• Job Skills – Part 2: People Skills

  • Last month I reviewed some of the technical skills most sought by employers in the environmental consulting field, specifically for environmental site assessment and remediation. Based on my discussions with colleagues in ownership and senior management positions there were some common ‘soft’ (people) skills that are considered desirable in potential job candidates.

    Communication is one of those items that can be considered both a hard and a soft skill. Superior communication skills are evident to employers from reading a cover letter and CV, speaking clearly and not overpowering the conversation, listening to what the interviewer has to say and body language displayed during the interview. All these factors reflect the candidate’s ability to communicate clearly on all levels. As discussed in my last blog, the ability to communicate clearly both orally and in writing is paramount; and this is critical to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications that can result in mistakes, or in misinterpretation of field results.

    Enthusiasm and Motivation:
    Consultants want an employee who actually wants to do their work each day. It isn't fun to work in the rain or the heat or the cold, but employers want all their employees to be genuinely interested in their job and in getting the job done "right the first time". A potential candidate’s desire to learn more about a specific skill set can set them apart from other job seekers. For example, if the position is in hydrogeology, then asking about training in computer modelling or some other related skill shows both enthusiasm and motivation. If the candidate doesn’t show a desire to learn and grow (even during the interview process), then they are probably not going to get the job.

    Ability to Work and Learn with Minimal Supervision:
    Most consultants do invest their time in training employees, but they do need employees to "get it" quickly and then be able to apply what they've learned in the field without needing multiple refreshers or continuous support. It’s almost important to “know what you don’t know”, so be honest about one’s past experience in the application and interview process. Don’t over-exaggerate what was done in the past to try and get a better higher paying position in a company. Just tell the truth about what was done in the past, because it will come out in the ability to perform a job if hired.

    Critical Thinking & Problem Solving:
    It is critical when performing fieldwork to "report when something unusual happens" so the senior support person can help the field tech decide how to handle the situation. Just as important as the technical ability to clearly communicate, it’s also key to learn from communications, so that as time progresses, the field tech can more readily make their own decisions; or, propose a solution to a problem and get the senior support person's input.

    Next month, I’ll discuss which of these skills employers prefer in potential job seekers – technical or people skills.

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca