Which of these five life skills do you have?

A life skill is an ability or a behaviour that allows you to deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life. The World Health Organization has identified five important life skills that are relevant across all cultures.

So, what are these life skills, and how can master you them? We give you some top tips on how to develop key skills that will help set you up in life.

  1. Good decision-making and problem-solving abilities
  • We face zillions of decisions and problems every day. Often, we don’t even notice that we’re facing them, but sometimes, they can become overwhelming.
  • The best way to make a decision or solve a problem is to use a combination of intuition (your gut feeling) and reasoning (using facts). It can also be helpful to write a list of pros and cons, or to use a framework to help you to make a decision.
  • Employers want good decision-makers, people who can weigh up options and make clear and informed choices. When applying for jobs, find an example of a situation where you had to make an informed decision, and use it to highlight your decision-making skills.
  1. Critical and creative thinking
  • Critical thinking is when you make a judgement on something according to the information available to you. For example, if you read that broccoli will prevent you from getting cancer, you would need to think rationally and critically about whether this is true or false.
  • Critical thinking can be taught and learnt. Bloom’s taxonomy provides a framework to do this. Bloom suggests that to think critically, we need to be able to remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create information.
  • One study showed that teaching students critical thinking skills, dramatically improved their assessment of “pseudoscientific” studies that are unsupported by facts.
  • Creative or lateral thinking is when you think about a situation in a new or different way, with a fresh perspective. This is sometimes described as “thinking outside the box”.
  • Creative thinking is trickier to learn, but asking “what if?’, practising dreaming, allowing yourself time to think and bouncing ideas off other people can help.
  • Having excellent critical and creative thinking skills will certainly help you progress in your career. Be sure to highlight any examples of when you have used these skills on your CV or in an interview.
  1. Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Communication is the ability to convey information to others. This can be verbal, in writing or through the use of body language, even.
  • Some of us are natural communicators, for others it takes a bit of practise. To improve your communication skills, it is really important to LISTEN, empathise with other people, ask questions to check (or to show) that you have understood, focus on what it is that you want to communicate and smile, laugh and be positive!
  • Having good communication skills is the most important skill for people entering the workforce. Good communicators earn more, have higher self-esteem and are better leaders. Being a good communicator is also one of the top traits of successful entrepreneurs.
  1. Self-awareness and empathy
  • Self-awareness involves being aware of your own traits, behaviours and feelings. This includes identifying your strengths and weaknesses as well as your motivations. Being self-aware will make it easier to make life choices that will suit you and make you happy.
  • Learning to be self-aware takes time: try to think of yourself objectively (what are you good at? What do you need to improve? What are your accomplishments? What makes you happy?). You could ask a close friend or colleague to help you. Regularly spend time honestly thinking about yourself – mindfulness may help with this. Keeping a journal or listing your goals and plans can improve self-awareness.
  • Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and perspectives, or to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”.
  • Although empathy comes more naturally to some than others, it is a skill that can be developed. Try to understand others: pick up on emotion cues, show sensitivity and try to help people. Be politically aware and learn about other cultures – reject stereotypes.
  • Being self-aware and having empathy puts you in an excellent position as a job candidate and in the work place. These skills will help you work well with other people, be an effective leader and make informed career choices.
  1. Coping with emotions and stress
  • Stress is your body’s response to emotional or mental pressure. It causes your body to produce a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Stress can affect how you think, feel and behave as well as affecting your bodily functions, such as digestion.
  • You can control your stress levels in two ways. Firstly, by identifying what it is that is making you stressed and manage these so that they don’t happen so often. Secondly, you can learn ways to be more resilient, so that you can cope with stressful situations
  • Managing your emotions and stress is vital for your mental well-being, which in turn is vital for you to be an effective member of a workforce. Developing techniques to deal with stress are therefore super important for your career.

Learning techniques to master these five life skills will not only improve your mental well-being, but will also improve your chances of getting the job you have always dreamed of – these skills should be key features on your CV.