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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 23 March 2012

Harper's Economic Bungle

"China has been Canada’s fastest-growing trade partner for a decade; although it still takes only 3.7 per cent of our exports, it represents 11 per cent of our imports."

Stephen Harper has been adamant about playing by his rules for the entirety of his run as Prime Minister. It was only when he saw longer-term benefit for himself that he considered partnering with others (like the NDP and Bloc in bringing down Martin). He has backtracked when his manipulative management-style has backfired, but only under duress.

For the majority of the time, when he doesn't get his way he pulls his toys out of the sandbox, to his (and our) detriment.

His cooling and now warming to China is a great example of this. Harper tried to smudge out the connective work of his predecessors because it suited his personality to do so; now, having stormed out on Obama over oil pipelines, he's mending fences with Asian neighbours, rebuilding relationships first established by Liberals (only Trudeau could go to China). That's got to sting.

There's another thing happening here, though - Harper's narrow focus is blinding him to broader opportunities, leading him to dismiss approaches he hasn't tailored himself. The trade stats above are case in point.

China exports more to us than we do to them, by a wide margin. Check your labels for what's bought in China to see that in practice. Yet, seeing how lucrative the sale of products is, Harper still insists natural resources are the only way to go. Canadians are still BUYING stuff; we're simply buying at greater cost the finished goods made with our raw material elsewhere.

When we start importing bottled Canadian Spring Water, I hope Harper - or at least Canadians - will see the folly of this limited approach.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Letter to the Editor on Health Care Reform in Ontario

Published in the Standard Freeholder and Cornwall Daily News:

Reforming Ontario's Health Care System

Health care remains the top priority for the people of Ontario, and rightly so – it’s vital that we have strong, public health services available when we need them. The McGuinty government understands this; they also understand that more rural regions like Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry have different challenges than dense urban communities like Toronto. Thanks in no small part to the proactive leadership of our retired MPP Jim Brownell, SD&G has been experiencing a health care renaissance that’s going to provide local residents with some of the best health care in the country. We’ve seen three hospital redevelopment projects, reduced ER wait times, a new Community Health Centre (CHC), etc.

Having said that, the harsh reality is that the current health care service delivery model is unsustainable. There are too many independent silos within the system, resulting in costly duplication, gaps and overlaps. In his recent report on public service reform, Don Drummond wrote that “we need a broad revamping of the system that makes the parts work better together, so that the whole is greater than – or at the very least equal to – the sum of the parts.”

The McGuinty Government gets this and is already well on its way to fostering an integrated health care system. CHCs, Local Health Integration Networks are all part of that strategy. So too is the Aging at Home initiative and the very notion of proactive health promotion. The idea is promote a tiered system that:

1) Provides people with the tools and understanding to live healthy lifestyles, minimizing the need for health services. This includes helping seniors live in their homes for as long as possible.

2) Make the proactive pieces of health care more readily available. Aging at Home and the return of house calls to Ontario are part of this drive

3) Create collaborative health service models that give one-stop shop for a person’s basic health needs, which includes health education. This is what CHCs and Family Health Teams do

4) Help reduce hospital visitation so that hospital staff can focus on critical care needs.

It’s important to remember that health care isn’t about hospitals; it’s about patients. The McGuinty government spent much of the last two terms ensuring we have strong hospital services and reducing wait times, but were also laying the groundwork for a more preventative, proactive health care system. The future of public services isn’t in pouring more money into silos of delivery – it’s about moving forward together.

Craig Carter-Edwards
North York

Multiculturalism: Why Canadian Politics Needs a Centre

Can Andrew Coyne Save Canada?

Absolutely the best paragraph I have read this month:

"Of course, the very hopelessness of the Liberals’ situation ought to be liberating. If your adversary wins no matter what you do, you might as well ignore him and just do what you like. More to the point, far too much significance is attached to these sorts of ads generally. The idea that it was Conservative advertising that destroyed the otherwise brilliant political careers of St├ęphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, and not, say, their own failings as leaders or the platforms on which they campaigned, is a pleasing fiction. It pleases Tory strategists to believe it, because it confirms them in their self-image as master manipulators of public opinion. It pleases their targets to believe it, because it absolves them of their own responsibility for their defeat. And it pleases the press, because it validates our cynicism about politics, and the indispensable services we provide the public as their interpreters."

What if the Liberals didn't blame the Tories for their defeats, but took ownership of their own endeavours?  "Yeah, Harper has attack ads or whatever, but he's kind of a side bar.  We didn't engage the people in the best manner.  It's all on us and we owe it to the people to do better."

What if the Tories didn't pass the blame for everything, including robocalls, to someone else?  "Look, we don't like this.  The calls seem to have been made by people who favour us; we need to do a better job of telling people this is not the Conservative way, we win on our own merits.  We're going to prove this in actions, deeds and most importantly, transparency."

What if voters took it upon themselves to set the standard they want politicians to follow?  "I'm concerned about what's happening in Canadian politics so I'm going to get informed, I'm going to ensure my family and friends are informed.  Attack ads work because they appeal to uninformed emotion - I'm going to put myself beyond that."

There is nothing more powerful, more liberating than ownership.  True ownership isn't external; it's internal.  Self-ownership means you take back control of who you are and what you represent from whoever else might try to define you by simply doing it yourself, constantly and consciously.  It also means taking responsibility for the impact your actions or inaction, level of knowledge or ignorance, has on others.

The only thing keeping us from making a better world for each other is our consciousness of content, context and consequence.

Trayvon Martin, Throwing Starfish and the Public Good

-          Rich Tafel

An indictment of single-focus idealism that, despite best intentions, is exacerbating the problems the idealists seek to solve.

The continued myelination of Canada’s democracy, where Political Parties target just their identified voters with messages aimed at established interests (or target their opponent’s supporters with misinformation) rather than promote a genuine marketplace of ideas and subject matter.

What’s the connection?

Each of these threads are examples of narrowing one’s focus and missing the bigger picture.

Trayvon Martin

In the case of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, the debate around whether or not he was a racist and this was a hate crime has become the lightning rod for attention.  While there’s been some discussion around how Florida’s gun laws and police culture facilitated this crime happening, I have so far seen no discussion about the impact of multiple other factors:

-          Previous warning signs of instability in Zimmerman’s behaviour that didn’t receive due attention;

-          The psychological impact of gated communities on those living within and without;

-          Poverty and the underlying causes of the rash of crimes in Twin Lake Townhomes in the first place;

-          What we’re doing in our education systems to provide Social Emotional Learning that can mitigate natural inclinations towards stigmatizing others;

-          Proactive mental health services.  

It’s good that people are protesting this travesty and demanding justice, but our current justice system isn’t working.  Crime reduction doesn’t stem from greater punishment but rather from increased social access to education and opportunity.  History bears this out; we’re on the right trajectory, but a tendency to narrow our focus to the latest outrage means we’re missing out on the larger picture.

Social Entrepreneurship

Rich Tafel’s explanation of the failings of many social entrepreneurs is brilliant.  He uses the story of the kid throwing dehydrated starfish back into the ocean; the boy can’t save them all, but he can save one and take moral satisfaction in that victory.  If you’re looking for moral satisfaction that’s fine, but if you’re looking to solve the problem, one-off solutions won’t get you very far.  You need a deeper understanding of context, content and consequence so you can address the key structural issues at play.

I’m reminded a bit of Canada’s NDP Party; they seem driven by lofty notions of happiness, hope and harmony.  This is all fine, but idealism alone does not viable policy make.  It’s like saying “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” without having the lemon or seeking out water, sugar and a glass.  

Our big social challenges are candle problems – genuine solutions require out-of-the-box thinking, which means broadening one’s vision to see the whole picture, not narrowing it to focus on one’s own interests.

The Public Good

Canadian politics is still aflutter with the mounting robocon/voter suppression scandal.  Lots of the discussion centres around how high up the scandal will reach, what punishments are appropriate, whether by-elections should be called, that kind of thing.  The sad fact is, the voters who have been the most disenfranchised by this are the same ones who are likely to dismiss politics in frustration and not vote at all in 2015.  That might suit the Harper Conservatives in the medium-term, but what does it mean for Canadian democracy and our capacity to develop the best sustainable solutions through debate and collaboration in the long-term?

Voter turnout is declining and voters themselves are disengaging themselves from the process.  By focusing on how to maximize their partisan interests in this real-world context, our Political Parties are steadily narrowing their own options and ignoring the elephant in the room.  It’s a rare thing that a Party in power will make significant changes to the system to engage a broader swath of voters; that would, after all, benefit their opponents as well.  Call it The Tragedy of the House of Commons.

This same insular logic pervades Canada’s public, private and not-for-profit sectors.  So long as individual organizations and individual, vertically-integrated hierarchies keep a narrow focus on profits for shareholders, profits for owners, maintaining individual funding envelopes, etc, the really big solutions are going to be overlooked.  You can’t solve collective problems within the confines of a silo-based mentality.

As Gerard Kennedy eloquently put it at a Democracy Reform event last night, Canada’s Political Parties aren’t just accountable to their Executives or their members, but to the Canadian people as a whole.  We aren’t here to facilitate their power grabs – they’re part of our democratic system.  Hospitals worried about their funding levels are part of a broader health system, a broader social service system; the same holds true for every government service provided.  The same applies to companies and their employees, clients and partners. 

The line “move forward together” makes for a great speech-punctuator.  Beyond its rhetorical value, though, it’s actually true.  The only way forward is together.    No matter how hard we try, we can’t box out the rest of the world – does it not make sense to acknowledge that fact and consciously build a society we can all enjoy living in?

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Lessons to Learn From the Stigmatization and Murder of Trayvon Martin

"Are you a God-fearing man, Senator? That is such a strange phrase. I've always thought of God as a teacher; a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding. You see, I think what you really fear is me. Me and my kind."

- Magneto, X-Men

The shooting of Trayvon Martin is as telling as it is tragic.  The lessons we could learn from this senseless, entirely avoidable shooting could be applied, positively, across multiple fields – but is anyone looking to absorb them?

Let’s begin with the basic facts:

On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, 28, was serving as neighbourhood watch captain for the Retreat of Twin Lakes Townhomes in Sanford, Florida.  From what the media indicates, it was a dark, rainy evening. 

Zimmerman spotted Trayvon Martin, 17, walking around the gated community.  For his part, Martin was walking back to his home (media reports indicate both) in a gated community, carrying a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea.

Zimmerman made the assumption that Martin, a young black male, was a would-be robber and decided to take action.  Zimmerman notified 911 of the supposed suspicious activity and began to pursue Martin.  Martin, a 17 year-old, was on the phone with a female friend at the time; this friend has sworn that Martin told her he was being followed, then put on his hood as a defensive gesture.

Martin, who apparently weighed 140 lbs, told his friend he thought he’d lost his follower, however Zimmerman, apparently 250 lb, had not lost sight of his prey.

A confrontation ensued between the two parties; Zimmerman used the 9mm Kel-Tec semi-automatic pistol (for which he had a permit) he had on him to shoot and kill Martin.

Scratching the Surface

Those are the basic facts; of course, there is a lot more to the story than this.  Zimmerman says that he killed Martin in self-defense; multiple parties have suggested that Zimmerman is a racist and that this is a hate crime (in his defense, Zimmerman’s family has said he is not white, but Hispanic).  Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature has a strong relationship with the NRA; Florida has a “Stand Your Ground” gun law, courtesy of Jeb Bush, that allows citizens to use lethal force in self-defense in most public spaces. 

The usual suspects are lining up on these grounds, positions staked; anti-racism advocates are rightly pointing out that someone who shot and killed an unarmed youth should at the very least be arrested; before you even get into the issue of justice, there’s little preventing a recurrence.  The police are saying their hands are tied by the existing legislation and leaving it at that; the broader powers that be are sticking to the “we are doing everything we can to support” meme.  This is the layer at which the issue stands; cases are being built up to support positions and, in some cases, to distance from responsibility.

But what if we don’t stop there?  What if we go down one layer further?

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin was a helpless, blameless victim in a legal framework that doesn’t believe in helpless, blameless victims.  In fact, it was the "an eye for an eye" balance of power logic that gave Florida Stand Your Ground in the first place, but we’ll get to that later.  The manner in which Martin behaved was entirely in step with the situation; he continued to talk to a friend, ensuring there was a “witness” of sorts – a wise strategy for someone in a potential victimization position. 

Martin pulled up his hood; this is the same behaviour people using their hair or hand to block out unwanted attention.  It’s a defensive mechanism, removing from your frame of reference those people who are threatening and, ideally, removing yourself from theirs.  Martin also tried to be brave – he didn’t walk or shout out for help until the threat was literally upon him.  Even then, he tried a verbal approach instead of lashing out.

All the right situational behaviour, but he still got shot. 

George Zimmerman

Zimmerman studied criminal law – it seems clear he wanted to get into law enforcement.  When his neighbourhood homeowners association decided they’d had enough of a recent spate of thef, it was Zimmerman who volunteered to take on the watchman role.  Prior to shooting Martin, it seems Zimmerman made 46 calls to 911 about suspected individuals and activity.  This kind of obsessive behaviour might be (semi) funny in a movie, but in real life it's pretty disturbing.

It seems Zimmerman took his self-ascribed duties very seriously, patrolling regularly, checking in with local home owners and using aggressive tactics that were disturbing enough to warrant a community meeting about it.  Zimmerman kept an eye out for black males, in particular; if he was of the opinion that black males were, by nature, criminals, then his grounds for suspicion would be reinforced each and every time one walked by the community.  Oh – and Zimmerman had previously been charged with committing acts of violence.

Objectively, the pattern of behaviour suggests someone that probably could do with a mental health diagnosis.  Yet, this guy not only was legally able to carry and conceal a firearm – he was legally able to use it without due provocation.

This is worth repeating – despite the community complaints and the overeager calls to 911, nobody did anything to stop this guy from carrying a gun or continuing to build up confidence in his internal mythos as Sherriff of Twin Lakes Townhomes.

Personally, I have a bit of trouble with the notion of Zimmerman trying to lord his power over a lone black youth in this instance; he could have intimidated Martin with a mere threat display.  Zimmerman's history, the nature of the 911 calls and the trajectory of his behaviour over the course of the tragedy paint a picture of a man not in control, but rather reacting to anxiety, bitterness and suspicion.  I’m left with the question – would he have acted equally as aggressive if the incident had happened during the day?

Getting into Zimmerman’s mindset for a bit, let’s say he is psychologically convinced that young black males are out to disadvantage his community.  He can rationalize that fear by saying they’re responsible for local thefts, but the core cognitive piece is that he sees black people as villains; not that he’s a conscious racist making a decision to dislike black people, but from his point of view black people simply are bad, just as they are black.  So, he sees a black youth near his community; an alarm goes off in his mind.  Martin was chatting comfortably on a phone (and talking to a girl – at 17, it’s a good bet he’s not using a library voice).  To add to the picture of suspicious behaviour – he puts his hood up.  Who hides themselves if they aren’t guilty, right? 

The appropriate, self-defensive behaviour of Trayvon Martin probably helped fuel the homicidal behaviour of George Zimmerman.  This is not to suggest that Martin is in any way at fault.  To me, that would be like saying it’s the fault of the homeless that they don’t have jobs or that women who get raped probably provoked it in some way.  That’s the point, though – be it the un- or underemployed, the mentally ill, youth who are bullied – there’s a social belief at play that victims are victims because they aren’t doing enough to not be victims.  We’ll explore this more later.

I see Zimmerman’s actions as exacerbated by his self-imposed responsibilities and his latent discomfort with what he perceived as an emergent problem.  With great power comes great responsibility; if you see your responsibility as to protect your world from bad guys, you’re going to enforce it. 

The Police

911 calls.  A community meeting.  A lack of arrest in the face of a shooting, justified by Stand Your Ground.  The police have done everything they could to not get involved in this.  Why not?  Why did the police not take interest in this emerging problem while it was still in the emergent stage?  Why hide behind a law that allows a big, armed man shoot an unarmed youth?

I would imagine a couple of pieces fit in.  Possibly a factor, but not a big one, is the fact that Zimmerman liked to think of himself as a cop.  Imitation as flattery, etc.  Partly, I’m sure they view this as an over-there problem; it’s every man for himself, sink or swim, etc.  If the police force is predominantly white and predominantly right-leaning in their ideology, then this shooting wasn’t of one of their own tribe, so it’s not so much an issue of concern.  More on this ideology later.

The Media

The Media has primarily taken the side of the victim, which is justified.  The unilateral coverage (that I've seen) is, however, unbiased.  In their depictions of Martin, the pictures being used show a happy young man in context; holding a baby, in his football uniform, etc.  When it comes to Zimmerman, though, the pictures are uniformly of a brutish-looking man with tired eyes wearing an orange shirt that kinda looks like a prison jumpsuit.  No context – just that face.  While it is possible this is the only picture they have of Zimmerman, the media has consistently portrayed Zimmerman as a heartless aggressor.  Monsters aren't born, they are nurtured. 

In the case of mental illness, proper identification and accomodation/medication can, in most cases, allow even individuals suffering from psychosis to have some social life.  Whatever factors shaped Zimmerman, why was nobody watching for tells that a problem was emerging?  Did social inaction contribute to this death?  In othe words, while Zimmerman is to blame, could society have done more to prevent the problem in the first place?.


I heard about this story today around the same time as I was reading about Kirk Cameron’s complaints against Piers Morgan following public reaction to the actor’s suggestion that homosexuality is “unnatural” and “destructive to the foundations of civilization.”  Also related are Rick Santorum’s comment that it’s wrong to put “earth above man” and his fear that “Satan is attacking the great institutions of America.”  In Canada, we have a Prime Minister that fears Socialists and Separatists, fears trouble lapping at our shores and fears foreign influences.  All these fears and his responsibility as Prime Minister give him, in his estimation, just cause to suppress information, disregard our democratic system and spy on the Canadian people, among other things.

Yes, there’s a direct connection here.  George Zimmerman felt that black youth posed a threat to his community and ended up shooting one.  Kirk Cameron sees gay people as a threat to civilization and is now left to justify to the public (and himself) that this doesn’t mean he’s a bigot.  Santorum rationalizes an anti-abortion, the death penalty and unsustainable use of our environment through Biblical entitlement (though there are plenty out there who would argue the teachings of Jesus don’t support his positions).  Stephen Harper’s fear of everything has become his justification for tossing aside previous pledges to transparency and accountability.

These are all reactive positions that completely avoid any sense of social responsibility.  The ends are justifying the means and the ends are all focused on keeping threats at bay; if there's no win for the player, they don't play the game.  With gated communities, the right (and almost responsibility) to bear arms and a legal definition that essentially codifies “survival of the fittest” with fittest being defined as who can draw their gun fastest, situations like this are inevitable. 

The Psychology of Ideology

Take it a step further; the ideology that says a man’s home is his castle and his to defend and use as he wills is tribal territorialism, pure and simple.  It’s fundamentally no different than a lion defending its territory.  If you’re defending territory, you’re perceiving threats and if your focus is on threat management, then everything gets viewed through that lens.  Anyone who is not your tribe is someone who could potentially make a play for your property and threaten your security.  There’s a word for this – stigma.  It’s stigma that allows us to justify inhuman acts against fellow humans, which is what happened here.

George Zimmerman was obsessed with the potential threat represented to his turf by black youth.  To him, Traydon Martin was a potential threat.  The fact that it was dark and rainy out didn’t help matters any – people are naturally concerned about the dark, because we can’t see what’s out there.  When we’re afraid, we’re more alert to threats and more reactive so we can respond quickly - a good skill to have when your life is in the balance, but less helpful when it's only perceived to be at risk.  Zimmerman ignored the instructions of 911 and pursued Martin because he didn’t have enough control over himself not to.

Stand Your Ground, isolationist communities, focus on weapon ownership and regulatory defence against others, so on and so forth – these are anti-social tendencies.  The same holds true when you choose, consciously or unconsciously, not to engage in the betterment of your community or worse, stifle it out of ideological self-interest.  Hate to break it to Kirk Cameron, but it’s the xenophobes, not gays, who would threaten civilization.


-          First and foremost – do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.  This means it’s not about survival of the fittest or individual respect, but about a strong society and respecting the rights of everyone

-         We really need to make a greater effort to understand behaviour, both in ourselves and others.  We’re pretty pitiful at it, now.  The signals we send and the manner in which we react to signals from others determines social interaction on a sub-conscious level, leading us to make short-term, potentially harmful choices.  Like breaking the law, telling a lie, or killing someone in cold blood.  How would the situation have unfolded differently if, say, Zimmerman had worn an identifying orange vest?  With the right behavioural training in a school setting, might Martin have been able to defuse the situation with words and gestures enough to get himself home safely?  Blame shouldn't be our goal - prevention and proactive preparedness shoud.

-          Context matters.  There are no “over there” problems; we can’t gate ourselves off from the world.  North Korea’s tried that, how well is it working out for them?  We need to understand the interconnectivity of our environments and be consciously mindful of the impacts we have on them (and each other) both individually and collectively.

-         When making laws, don’t just think about your interests, really think through the broader ramifications.  Do “what if” scenarios, actually engage with people and seek out different perspectives.  It may come as a surprise, but that’s the way the system is really supposed to work.

-          Might does not make right.  The best solutions are always collaborative solutions and, in a society that is growing in size and complexity, we can no longer afford to neglect our environment.


I believe George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, but I don’t think it was for the specific reasons people think.  Yes, it was a racially motivated crime, but one of stigmatic fear (which is perhaps the same as hate, anyway).

In my opinion, there was a whole host of external factors – starting with Stand Your Ground – that exacerbated this problem.  We like to say people need to take responsibility for their own actions; well, when we vote, wall out communities or pack heat, those are our own actions.  They have consequences.  Until we really internalize that fact, we’re going to keep finding ourselves faced with sad, avoidable tragedies like this one.

Do I think anyone’s going to take those lessons to heart?  Not really, no.  At least not yet.  We’re coming to a point, though, when or collective decision-making is going to have such an immediate impact on our lives that we’re not going to be able to ignore the facts any longer.  Only then will we truly start thinking ahead.

What do Employers Really Want? Top Skills and Values Employers Seek from Job-Seekers

Came across this while researching my last post - I think it fits, entirely, so wanted to share it in its entirety:

What Do Employers Really Want? Top Skills and Values Employers Seek from Job-Seekers

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., and Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

Most job-seekers wish they could unlock the secret formula to winning the hearts and minds of employers. What, they wonder, is that unique combination of skills and values that make employers salivate with excitement?

Every employer is looking for a specific set of skills from job-seekers that match the skills necessary to perform a particular job. But beyond these job-specific technical skills, certain skills are nearly universally sought by employers. The good news is that most job-seekers possess these skills to some extent. The better news is that job-seekers with weaknesses in these areas can improve their skills through training, professional development, or obtaining coaching/mentoring from someone who understands these skills.

The best news is that once you understand the skills and characteristics that most employer seek, you can tailor your job-search communication -- your resume, cover letter, and interview language -- to showcase how well your background aligns with common employer requirements.

Numerous studies have identified these critical employability skills, sometimes referred to as "soft skills." We've distilled the skills from these many studies into this list of skills most frequently mentioned. We've also included sample verbiage describing each skill; job-seekers can adapt this verbiage to their own resumes, cover letters, and interview talking points.

Skills Most Sought After by Employers

So, what are these critical employability skills that employers demand of job-seekers?

Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written). By far, the one skill mentioned most often by employers is the ability to listen, write, and speak effectively. Successful communication is critical in business.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Exceptional listener and communicator who effectively conveys information verbally and in writing.

Analytical/Research Skills. Deals with your ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Highly analytical thinking with demonstrated talent for identifying, scrutinizing, improving, and streamlining complex work processes.

Computer/Technical Literacy. Almost all jobs now require some basic understanding of computer hardware and software, especially word processing, spreadsheets, and email.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Computer-literate performer with extensive software proficiency covering wide variety of applications.

Flexibility/Adaptability/Managing Multiple Priorities. Deals with your ability to manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and work assignments.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Flexible team player who thrives in environments requiring ability to effectively prioritize and juggle multiple concurrent projects.

Interpersonal Abilities. The ability to relate to your co-workers, inspire others to participate, and mitigate conflict with co-workers is essential given the amount of time spent at work each day.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Proven relationship-builder with unsurpassed interpersonal skills.

Leadership/Management Skills. While there is some debate about whether leadership is something people are born with, these skills deal with your ability to take charge and manage your co-workers.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Goal-driven leader who maintains a productive climate and confidently motivates, mobilizes, and coaches employees to meet high performance standards.

Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness. There is possibly no bigger issue in the workplace than diversity, and job-seekers must demonstrate a sensitivity and awareness to other people and cultures.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Personable professional whose strengths include cultural sensitivity and an ability to build rapport with a diverse workforce in multicultural settings.

Planning/Organizing. Deals with your ability to design, plan, organize, and implement projects and tasks within an allotted timeframe. Also involves goal-setting.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Results-driven achiever with exemplary planning and organizational skills, along with a high degree of detail orientation.

Problem-Solving/Reasoning/Creativity. Involves the ability to find solutions to problems using your creativity, reasoning, and past experiences along with the available information and resources.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Innovative problem-solver who can generate workable solutions and resolve complaints.

Teamwork. Because so many jobs involve working in one or more work-groups, you must have the ability to work with others in a professional manner while attempting to achieve a common goal.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Resourceful team player who excels at building trusting relationships with customers and colleagues.

Personal Values Employers Seek in Employees

Of equal importance to skills are the values, personality traits, and personal characteristics that employers seek. Look for ways to weave examples of these characteristics into your resume, cover letters, and answers to interview questions.

Here is our list of the 10 most important categories of values.

Honesty/Integrity/Morality. Employers probably respect personal integrity more than any other value, especially in light of the many recent corporate scandals.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Seasoned professional whose honesty and integrity provide for effective leadership and optimal business relationships.

Adaptability/Flexibility. Deals with openness to new ideas and concepts, to working independently or as part of a team, and to carrying out multiple tasks or projects.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Highly adaptable, mobile, positive, resilient, patient risk-taker who is open to new ideas.

Dedication/Hard-Working/Work Ethic/Tenacity. Employers seek job-seekers who love what they do and will keep at it until they solve the problem and get the job done.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Productive worker with solid work ethic who exerts optimal effort in successfully completing tasks.

Dependability/Reliability/Responsibility. There's no question that all employers desire employees who will arrive to work every day -- on time -- and ready to work, and who will take responsibility for their actions.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Dependable, responsible contributor committed to excellence and success.

Loyalty. Employers want employees who will have a strong devotion to the company -- even at times when the company is not necessarily loyal to its employees.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Loyal and dedicated manager with an excellent work record.

Positive Attitude/Motivation/Energy/Passion. The job-seekers who get hired and the employees who get promoted are the ones with drive and passion -- and who demonstrate this enthusiasm through their words and actions.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Energetic performer consistently cited for unbridled passion for work, sunny disposition, and upbeat, positive attitude.

Professionalism. Deals with acting in a responsible and fair manner in all your personal and work activities, which is seen as a sign of maturity and self-confidence; avoid being petty.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Conscientious go-getter who is highly organized, dedicated, and committed to professionalism.

Self-Confidence. Look at it this way: if you don't believe in yourself, in your unique mix of skills, education, and abilities, why should a prospective employer? Be confident in yourself and what you can offer employers.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Confident, hard-working employee who is committed to achieving excellence.

Self-Motivated/Ability to Work With Little or No Supervision. While teamwork is always mentioned as an important skill, so is the ability to work independently, with minimal supervision.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Highly motivated self-starter who takes initiative with minimal supervision.

Willingness to Learn. No matter what your age, no matter how much experience you have, you should always be willing to learn a new skill or technique. Jobs are constantly changing and evolving, and you must show an openness to grow and learn with that change.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:
  • Enthusiastic, knowledge-hungry learner, eager to meet challenges and quickly assimilate new concepts.

Final Thoughts
Employability skills and personal values are the critical tools and traits you need to succeed in the workplace -- and they are all elements that you can learn, cultivate, develop, and maintain over your lifetime. Once you have identified the sought-after skills and values and assessed the degree to which you possess, them remember to document them and market them (in your resume, cover letter, and interview answers) for job-search success.

Sources of More Information about Employability Skills

  • Skills Employers Seek, reporting on annual results from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey of employers to determine the top 10 personal qualities/skills employers seek. From the Career Development Center at Binghamton University.
  • Skills Employers Seek, from Loughborough University.
  • Skills Employers Seek, from Psych Web.