legend, try this brain stretcher. Oh, and lets you increase your vocab while also giving food to hungry children. Sold? You should be.

3. Communication Skills

What: So your grammar’s immaculate, your spelling flawless and you can construct a clause that would make Shakespeare weep. Feeling smug? Well, there’s always something to work on- can you tailor your tone to your environment? Learning to mimic house style can be critical in maintaining a “voice” for your company- and equally critical in tailoring your cover letter to fit the company. Some companies want elegant, eloquent expositions of your skills; some want a joke about cheese and sheer boundless enthusiasm . Either way, they all just want to know that you’ll fit in with their gang.

How: Researching the person you’re speaking to before you speak to them; think about how they speak, and how they speak to you; think about their brand, and the language they use to describe it; copy that, as closely as you can. This blog about cover letters has some excellent further advice.

4. Languages

What: Languages are useful! Languages are very useful! 70% of employers would like you better if you knew some other languages! French (49%), German (45%), Spanish (34%), Polish (29% and growing), Mandarin (28% and growing), Arabic, Cantonese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean…Other.

How: Memrise has some excellent courses that slip very easily into your everyday life (start small- Mandarin menu!- or go large and learn, for example, how to “hack Polish”)- whatever your standard of learning. And it’s free. And, actually, fun.


What: Oh, you’re thinking, it’s too late for me. I did [insert dwindling humanities subject here] and now nobody wants [dwindling humanities grads] and everyone wants STEM kids. Oh, those STEM kids. With their fancy acronyms (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) and their shiny lines and angles, everybody wants the STEM kids. Well, wrong. You might not be a STEM graduate, but you can certainly brush up on your techie knowledge. Ten minutes a day learning coding might not make you a million, but it will certainly stretch your mind, and make you just that little bit more employable.

How:  In lots of ways, learning to code is like learning a language- and like the best language learning programmes, the best coding programmes let you learn little, and often: Makers Academy, Code Academy or if you’re feeling more frivolous, we’ve found the best of the kids’ coding games, featuring dinosaurs.

6. Numeracy

What: It’s also worth bearing in mind that, even if you’re never, ever going to touch coding with a bargepole (mistake, but we’ll let it go for now), numeracy is one of those fundamental skills that everybody needs. It’s terribly fashionable to talk about being bad at Maths- but it’s a big concern for employers. 51% of employers wish their employees had better basic numeracy- which basically means that they are 51% more likely to hire you if you’re number-literate. Doesn’t it? (It doesn’t. Time for us to do some of our own Maths courses.)

How: As with English, start by going back to basics– and test your knowledge with this game designed for bored fourteen year olds, but oddly, oddly compelling. Who doesn’t want to be a space alien living on a future planet made out of hamburgers? Not us.

7. Problem-Solving and Self-Management

What: You might think this is really, really obvious- and it is. But when 59% of the UK’s employers are worried about the lack of these things in their graduate workforce, it might be time to double-check that you’re on top of the game. Google first, ask questions later.


Step 1: Identify the problem. Write it down.

For instance, the problem here is that Maru the cat cannot fit into any of these boxes. 

Step 2: Next, identify any possible solutions. Google for them. Write them down. Six Thinking Hats can help here.

Get a smaller cat? Get a bigger box? 

Step 3: Try them all out- and if all else fails, try thinking outside the box. As it were.

Stop putting cats in boxes? 

PROBLEM SOLVED- and you did it all yourself. And you watched a cat video. The best cat video. Self-management and problem solving are so easy when you know how.

8. Aptitude For The Job In Hand

What: Sadly, nobody has made a game for this yet. Or a cat video. We can’t leave it out, however, because an awful lot of employers rate these as the skills they value most highly in potential employees. Knowing why you’d be really good at a particular job- and then being really good at that particular job-

How: Basically, go back to this blog, and take the advice there- are you the best person for the job? Of course you are. Why? Write it down if you have to. Here is some space for you to write it down.


There you go. Look at that. Aren’t you just brilliant? You definitely deserve a cup of tea/ice lolly round about now. And that job.

9. Attitude To The Job In Hand

What: Remember when everything was “…like X with attitude?”? We miss attitude. So do employers, only they want a “suitable attitude to work”, rather than Avril Lavigne-eque skinny ties and pocket chains. Avril Lavigne looked at her audience and knew the right attitude to have was one that embraced the stupid ties and plastic bangles. You look at your new job and know the right attitude to have is one that embraces getting on with it, and being really, really good at it, and making everyone like you. No matter what company you’re working for, that’s what you want to go for.

How: As Neil Gaiman put it- Be nice. Be on time. Do good work. You need at least two of those to be successful, and you’d be best off with all three.

10. Self-confidence

What: You know what we said about aptitude for the job? This one’s like that, but aptitude for life, instead. Looking for jobs can be incredibly demoralising- but as terrible self-help books everywhere know very well- in order to make other people think you’re great, you need to think you’re pretty great yourself. Which you are. You read this blog! You’re ahead of the game!

How: No self-pity- you’re fantastic. And very talented. And employable. Even total strangers think you’re brilliant. Even weird total strangers.



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