7 Skills Your Students Need for Workplace Success

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photoShe had an assignment from her (forward-thinking) principal. She needed to ask someone outside the field of K-12 education, “What are the skills you look for when you hire?” That’s how we ended up speaking, and that’s what led me to write this post. Her principal had asked each of his teachers to schedule a call with someone outside the field, so that they could learn more about what today’s employers might be looking for when they hire.

Since we started our company, nearly 2.5 years ago, we’ve had ample opportunity to craft our list. When we began, we could count our number of employees on one hand. Now we’re up to nearly 100. Throughout the process, we’ve been dogged about hiring employees who can drive the organizational culture we want to create. Our go-to criteria include the following:

  • Mission Driven: We’re looking for employees who want to have a positive impact on the world, and who value our mission and vision.
  • Curious: They’re confident enough to admit they don’t know when they encounter a hurdle or face something new. They see failure as part of the learning process and part of how we improve.
  • Intellectual Horsepower: They know how to stay afloat when they get thrown in the deep end. They’re smart enough to adapt quickly in new situations, analytical enough to plan out new paths on the fly and reflective enough to conduct meaningful post-mortems that teach everyone at the company how to perform better the next time around.
  • Leadership: They recognize that leadership isn’t about a title. It’s about the actions you take. They continuously step forward with a positive intervention that enables other team members to be the best person they can be, particularly when under stress or facing uncertainty.
  • Ownership: Employees have a track record of saying, “this is mine.” They own their work from start to finish and wisely leverage internal and external resources to achieve goals.
  • Domain Expertise: They are experts in their fields and keep learning to maintain and grow their skills. They value and respect the people we serve – all the educators working hard every day to help kids learn.
  • Collaborative: They value teamwork and place the team above themselves. They leave their egos at the door, and they dig in to get the job done with others. They recognize the value of diverse perspectives and skills to achieve common goals.

Lists will vary from employer to employer. I’m not saying this is the penultimate list. I do think, though, that there are elements of this list that will apply across industries and organizations.

How does this list compare to yours?

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  1. […] You can read the rest of her article here! […]

  2. Jon Pennington on November 24, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Gayle, your posts always leave me thinking. I am curious what you might call the skill that allows for someone to quickly develop a working expertise of a subject that they know little about. For them to be able to speak confidently and solve problems on a topic that they have little knowledge of.

    How can an individual practiced in this skill surpass the ability of someone of greater intelligence? What are best methods/tools that can be used to power this skill?

    I think it relates to adaptability. Not asking these questions of you directly, just thinking out loud. I think this skill will be beneficial for modern workplace success.



  3. Gayle on November 25, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Jon, I think of it as rapid iteration – the ability of someone to dive into a new job, field, or task by getting up to speed as quickly as possible without complete mastery. It requires getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and living with the fear that comes with a “just do it” mindset. What do you think?

  4. […] As a Ph.D. student, researcher, innovator and avid learner, cognitive ability or intellectual horsepower is something that has begun to interest me more and more.  A colleague of mine, Gayle Allen defines this ability as: […]