What are life skills?

While in school and throughout life, we all develop skills and competencies that are directly transferable to life and in particular to the workplace. Hence these skills are called life skills, otherwise known as transferable skills, soft skills, or career skills. They are important for employment but also equally beneficial to us as individuals. For example, having good communication skills allows us to have meaningful conversations with others, develop strong friendships that support us and understand where someone else is coming from. Take a look at this video for an entertaining introduction to skills for the workplace. You can also read more on the Indeed website.

The importance of life skills for finding a job

These transferrable life skills form a fundamental part of our daily lives, in our interactions with other people, both in and out of the workplace. Often, we don’t even notice the life skills we already have as a result. But we all remember a friend who was great at getting people to talk or making a shy friend feel comfortable or who was great at getting everyone to work together to get things done. Maybe even one of these examples resonates with you. These are exactly the skills employers are interested in!

When you attend a job interview or once you get a job, it’s not just your knowledge of the work that is important, but the range of skills, including the competencies and talents that you bring to it, that will set you apart.

Many people are unaware of skills such as teamwork or communication, that they have acquired through life. Skills Summary is a tool to measure this. It works with you at your pace to help you build confidence in your career skills and to communicate these to future employers. By using the Skills Summary tool, you are creating your own personal Skills Summary to supplement your CV. This outlines your career skills with examples and endorsements from people who know you.

Types of life skills.

Life skills are vital to getting the job you want. After all, the main reason for job interviews is to see these skills in practice along with other things about you that aren’t in your CV. Skills Summary divides these twelve transferrable life skills into four groups:

  • Communication skills including teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills: these are key to enabling us to communicate, relate and develop relationships with others. Try not to use slang or swear, always look interested and listen, and most importantly be respectful of others.
  • Productivity skills which include decision-making, problem-solving and organisation skills: these are the skills we get by ‘doing’. By deciding what subjects we do in school, what career we want to pursue, how to make a decision between the different options, and how to be organised to pass exams or perform best at work – these all teach us how to improve our productivity skills… so keep doing!
  • Leadership skills which include adaptability, leadership skills and entrepreneurship. Often these develop from having strong communication skills as a foundation. Try watching how others take the lead, can change and adapt and are creative in getting ideas of how you could develop these skills.
  • Personal skills which include drive and resilience, ethics and integrity, and IT skills. These are important in contributing to a positive and productive working environment that we all have our place in shaping.

Find out more about how these skills look in action

Developing your life skills

The more you work on your life skills, the better they become, just like practising anything. Having a number of strong life skills will leave a lasting impression on any employer whether that is in an interview or with a manager you want to get a glowing recommendation from eventually. Not all of us have the same skill levels, and why should we? We all have our own strengths and interests and that is what makes the world diverse and interesting!

Here are a few suggestions for working on your life skills:

  • Challenge yourself to learn something new
  • Read up on a sector you would be interested in working in and try to understand what life skills are helpful for a job in the sector
  • Ask somebody you regard as wise and experienced for feedback
  • Consider what you admire in others and see what you might like to improve in yourself from that
  • Meet up with others to improve your interpersonal skills – we can learn so much from one another
  • Learn to listen actively to others

Finally, remember the importance of a work-life balance, this is something we all need to work on. There is more information on developing a good work-life balance at the end of this page.

Careers Portal has a helpful page on career skills which links to other resources and Open Doors has a Soft Skills Toolkit if you are still eager to read more. Otherwise, building your Skills Summary should be an important part of getting ready for the working world! Find inspiration on how to easily improve your life skills with our everyday examples of skills development in our Take Action Tips.