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How do I know what’s required of me at work?

There can be a lot of things that are required of us in the workplace.  Most of the time, these requirements involve skills.  A skill is something that you know how to do (Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 2003).  Figuring out what you need to do to be successful can be daunting at times.  To keep a job, you will need to be able to do the tasks of the job before you get the job, or you may need to learn how to do them on the job.  And there may be skills that your employer needs you to know how to do that aren’t even on the job description.  The reality is that there may be more to keeping your job than just doing the tasks in your job description.

There are two, even three kinds of skills that may be required of you (Cohen, et. al., 1985, 2007, Cohen, et.al., 1986).  These are listed, and then described, below:

  1. Explicitly required skills,
  2. Implicitly required skills,
  3. Personally-important skills

1.  Explicitly-required skills
Explicit means out in the open, or direct.  So explicitly-required skills are those that the employer is out in the open about, or directly asks for.  You will usually find these skills listed in job descriptions, employee handbooks, or even rules on the wall.  Employers may describe them in the interview, ask if you have the skills,, or say that you need to demonstrate, or show, that you can do these skills before getting the job.  Explicitly-required skills often relate to job tasks.  Examples may include skills such as: Mopping floors, Greeting customers, Managing budgets, or Interviewing research subjects.

2.  Implicitly-required skills
Implicit means hidden, or out-of-sight.  These skills are not necessarily talked about as much, or at all, in the workplace.  Implicitly-required skills are not found in documents or in the employee orientation. Sometimes these skills are called “soft skills,” as they are thought of as not as “hard” as the skills required to do specific tasks of the job. Implicit skills are required by the employer, but not even the employer may really think about them until there is a problem. We may not even realize that these expectations are there until we “trip over” them, meaning that we may do something wrong and realize that something was expected of us that we didn’t know about before.  Implicitly-required skills often relate to the culture and social environment of the workplace.  The culture of one office, shop, or warehouse may be different than others.  The culture of a workplace may include things like the way the company operates, how celebrations happen, or how things are usually done.  Social environments will vary too, and may include whether and how people talk with each other, get together at work and after work, celebrate holidays and birthdays, or even who you are supposed to ask questions of and who you are not.  Every workplace is different!  Figuring out what the Implicitly-required skills are often takes keen observation and/or talking to people who work there to find out what they are.  Examples of implicitly-required skills may include:  Chatting with coworkers, Participating in social events, Requesting assistance, and Managing stress.  You may notice that these examples are not usually part of the job tasks, but may be important to your success, depending on the kind of job that you have.

3.  Personally-important skills
Personally-important means that something is valuable to you.  Personally-important skills are those things that you do because you think it makes you more successful and happy in the job.  These skills may not be required by the employer, but may be welcome if it makes you better at your job. Personally-important skills may be completed at the workplace or at home, depending on what they are (Packing a lunch is done at home, Inviting coworkers to lunch may be done at work).   We often learn which skills work best for us over time and with experience.  What works for one person may be different than what works for another.  For example, for some workers, having a clean desk at all times may help them be productive and make them happier, while for others, having piles of paper to work on may encourage them to keep working hard and fuel their creativity.  Examples include such skills as:  Planning outfits, Clearing your desk, Choosing coping strategies, or Scheduling lunch breaks.  Notice that these skills are probably not going to be required by a boss (depending on what you do), but may make you more successful, confident, and/or satisfied with your work.

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