The Most Important Life Skills (With Examples)

By Amanda Covaleski - May. 13, 2021
Skills Based Articles

Find a Job You Really Want In

Employers are constantly finding new skills and experiences to ask for on job postings. One way to get ahead of the pack and differentiate yourself from other candidates is to highlight your life skills that others might not have.

While everyone has different life skills, being able to identify which of these real-world skills you’re best at can help you land that dream job.

What Are Life Skills?

Life skills are the different capabilities that you develop in your everyday life just as you navigate the world. Think of life skills as soft skills — they’re multi-purpose and easily transferable across experiences, roles, and industries.

These can, and do, overlap with professional skills since they tend to be general skills that equip you for the world.

The best part about life skills, unlike other professional or personal skills, is that they can be picked up just by living. The experiences you live help you master certain abilities, like communication, self-management, etiquette, and other soft skills.

They can be broad competencies that appear in many parts of your life, that’s what makes them life skills as opposed to just professional, technical, or personal skills.

Types of Life Skills

While there are many types of skills you can acquire in your life, from knowledge-based to experience-based, life skills tend to be particularly helpful. Since they’re gained as you go through your everyday tasks, life skills can always be learned. Let’s take a look at some of the most important life skills that employers look for on resumes and in interviews.

  1. Communication skills. Everyone can communicate, but communicating effectively sets you apart from the rest of the applicants. Communicating is about more than just getting your point across clearly, it’s also about listening well, respecting other people’s thoughts, being friendly and empathetic, and having the confidence to speak your mind.

    Employers are always looking for effective communicators, so think about ways in which you apply these skills to your personal and professional lives.

  2. Resiliency. How well can you bounce back from a setback or criticism? Employers like to know that you won’t be deterred by comments on your work or your performance, so they look for resilient candidates.

    Interviewers love to ask about times you struggled professionally or what your biggest challenge has been. Be sure to answer these questions in a way that highlights how you bounced back and were ultimately successful to show your resiliency.

  3. Decision-making skills. This is one of those catch-all skills since it touches on many other skills and abilities. You make decisions everyday, but how you approach those decisions is important.

    Decisions involve reasoning, logic, problem-solving, and more, so employers look for people who will take all factors into account and choose the best option. The implementation of these decisions is also important since it requires teamwork, communication, and leadership, all important qualities to consider when looking at a candidate.

  4. Cooperation. While cooperation can seem like a passive term, it’s actually a very active skill. Cooperating with your team, your boss, and anyone else you interact with professionally will help you coordinate, collaborate, and get the job done.

    Employers like to know that their potential employees are flexible team players since so much work revolves around the combined effort of a team. Highlighting experiences where you’ve worked on a team and what you achieved can be a great way to differentiate yourself from other applicants.

  5. Ability to accept constructive criticism. Similar to resiliency, accepting constructive criticism positively is a trait employers value. Nobody is perfect and at times you’ll make mistakes or simply deliver something that doesn’t meet your boss’ expectations — and that’s fine.

    It’s more important that you’re able to take that feedback, integrate it into your work, and improve for next time. While employers do look for people with certain technical or field-related skills when hiring, it’s also just as important to find people who are teachable and willing to learn on the job. That’s ultimately what accepting criticism boils down to.

  6. Time management skills. This is a true life skill that helps you in every facet of your life, no matter what you’re doing. Being able to manage your time and meet deadlines, work productively, set reachable goals, organize and prioritize tasks, and plan effectively all impact your daily and professional lives.

    Find a way to highlight how you manage your time in your resume or cover letter. Use examples of a large project you worked on or how you managed to multi-task multiple small projects at once. Employers look for signs that potential employees will be able to self-manage and meet deadlines, all important time management skills.

  7. Technology skills. The name can be intimidating, but technology skills (unless specified in a job description) just means basic computer and technology skills. These days most jobs require familiarity with technology, like computers, word processing software, and online research.

    Just listing basic competencies that you have, from software you know and online skills you have is a great way to let future employers know what tech knowledge you already have.

    If you have more advanced skills, like you know programming languages or premium software like the Adobe Suite, definitely highlight that since it can distinguish you from other candidates or meet job requirements for more technical jobs.

  8. Interpersonal skills. These are your “people skills”, or how well you communicate, collaborate, and build relationships with others. Some interpersonal skills are just personality traits, like patience and empathy, and others are acquired skills, like responsibility.

    The good news is that interpersonal skills can always be learned and improved upon as you meet new people and have new experiences. Employers look for candidates who will work well with others and having strong interpersonal skills is a good indication that someone will fit well on a team.

  9. Self-awareness. When talking about life skills, it’s important to remain reflective and unbiased when you think about the skills you’re good at and the ones that could use improvement.

    Like anything else, it’s impossible to be good at everything so think about your strengths and highlight the soft skills that resonate most with you. Being self-aware helps you evaluate what you excel at and should include on your resume, as well as pointing out where you have room for improvement.

  10. Ability to learn. It’s always possible to learn new life skills. There are always things to improve on and life skills are no different. Learn more about effective communication, or how to effectively manage your time and you’ll see more success in everyday tasks as well as professional duties.

    You can also take time to learn hard skills, like a language or data analytics, which not only allow you to have new, applicable knowledge but can also show soft skills like determination and resourcefulness.

How to Improve Your Life Skills

While there’s no sure-fire way to gain more life skills, the good news is that you can always pick up new life skills without even knowing it.

The more you experience, the more you’re exposed to challenges and problems, which help you develop the soft skills you need to be successful in your career. As you learn and experience more, you’ll acquire new abilities to read situations, make decisions, or talk to people more productively.

Some life skills, like time management and technology skills, are easier to learn through books, podcasts, and other mediums, other things like responding to constructive criticism and self-awareness are only built upon over time.

If you have a particular life skill that you’d like to work on, you can hire a coach or find a mentor to help you. Having someone to talk to and work through problems with is a huge asset for rapidly improving your life skills.

When you’re deliberate about growing and held accountable by another person (or community of people), it makes it much easier to evolve.

The great thing about life skills is that you’re constantly gaining and improving upon them as you move through life, so focus on being introspective and noticing the improvements in your knowledge and abilities.

How to Include Life Skills on a Resume

When writing a resume, be sure to include your soft skills explicitly in the skills section and implicitly in the professional history section. This way, potential employers can see your skills laid out in clear writing as well as examples of how you implement those skills.

Here’s a sample resume for a project manager with life skills listed:

EDUCATION

University of Southern California, B.A. Business Administration, 2010-2014

SKILLS

  • Resource planning

  • Web development

  • Project management software (Basecamp, Asana)

  • Microsoft Office

  • Google Suite

  • Organization

  • Time management

  • Leadership

  • Team player

  • Decision maker

EXPERIENCE

Project Manager | ABC Company
May 2016-Present

  • Coordinated efforts to launch new product line

  • Implemented Asana across departments for record-keeping and project tracking

  • Led and mentored team of 3 project management interns

Project Management Assistant | XYZ Company
March 2012-May 2016

  • Provided clerical and administrative support

  • Communicated between departments to progress company projects

  • Took notes during meetings and distributed edited copies to participants

How to Include Life Skills in a Cover Letter

Cover letters offer a great opportunity to show your competencies instead of just listing and telling them on a resume. Make sure to provide stories or details about how you’re good at whatever skill you list instead of just saying you’re good at it.

Here’s an example of how to weave life skills into a cover letter for a social media specialist application:

Jane Doe
123 Main St
City, State 12345
123-456-7890
jane.doe@email.com

September XX, 2020

John Smith
Chief Marketing Officer
ABC Company
123 Street Rd
City, State 12345

Dear Mr. Smith,

As a recent graduate of State University’s Marketing program, I was excited to see your posting for the Social Media Specialist position. I am eager to begin my career in digital marketing and pursue my passion for social media marketing. I believe that my internship experience paired with my classroom knowledge will make me an asset to ABC Company’s team from my first day.

While at State University, I took classes such as Social Media 101, Personas and Social Platforms, and Marketing Analytics to deepen my knowledge of social media as a marketing tool. I implemented those learnings when I interned at Marketing Company last summer as a digital marketing intern. There, I was responsible for creating editorial calendars, running analytics reports, coordinating tasks with the intern team, and presenting my findings and proposals to my supervisors. More specifically, creating the editorial calendar was a task that spanned my entire three-month internship where I was responsible for creating weekly content themes and sharing them with the content team. From there, I collected blog drafts, social media copy, and draft email newsletters from everyone and recorded all the content the company had going out in a single calendar.

The skills that I honed with Marketing Company have prepared me to enter the world of social media marketing and I am eager to work with ABC Company. I am especially interested in ABC Company because of the clients the company works with, from local food stores to neighborhood clinics. I am a firm believer in buying locally and working with ABC Company is a way for me to promote the businesses I care about in the community.

I am confident that I can excel as a Social Media Specialist at ABC Company. I look forward to hearing back from you and learning more about the position. I am happy to go over my experience in further detail if necessary. Thank you for taking the time to consider my candidacy.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

How to Showcase Life Skills During an Interview

Many interview questions are designed to test not just a candidate’s professional, on-the-job skills, but also their more intangible life skills. Hiring managers and recruiters especially love to ask behavioral interview questions.

Behavioral interview questions are questions about your past behavior on the job and are used to predict how you might behave in your new job, if they decide to hire you. These questions often start with phrases like “tell me about a time” or “give me an example of a time when.”

Luckily, there’s a straightforward strategy for answering questions like these. Just use the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and it’s a tidy, coherent way to arrange a brief story.

Let’s take a look at some common interview questions that focus on your life skills, as well as great example answers using the STAR method.

  1. Tell me about a time you failed.

    Early on in an internship experience I had with XYZ Inc., I was incredibly enthusiastic about making a good impression. I simply couldn’t say no when somebody asked me to do something. Unfortunately, I took on more deadlines than I could handle, and I failed to turn in a high-priority report that I completely forgot about.

    It affected a member of the sales team, who was understandably upset that she didn’t have the materials she needed for her presentation. I apologized profusely and she forgave me, but after that experience, I made it a point to organize my schedule more thoroughly. Now, I not only list my tasks in my to-do list, but also estimates for time commitments, so I never bite off more than I can chew.

    Why it works: This answer shows off great life skills from start to finish. Enthusiasm, a “say-yes” attitude, and self-awareness about the applicant’s limitations. Plus, the applicant drew an important lesson from the experience, showing an ability to learn and improve.

  2. Give me an example of a time when you disagreed with your boss.

    At my last job at ABC Corp., my boss wanted to begin spending more on Facebook Ads. I dug through the data and found that 60% of our traffic was organic, and Facebook was only accounting for 11%. Worse, I found that the traffic we were getting from Facebook wasn’t really converting into meaningful sales numbers.

    I made a report and brought it to my supervisor, and he agreed that the social media spending hadn’t been effective in the past. He still wanted to test the efficacy of social media ad campaigns, but he asked me to advise the design and web development teams on creating better ads and landing pages. In the end, traffic from Facebook Ads nearly doubled and the conversion rate also went up significantly. It was a good compromise that led to a more effective test and positive results.

    Why it works: This person’s answer shows that they don’t rush to argument when they see an idea they’re not 100% on board with. They did their research, compiled a report, and presented evidence in a calm, rational way. And then they actively listened to their boss’s response and helped with a project they weren’t entirely convinced about.

    All of this speaks to a thoughtful, considerate team-player who knows how to manage relationships and decisions in a positive way.

Final Thoughts

While the term “life skill” seems far removed from the professional sphere, the most successful job applicants have a blend of professional or technical skills, hard skills, and life or soft skills.

These winning combinations of abilities make people well-rounded and better suited for all types of jobs, so make sure you’re selling yourself to the fullest potential when applying for jobs. Include any skills that are relevant to the job posting in your resume and cover letter, and you’ll be well on your way to landing that dream job.

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Author

Amanda Covaleski

Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

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