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Job Readiness Skills in the 21st Century

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

Job readiness skills, sometimes referred to as employability skills, refer to the mix of technical aptitudes and soft skills you should develop to find success in the workplace. Some readiness skills, such as interpersonal and communication skills, have always been important. Others have emerged in the early 21st century based on cultural changes, technological development and business and industry evolution.


The 21st-century economy has become extremely service oriented. Customers typically have product and service choices, and companies need excellent service employees to compete. This workplace evolution means that several attitudinal-based skills give you a much better shot at a job. A positive attitude, appearance and grooming skills and a strong work ethic are among soft skills that aid in projecting a good service image for an employer.

Autonomy and Problem-Solving

Companies are also becoming leaner. They rely on fewer employees to get work done to minimize labor costs and optimize profitability. This reality places greater emphasis on readiness skills such as autonomy or independent-thinking and problem-solving skills. Millions of Americans work in frontline retail sales and service jobs. Increasingly, businesses rely on frontline workers to listen to customers and resolve issues, as opposed to constantly turning to managers. The ability to listen and work through problems to effective resolutions is also critical.

Team Orientation

While employers often want employees that can think critically and resolve issues independently, they also need employees that can work well in teams. Team-based work structures have become common as employers recognize the benefit of group members sharing ideas, discussing alternatives and making collaborative decisions. Many employers require the ability to work well with others, including a cooperative attitude and conflict-resolution skills. Schools usually incorporate team projects and group activities to help students develop these skills.

Computer Literacy

Computer and technology literacy is a major 21st-century job skill. The number of jobs where you don't need any basic computer skills has become very limited. Basic keyboarding, data processing, document writing, spreadsheet creation, email communication and online research abilities all contribute to your employability. In fact, many job-seekers use the Internet for much of the research and job application process. You can often search company websites and complete and submit applications and resumes online. In some cases, you can only submit your materials online.

Diversity Awareness

The United States has become increasingly diverse in the 21st century. Employers generally prefer candidates who tolerate and value diversity. This makes it easier to manage a diverse workforce, promote a fair and nondiscriminatory environment and encourage employees to have open minds for new ideas and different perspectives. You may grow diversity awareness in college by being in the midst of a diverse study body and by participating in on-campus diversity activities.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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