Complementary Skills Matter in the Job Search
Complementary Skills Matter in the Job Search

No matter how great you are, you want to get better. Improving is key to a successful career. Learning new skills is an essential part of improvement. 

Want some proof? 

Ben Franklin was always learning and taught himself Italian, French and Latin. He didn’t stop at languages. He also learned about meteorology. And Franklin invented bifocals. What are you waiting for? 

James Franco was a college dropout and has done just fine as an actor. Nevertheless he returned to school to study writing, filmmaking, and he is getting a Ph.D in English at Yale. 

Have you thought about online learning? Consider that Walt Disney learned cartooning in a correspondence class. 

Learning new skills demonstrates that you are curious and thus it is proof of your intelligence. 

One reason that the job market is challenging is the abundance of qualified applicants. If you are on the hiring side, you might select the candidates who seem to have some extra skills, especially if they’re the kind of skills that might just add value to the minimum requirements. It’s the “complementary skills” that set some people apart from the competition. 

The complementary skills that matter will differ from one job to the next. In one hypothetical situation, a knowledge of web design might matter, or expertise in PowerPoint. 

If you know something about the job, about the company and about the industry, you can often predict which complementary skills are likely to be appreciated. If your prediction is accurate, so much the better, but, even if you’re uncertain, it makes sense to highlight other skills you possess that might make a difference. 

Add complementary skills to your resume. Don’t omit them for the sake of saving a bit of space. You don’t need to go on and on about them, and you don’t want your resume to be too long, but it doesn’t take much to highlight a few skills that you think are relevant – even if they’re not among the skills explicitly required by the employer. So, if your last position involved lots of work in Word and Excel, don’t hesitate to include the fact that you were also responsible for managing some part of the company’s online presence. 

Note complementary skills in your cover letter. Again, this doesn’t require a lot of exposition. Cover letters should be short and to the point, but a sentence or two about complementary skills can set you apart. 

Don’t forget about those complementary skills in an interview. Yes, you have the specific experience that the company says it’s looking for, but you also have complementary skills that can be of real benefit to the employer. You’re a “value-added” candidate, with strengths that you can fit neatly into the “strengths and weaknesses” interview theme or that you can showcase in an answer to a situational or behavioral question. 

Don’t think that your complementary skills have to be fully developed. If you’ve been taking a course in order to expand your area of expertise, make note of it. Call it “on-going” if it’s not quite complete, but mention it no matter what. 

Employers are looking for ways that you can benefit them. That’s the whole point, but they may not list each and every beneficial skill in each job posting. That doesn’t mean that complementary skills don’t matter. Give some thought to the value you add, and call that value to the employer’s attention.