The job search is a grueling process. There are plenty of talented candidates often vying for the same role. So, what can make you stand out from the crowd?
At first thought, you might think that organizational skills aren’t that important. Sure, it’s good to have your documents organized and your desk area decluttered. But do organizational skills really make a difference when it comes to reaching your full potential?
On average, Americans spend 25% of their workweek looking for things they need to do their job. Think: company resources, guides, documents, and other information. And 75% of employed Americans spend at least one hour per day searching for the resources they need to do their job. That’s a minimum of 260 paid hours per employee spent doing the wrong things each year. Employers need employees to organize their work, communication, and planning for valuable teamwork.
Organizational skills are even more important for remote teams, larger companies, and global workforces. People often have to work on projects with many moving parts, or communicate between time zones. Whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager, your co-workers likely depend on you to communicate and complete your tasks on time.
At BetterUp, we have a high-impact behavior called organize to win. It means that we use our growth mindset and problem-solving skills to stay organized. By doing so, we’re better positioned to reach our goals, do less to deliver more, and keep teams aligned. Organizational skills translate into productivity, efficiency, and doing more with less. And with strong organizational skills, you can set yourself up for success.
This article discusses the key organizational skills every employer wants and how you can use them to shine at work and on the job hunt.
What are organizational skills?
Organization skills are soft skills that help you manage expectations, stay on top of tasks, and deliver results in a timely fashion.
Let’s say you’re working on four projects over the course of three months. And you’re collaborating with a different person for each of those projects. Strong organizational skills will help you break down your expected contribution into manageable tasks. You’ll assign deadlines to those tasks, prioritizing the urgent and important tasks. You’ll also mark milestones that require communication and collaboration.
You may use a project management tool, a notebook, or even a calendar to organize your work.
Organizational skills help you focus your time, effort, and resources on work that matters. Organizational skills also help to keep all stakeholders on track to meet shared goals. By doing so, you’re not holding back team members from making progress on their deliverables.
Importance of effective organization
Effective organizing helps you:
- Save company time (and money): You spend less time searching for things because you already know where to find them. Instead, you can spend that time saved doing other important tasks at work.
As we all know, time is valuable. Where you choose to focus your attention and skills can translate into money.
- Do high-quality work: Organization reduces the chances that you’ll run up to a close deadline and deliver inferior work.
- Become a high-value employee: People will know you as a person who is reliable and smart. You can get recommendations and promotions based on this. You’ve built your own personal brand as a high-performer—and people count on you to get things done.
- Build mental fitness: We exercise our brains through a mental fitness practice. When you’re organized to win, you’re better positioned to flex your mental fitness skills.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a difficult project with cross-functional stakeholders. As the project manager, you’re assigning deadlines, tasks, and project owners. But layered underneath the day-to-day work is managing relationships, navigating conflict, and working with people. All of these skills require some form of mental fitness.
Organized people look more reliable and in control, and can quickly establish a sense of trust and professionalism.
Types of organizational skills
Internal organizational skills
Internal organizational skills are mental. They help you analyze complex issues so you can come up with solutions. They are the skills that help you stay calm, even in the face of pressure.
Examples of internal organizational skills include creative thinking, strategic thinking, etc. Oftentimes, this is where your mental fitness will come out to play. Your brain has a wide range of skill sets that it will use in different situations. It’s important to keep your mental fitness skills sharp to be able to lean on these skills when you need them.
External organizational skills
These organizational skills have more to do with how you work with other people. They help you keep your workspace clean and free from clutter so that it is easier to complete your tasks.
It’s how you set timelines for goals, how you break goals down into manageable tasks, how you communicate, and how you collaborate with others.
Good external organizational skills will help you play well as a team member.
Some examples of external organizational skills include prioritization, documentation, workflow management, and teamwork.
10 key organizational skills examples to grow your career
You need organizational skills if you want to grow in your career. Here are 10 must-have organizational skills that’ll help you reach your full potential.
10 key organizational skills
How well do you arrange your files on your computer, desk, and office space? Do you group your data into folders, and neat file labels that you actually use? If yes, then you have physical organizational skills.
This skill allows you to spend less time searching for things because you already know where they are.
Goal setting means having an action plan to guide and motivate you towards achieving a target. It involves breaking your goals into smaller units and setting deadlines for them.
Employers like goal-setting skills because they improve performance and optimism in the workplace.
Let’s say that you have three tasks to deliver during the week. Prioritizing will help you evaluate each task to know the level of importance and commitment they need. That way, you’ll know what task to handle first.
Because there’s never enough time to get all the work done, employers will value people who know how to prioritize.
Do you often predict outcomes for different courses of action based on facts, and then choose the more beneficial choice? You have decision-making skills.
Mastery of this skill limits the chances of repercussions for poor choices for a company.
Strategic thinking is a problem-solving skill. It’s how you analyze situations to come up with solutions to a problem in the organization.
Strategic thinking is an important transferable skill that you can use at most jobs. It takes you from simply executing your tasks, to understanding how they tie into the business goal.
Collaboration describes how well you work with two or more people to achieve a goal. From how you communicate, whether you’re a dependable team member who finishes their tasks, and much more.
Businesses thrive on teamwork. Your collaboration skills prove you can work in a team to achieve a shared goal.
Effective communication involves exchanging thoughts, ideas, and knowledge in a way that the recipient understands. Speaking (or writing) clearly so that the recipient does not misunderstand you.
Poor communication skills lead to missed opportunities, workplace conflicts, and delays in workflow. One in three projects fails because of miscommunication, amounting to losses up to $62.4 million per year.
How you divide your time between tasks tells a lot about your time management skills. Time management means an awareness of how long tasks take and adjusting your schedule to accommodate that.
Time management can help you work more efficiently since extra minutes are not slipping by unawares. It fosters work-life balance and satisfaction at work.
The company doesn’t have to worry about underperformance when you’re productive, or attrition if you’re satisfied.
Self-motivation is that internal force that pushes you to keep going against all odds. It is that internal desire that makes you want to achieve a goal, no matter how impossible it looks.
Managers don’t have the time to chase employees around, so it’s great if you can find the motivation to work on your own.
If you didn’t have a manager to oversee your work, would you still perform? Self-management describes how you plan, conduct, and account for your work.
As with self-motivation, leadership doesn’t have to worry that you’ll slack if you have self-management skills.
How to amplify your organizational skills at work
Having strong organizational skills is a practice that needs ongoing development. You could be highly organized one week and be out of sync the next. To continue to strengthen and highlight these skills at work, try the following techniques:
Volunteer to project manage
Taking on additional responsibilities requires more organization in itself. By offering to handle the planning and organization of a project, you’re both strengthening and promoting your ability to remain systematic and handle many moving parts.
Keep your workspace tidy
Everyone works in different ways. And your home office might not resemble your in-office workspace. That said, the image you reflect to your coworkers does say convey a message. And a clean, tidy workspace or an organized background on your virtual calls can impact the way you’re perceived by coworkers. Plus, committing to keep your space tidy, whether it will be visible to your coworkers or not, can support the development of your overall organizational ability.
Keep your calendar up to date
Knowing where you need to be and when gives you and your coworkers a predetermined structure for each day. This makes it easier to schedule last-minute meetings, collaborate, and plan. It can also help you protect your time and your bandwidth to combat burnout.
How to add organizational skills to your resume
Unlike a CV, a resume is shorter, so you have fewer opportunities to express your skills. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to highlight them. Over 43% of employers look for organizational abilities in candidates’ resumes. Highlighting organizational skills can help your resume stand out and increase the chances of an interview.
Use these tips to show your organizational skills in a resume.
1. Choose a clean resume layout
Clean and concise resumes show organizational skills without even mentioning them.
As a side benefit, it’s also easy for recruiting tools to scan them for assigned keywords. This is important because recruiters use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan 75% of resumes. It might also help to use bulleted lists to make your skills easier for an ATS to pick up.
Here’s an example of a clean resume layout from We Mean Career.
2. Mention organizational skills that match the job description
Employers prefer specific organizational skills for some roles, and they include them in the job description. In our job ad for a digital marketing manager, for example, we list collaboration as a required skill.
If you were to apply for this role, it would be beneficial to highlight your collaboration skills in your resume.
3. Use your organizational skills to describe yourself in the summary section
Employers spend an average of seven seconds looking at a resume. The summary section is the first part they look at because it is usually on the top of the resume and summarizes the applicant.
Describe yourself with key organizational skills in the summary section of the resume. Here’s a fictitious example for a content writer in Chicago.
4. Display your organizational skills in the experience section
The experience section gives more details about what you did at the job. Show how you used your organizational skills to achieve results.
Use action verbs to describe your skills. Also, use bullet points to make your experience section clean and easy to read.
Here’s an example using the same fictitious writer:
How to highlight your organizational skills in an interview
Employers may ask about your organizational skills during the interview. Here’s how to highlight them in order to stand out:
1. Talk about how you used your organizational skills at a previous job
Interviewers prefer to know how you implemented your organizational skills. Tell them about the role you played in your previous jobs.
It doesn’t matter whether it was on a large or small scale. For instance, you may have led a team of 4 to close over 20 deals in a short time.
Start with a reassuring phrase like “Organization was very important in my previous job.” Then mention how you split the goals into smaller units, the planning process, how you delegated the tasks, and every other step you took for success.
2. Talk about how you used your organizational skills in your personal life
If you are just out of college, you likely have little experience to brag about. Here, use personal experience to prove that effective organizing is one of your core competencies. This is a good time to tell them about that family trip or any other thing that you planned. Remember to include things that went wrong and how you handled those.
What if they don’t ask for your organizational skills?
If your hiring manager does not ask for your organizational skills, ask them questions to create an opportunity to discuss your skills. There are many questions to ask your hiring manager, but you can try this:
“Can you describe some current ongoing projects and initiatives that I would help address in this role?”
This discussion gives you a chance to talk about how you would handle the projects. And you get to talk about your organizational skills in the process.
Pro tip: Use the word “I” to emphasize the roles you played. Also use organizational skills keywords like ‘collaborated’, ‘planned’, ‘strategized’, etc. to affirm your skills.
How to improve your organizational skills
Many companies do organizational training to teach these skills. But you can improve your organizational skills on your own with these tips:
- Evaluate your work procedures to know how organized you are and where to improve
- Declutter and keep a tidy physical and digital workspace
- Document instructions and valuable information to help you meet deadlines
- Group your documents into folders for easy access
- Have a personal calendar and block out deadlines for your work
- Prioritize your tasks according to importance and deadlines
- Spend at least 10 minutes to plan your day and schedules activities
Everyone can organize
Organizational skills are not innate to everyone, but we can all learn to organize.
Start by evaluating yourself to know what skills you already have. That way, you’ll learn where you need to improve.
If you’re struggling to build your organizational skills, a coach can help. With BetterUp, you can work with your coach on a personalized plan to build your skills. By investing in yourself, you’ll be one step closer to reaching your full potential.