Important Multitasking Skills Employers Value (With Examples)

By Kristin Kizer - Jan. 13, 2021
Skills Based Articles

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Skills Based Articles

To execute more than one task at the same time is multitasking. For example, you’ve got to pick the kids up, make dinner, get lunches packed, take the dog for a walk, and talk to your buddy about your weekend plans all at the same time – this is multitasking.

You’re already doing it every single day. You have so many things to do, but you can prioritize them and do several of them at once.

In business, it’s a similar concept, but there are some additional caveats. Your employer wants to ensure you have great quality across the board and is probably looking for improved productivity.

What Is Multitasking?

Multitasking is the ability to manage your time and balance more than one obligation at a time. Often, it’s a lot more than one obligation. But here’s the interesting thing about multitasking: it’s not really as possible as people believe it is. It’s not as effective either.

One example of multitasking that you can and probably do all the time – you talk on the phone while you’re making dinner. Easy enough. Dinner is pretty routine, and there isn’t a lot of thought involved. Also, talking isn’t necessary when making dinner, so you can talk on the phone.

Now, let’s look at a more complex form of multitasking that you might do from time to time: driving and texting. You can drive and text, but it makes you less effective at both tasks if you do them together. That’s why it’s illegal.

They both require you to see something. If you take your eyes off the road, you might hit someone or something. Take your eyes off your text, and you can’t read it, or you’ll type something wrong. Obviously, this is a bad idea, and you should never be texting while driving.

What about at work? You can talk on the phone with a client while you’re opening their files so you can take notes – an essential part of multitasking. You can also have another client on hold and possibly open up their files, too, in preparation. This is extremely efficient.

But is it possible to think about both clients and what their requests will be at the same time? It’s probably possible, but you’re going to be doing it less effectively than you would if you dedicated the time to one account and then switched to the other.

Why Employers Value Multitasking

Many employers love the idea of multitasking. They feel they’re getting the most out of their employees. If they have one person who can learn some different business areas and do them all at once, that’s cost-saving for them. It’s also an efficiency boost.

Beyond what they can see in their numbers, multitaskers catch on quickly and tend to be self-sufficient. These are all great qualities in an employee, but knowing when to multitask and focus can be crucial.

How (and How Not) to Successfully Multitask

You can see that some types of multitasking are beneficial, and others can cause you to be less effective, and they’ll probably cause more errors. So, the question becomes: How do you hone your multitasking skills so you’re doing it effectively and developing great professional strengths?

Below are a few tips to help you effectively multitask:

  • Learn to prioritize. Put this at the top of your to-do list. The most valuable skill you can have when multitasking is to understand what needs to be accomplished first. Doing things that don’t matter isn’t going to get you anywhere. Stick to top priorities.

  • Quickly shift focus. For some people, this isn’t possible. For other people, this can be a learned skill. The faster you can readjust, the better you’ll be at handling several tasks in a seemingly simultaneous fashion.

  • Organize everything. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to find what you need and shift gears.

  • Develop a notetaking system. Whether you use an online task tracking app or you prefer to keep a handwritten to-do list, this will be invaluable to you as you bounce from one thing to the next.

  • Cut down on distractions. When you’re jumping from one thing to the next, the last thing you need is to be caught up in some office gossip instead of being at your desk working. Eliminate all distractions so you can focus.

  • Take breaks. Burnout is super-easy when you’re continually doing too much. Take breaks so you can refresh and recharge. This will also help you stay on top of your game.

  • See the big picture. If you can think long-term and predict what might happen, you can often stop problems before they occur. This is very important if you’re doing more than one task at a time. The fewer the problems, the easier it is to do more.

  • Know when to stop. When you have a task that requires your full attention, give it. Knowing when to stop multitasking is key to being a successful employee. For some people, this can be a life and death situation when safety and security are involved.

Examples of Multitasking in Various Professions

Sometimes you multitask without even being aware of it. Sometimes it takes work, or you suddenly have a lightbulb moment and realize that you’re multitasking. Some examples of real-world multitasking on the job might help you turn that spotlight onto your multitasking moments.

  • A receptionist might answer the phone while handing an in-person visitor a form to complete.

  • Cooks are often working on several different food orders at once as they man the griddle.

  • Bus drivers drive while giving directions or disciplining students – it depends on what type of bus they drive.

  • Network engineers might be solving a problem while simultaneously thinking of ways to avoid that problem in the future permanently.

  • A help desk administrator might be taking a phone call for a problem while researching how to fix that problem or delegating the repair to someone else.

  • Your friendly mixologist is busy taking your complicated drink order while they’re crafting a different cocktail for someone else.

  • Writers are often taking notes and even writing their articles while interviewing someone.

  • Air traffic controllers are monitoring air traffic while also giving directions to pilots.

  • Insurance agents might be processing claims for people while chatting on the phone and answering questions.

  • A nurse might be wrapping a sprained ankle while teaching the technique to a new nurse.

  • Students listen to a lecture while filtering out key points and taking notes.

  • Some office employees attend meetings and manage other tasks, like emails during those meetings.

  • Watching T.V at home while exercising to get both things done at once.

Is Multitasking a Myth?

You might hear people say that no one can multitask, that you’re just timesharing an activity, or you’re switching back and forth. There is some truth to this belief. You’ve probably tried to answer an involved email while you’re listening to someone else speak.

Whether it’s in the office, at home on the couch, or wherever you are. You’ll realize that you switch your attention to the email so you can answer it appropriately. Then suddenly, you’ve rejoined the conversation, and you have no idea what was just said. That’s a perfect example of time sharing or switching.

But when it comes to activities that are pretty routine and habitual, it’s possible to multitask. Take the receptionist, for example. This person knows the phone greeting so well that they can answer the phone while finding the appropriate paperwork for someone standing at the desk.

But, once the person on the phone starts talking specifically about their issues, the receptionist might have to give them full attention.

Employers might not actually want true multitasking in an employee. Just the ability to shift attention and timeshare efficiently and accurately might be their end goal. It takes a quick mind to be able to do this, and you’re still super-efficient even if it’s not exactly multitasking.

How to Include Multitasking on a Job Application

If you know the job you’re applying for is fast-paced and service-driven, then you can assume they want multitaskers. Multitasking is a soft skill. It’s not something you learn in school or are trained to do. That means they’re a little harder to point out on a resume or a cover letter.

If you pay attention to your wording in your resume, you can work on the idea that you’re a fantastic multitasker. The following are some examples of the way you can use language to support your abilities.

  • Produced a crew on-set while operating the camera during studio shoots

  • Managed incoming customers while simultaneously fielding phone calls

  • Drove a bus and concurrently provided regional information to tour groups

  • At the same time, I was responsible for processing paperwork and greeting guests

  • Cooked up to ten meals at a time

  • Managed more than five client accounts each day

Final Thoughts

Suppose you manage to get past the resume part of a job application and get your foot in the door for an interview. Let them know that multitasking is something you can do well. You can have an anecdote prepared to explain how you can juggle tasks. But it’s a good idea also to be ready to explain how you can focus when the need arises and put all your efforts into doing a good job.

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Author

Kristin Kizer

Kristin Kizer is an award-winning writer, television and documentary producer, and content specialist who has worked on a wide variety of written, broadcast, and electronic publications. A former writer/producer for The Discovery Channel, she is now a freelance writer and delighted to be sharing her talents and time with the wonderful Zippia audience.

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