Add these skills to your CV to give yourself the competitive edge!

To get ahead professionally, you need more than just a good application. You need a CV that showcases how you'll help to drive the business forward. That's where conceptual skills come into play. Put simply, they let the hiring manager know that you have what it takes to solve problems. Let's look into more detail at what they are, some examples for inspiration, and how you can strengthen this unique set of talents. 

What are conceptual skills?

Conceptual skills constitute those abilities that allow you to work with abstract concepts. These thinking skills help you to come up with solutions to problems within the workplace.  They give you the ability to see the bigger picture in any situation, allowing you to grasp even the most complicated ideas and address challenges with creative strategies.

For example, these skills enable you to identify complex interdependencies in your work, such as how specific tasks or department objectives relate to the larger aims of the company. Used well, conceptual skills lead to well-thought-out plans and actions that support the business' long-term growth.

The importance of conceptual skills

Candidates often forget to include conceptual skills on their CV – this is a mistake as hiring managers are always on the lookout for these, especially in applications involving more senior roles. But no matter your career level and career aspirations, these skills can help you excel and can even prime you for sought-after leadership positions in the future. Here's a breakdown of how you can use conceptual skills to move your career forward:

Overcome challenges with ease

Few jobs are without their hiccups. When you've honed your conceptual skills, you'll be better equipped to overcome any challenges in the workplace. This is because learning to account for how your actions impact the business allows you to anticipate problems and conceive solutions more quickly, placing you ahead of the game. And rather than just addressing the signs of a problem, you'll even be able to tackle its root cause, helping you prevent similar problems in the future.

Make better decisions 

When you take the time to consider every part of an issue, you can better arrive at choices that will benefit the whole business. It comes as no surprise then that the ability to formulate sound decisions is a trait many hiring managers look out for. Decision-making is like a muscle. The more you flex it, the easier it becomes to use swiftly and precisely.

Collaborate effectively with other teams 

Chances are, you need to work with other teams to get your job done. Armed with a selection of savvy conceptual skills, this should be a breeze. You'll have the ability to understand what other teams need, communicate with them well, and work towards a common goal. All of the above means that you can drive your processes forward faster and more efficiently.

Hone your leadership potentials

Do you have your sights set high? If you're aiming for a leadership position, you'll need a broad array of conceptual skills. As you start to use these in your everyday workplace activities, you'll be on course to becoming a trusted leader in the workplace. Keep moving forward here. 

Conceptual skills examples

Now that you know what conceptual skills are, let's take a look at some you may want to include in your next application. Regardless of the job role and level to which you're applying, these golden nuggets on your CV will help catch the hiring manager's attention and help you stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons: 

1. Decision-making skills

If you have any level of autonomy in your role, you'll need to make snappy decisions that benefit both the department and the entire company. Whether that means deciding when to call a meeting or choosing between marketing campaigns, you're in the driving seat. 

Decision-making is about choosing the course of action that best fits the situation you're in. It isn't merely about the end result. To get to the right conclusion, you need to take logical steps, analyse the information you have, and use your own intelligence.

Expert tip: If you include this on your CV, you can use the STAR approach in the interview to elaborate on it. Show how your decisions have led to top results for the business. 

2. Problem-solving skills 

Problem-solving goes hand-in-hand with decision-making. Much of the time, when you're calling the shots, you'll be dealing with every potential challenge or problem along the way. These two conceptual skills allow you to elevate yourself from mere worker to manager instantly. 

As organisational systems become larger and more complex, overcoming obstacles quickly becomes an increasingly essential ability, highly valued by hiring managers. Upskill in this area by learning about the best problem-solving techniques.

3. Creative thinking skills

Creativity doesn't always mean grabbing a paint brush and making a masterpiece. If you have a creative mind, you can use it to come up with solutions in the workplace. You've probably heard the phrase “think outside of the box.” While it's most certainly overused, there's truth in the idea that original thinkers can come up with innovative solutions. Think of the times you've simplified a process or finally addressed a customer issue for good.

4. Critical thinking skills 

You should never underestimate the value of critical thinking in the modern job market. This conceptual skill will help in almost every area of your job role. To get it right, you'll need to have the ability to quickly understand issues, analyse them, and come to solid conclusions. 

5. Analytical skills 

Similar to critical thinking, your analytical skills allow you to look at complex information in front of you, break them down into smaller parts, and process how they relate to each other. While some people have naturally analytical minds, the rest of us have to work hard to hone these skills. These skills can include any of the following: 

  • The ability to quickly outline pros and cons 

  • Critiquing ideas and processes

  • Understanding multiple perspectives

  • Weighing up what the right choice is

While you may not work directly in the analytical sphere, these skills can help you to become a more valued worker. So, it's well worth seeing whether you can elevate them. 

6. Communication / presentation skills 

Let's say you've got a stellar idea that you've been concocting – how are you going to share it with the rest of the workforce? When you're spearheading a new solution, which others may often find difficult to visualise, you need to get everybody else on board. The best way to do that is to communicate clearly, sharing your master plan in an easy-to-digest way. Turning your ideas into action means speaking to others so effectively and empathetically that you get them to work towards a shared goal.

7. Interpersonal skills 

Interpersonal skills allow you to get along with your colleagues (and clients!) and collaborate with them. The better these conceptual skills are, the more likely you are to get what you want out of any given situation. With these conceptual skills, networking becomes easy, as well as building lasting working relationships

8. Motivational skills

When we're talking about conceptual skills, being motivational may not be the first thing that springs to mind. However, this is a vital talent that can help you work well with a team. All too often, workers can get bored and tired of the humdrum nature of their jobs. As a leader, you have to keep them on track and show them the value of their efforts.  

9. Contextualising

It's one thing to understand complex ideas – it's quite another to put them into context for people. If your team is having a hard time getting to grips with a certain solution, you'll need to show them how it aligns with the rest of the business processes. Listing “contextualising skills” on your CV tells the hiring manager that you have this one down.

Conceptual skills in management

Unsurprisingly, the conceptual skills listed above often come into play when you're leading a group. And that's because managing people and projects involve a good deal of planning and re-configuring day-to-day tasks to achieve the team's goals. We can further categorise the above conceptual skills based on how they're used in a management role:

Developing ideas and solutions. It's important to note that many conceptual skills take place inside your own head (e.g. decision-making, problem-solving, creative thinking, critical thinking, and analytical thinking skills). Having these conceptual skills on your CV shows recruiters that you have what it takes to strategise.

Translating ideas and solutions for others. As a manager, you'll also need to translate your ideas into actual results through people (e.g. communication, interpersonal, motivating, and contextualising skills). That's not always an easy job – especially when dealing with different characters and varied priorities. By including these on your CV, you show recruiters that you can rally team members towards the same direction, no matter how abstract the vision is.

Conceptual skills vs technical skills

As they apply to almost any job and sector, conceptual skills are generally classified as soft skills, instead of technical skills. Hence, these are skills that you can use across roles. When crafting your CV, make sure to show recruiters how you've used these conceptual skills by highlighting concrete and quantifiable examples.

How to develop your conceptual skills 

If you feel as though you're lacking in conceptual skills, don't panic. No matter where you currently are, there are plenty of ways to strengthen these skills – you simply need to work on it. Here are some of the approaches that you can take to help you along the way:

Work closely with a mentor 

If you want to take a conceptual approach to your work, you need to get out of your department, mentally speaking. Working with a mentor can help you to better understand the role that you play within the business. It's worth looking for mentors within your ranks. For example, you may enlist the help of a manager, supervisor, or senior co-worker. 

Discuss ideas with others 

Do ideas stay within the confines of your mind? Or, as you should, do you share them with other professionals? One of the simplest ways to improve your conceptual skills in business environments is to have productive conversations with your co-workers. Start making a habit out of this.

Liaise with other departments

Inter-departmental working is the secret ingredient when it comes to conceptual skills. Departments have to work together to get the right results. If you're not already in the habit of liaising with people from other teams, it may be time to up your game. 

Make an effort to connect with other departments whenever you can. For instance, you might want to ask to attend company-wide meetings, seek more information about certain projects, or look for ways to collaborate with them. 

Showcase your conceptual skills  

In this guide, we've shared some conceptual skills examples that you can include in your CV. When you're looking for the next step on the career ladder, you need to ensure that this skill set is robust, diverse, and clearly outlined in your application. Consider which ones you already have in your professional arsenal and which else you can develop along the way. 

Make sure that your application is optimised to turn hiring managers' heads. Submit your CV for a free CV review to boost your chances of landing more interviews and getting hired faster!

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