Soft Skills, Transferable Skills, Technical Skills in the Food Industry…Confused?

Have you been told you need to work on your ‘Soft Skills’? Do you nod in agreement and then wonder what the heck that term ACTUALLY means?  What are employers really looking for?

Looking for your first job can be SO overwhelming. You are preparing your resume–cover letter, speaking with your school career councilor, speaking with your friends, and parents. You are basically absorbing so much information you don’t know what to do first.

You are always told on your resume to “highlight your skills.” Though how are you supposed to know what you should write? Not to mention when you are early on in your career you feel like you don’t actually have many skills in general.

Not to worry FoodGrads is here to help. In this nifty blog post, we are going to cover what are soft and hard skills and what employers are looking for in your resume.

Let’s go!

What are skills?

If you have ever played an MMO or adventure video game you would have noticed that you have to build up your character’s skills. Grinding allows you to increase your skills and eventually level up. There are a certain set of skills needed to proceed through different parts of the game and how much you practice or play will determine how strong they are.

In a strange way, you can compare your life to a video game. You, like a video game character possess a collection of skills and abilities. This set of learned abilities (skills) can help you to succeed in different roles depending on these sets of skills.

No matter where you are in your career journey whether in high school or graduating college you have a set of skills. We are serious! The first step in identifying these skills is knowing what kinds of skills there are – soft and hard skills.

What are soft skills or transferable skills?

Soft skills generally pertain to interpersonal skills and other personality traits that you use to communicate and work with others.

Soft skills are sometimes called ‘transferable skills’ because they can be applied to any job and any industry, quite literally–you can take them with you. They are not necessarily measurable, so you can’t quantify them on your resume. They are however extremely important for getting a job, thriving in your role, as well as transferring to a different position, company or industry.

If career advancement is your goal, developing these skills is not a choice– and the best part, is you will never stop being able to improve them!

Below are some examples of different skills:

  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Leadership
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Team Work/Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Resourcefulness
  • Decision Making
  • Responsibility
  • Self Confidence

It is not enough to list these skills on your resume.  You must be able to ‘speak’ to them (both on your resume and during an interview). Include the skills in a way form that both can be picked up by an applicant tracking systems (ATS) and a hiring manager. Transform it into an example of how you demonstrate this skill in your life.

Helpful tip: Print out the job description for the job that you are applying for. Most jobs will post the skills that are required. Prepare a brief story of how in the past you have exemplified the skills that they are looking for.

Think about every job you have ever had regardless of if it was paid or unpaid. Look at your experiences through a new lens and pull out these different traits. One by one, think about this list and start to write down why and how you honed each skill. Don’t worry if you can’t include them all, that’s what experience does for you–it allows you to develop your skills (and this never ends!) nobody expects a new grad to have a ton of experience which breeds skill development (especially soft skills), but you might surprise yourself by how skilled you actually are!

How to highlight soft skills on your resume as a new grad/student

Below is an actual job posted on Careers in Food for a Project Manager at a frozen pizza manufacturer.

You will notice at the bottom that they have a list of qualifications necessary for the job. What can you say as a new graduate?

In your resume, you should be tailoring your resume to highlight these skills. For example, for this job posting if you performed an undergraduate thesis you could talk about how you managed that. An undergraduate thesis is a project so you do in some form have this skill. Alternatively, if you have ever performed a volunteer project like cleaning up the park you could talk about how you coordinated that.

Alternatively, if the job description asks the individual to have written and verbal communication skills. This would be a great opportunity to highlight a part-time job. If you worked in a fast-food establishment you could mention that you communicated with a variety of individuals like your store manager, co-workers and customers.

You should always be writing your resume from the perspective of keywords that a hiring manager may be searching out. Try to match as many as you can with the job description.

Check Out: A Step by Step Video Guide: How to Build Your Resume Students & New Grads

Soft Skills needed in the Food and Beverage Industry

The type of soft skills that your need in the food and beverage industry will depend on the position that you are applying for. Here are some common roles and the soft skills necessary for the role. We also have included examples a new graduate could use to highlight these skills to get their first jobs.

  • Research and Development Technician:
    • Problem Solving
    • Methodical thinker
    • Interpersonal Skills

As an R&D technician it is literally your job to perform research and problem for company’s looking to develop and improve their products. That’s why it is important that you highlight this skill on your resume. Think about a situation that you had to problem-solve. Was there an instance you volunteered at a food bank and saw a problem? For example, maybe you found the way they organized their pantry was inefficient. You however came in, made a suggestion and improved the situation. This would be a good way to demonstrate this.

  • Quality Control Technician
    • Analytical Skills
    • Organizational Skills
    • Detail Oriented

Being a quality control technician is all about paying attention to the details. Therefore, it is essential that you highlight it on your resume. Being detail-oriented means that you can accomplish/complete a task while demonstrating a thorough concern for all the areas involved, no matter how small.  This can be a bit more difficult to talk about on your resume, The first thing to do is make sure that your resume does not have any mistakes. Don’t just say you are detail-oriented – demonstrate it! If you have ever had a role that involves a high level of trust then this can be a symbol of being detail-oriented in the past. For example, you could talk about being asked to manage critical documentation.  

  • Maintenance Mechanic
    • Multi-tasking
    • Organizational Skills

Working in maintenance requires you to work in a fast-paced environment while multi-tasking. If you have worked in any foodservice job then that is an environment inherently built on multitasking so you could include how you multi-tasked by serving drinks, taking orders and interacting with customers. Alternatively, if you were a cook then you could highlight how you did multiple cooking jobs at once. Examples give employers a better idea of the tasks you handled at one time to assess your skill level.

Related: Skilled Trades in Ontario’s Food and Beverage Procession Industry | CareersNow! Mentorship Series

What are hard skills/technical skills?

Technical skills are easier to figure out.  You either have them or you don’t as they are more practical (think about what you have done with your hands) working on a piece of machinery, inside a lab, at the computer, writing.  Basically, something can be identified by name or defined. Hard skills–as they are sometimes called–can be evaluated and measured, arguably unlike soft skills.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • Coding
  • Welding
  • Statistics
  • Food Safety Certifications
  • Use of specific software programs

As a new graduate, these skills can be a little difficult to identify however think about your schooling and labs. Many colleges and universities offer hands-on training so if you have performed them then these are skills you can list! Many food industry jobs use software that is actually taught and used in college university labs. Include those.

If you have the opportunity to put numbers to those skills then even better! Metrics show that you can communicate something you did in an impactful and can translate knowledge in a tangible way.

Going back to our Project Management Job from earlier.  You will notice that they explicitly require the employee to use MS Project, Salesforce and other MS Office Applications. If you are able to use these programs then that is considered to be a hard skill – then demonstrate it. Fortunately, many of us are familiar with these programs living in the digital age.

If you are still in school consider looking at some job descriptions ahead of time to see what skills they are looking for. That way you can start to target and build them a long way. This eases stress on you and can make you more employable.

Related: Don’t Follow Your Passion: Focus on developing transferable skills

Keep in mind that you can think of a job posting as a “dream” list for the employer. They would like to have the applicant to have all these skills but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to. Many hard skills will be taught on the job especially when the employer wants you to do it their way.

What are technical skills needed in the food and beverage industry?

Research and Development Technician:

Research skills are essential to employers because they help the company develop new products. Research jobs require you to search for credible information that you can analyze and use to arrive at an answer or solution. Think back to when you were in school for any research projects or assignments you had to research and do so in a credible way. This is a good way to demonstrate that you have done this.

In the workplace, the information you search for will likely help you complete projects and add value to the company. For example, you may look for information on how to resolve a company issue or identify your customers’ needs.

Maintenance Mechanic:

Being a maintenance mechanic requires you to work with a variety of hydraulic, machining, electrical, controls, welding and pneumatic systems. Therefore, you should be technically apt to do so. Fortunately, many colleges teach these types of skills in their program.

Food Safety Auditor:

Becoming a food safety auditor takes many years and requires experience. However, if you are considering becoming one in the future consider picking up certifications that complement your degrees like SQF adding and HACCP. Certifications can be considered hard skills because you need to possess them to perform many functions in the food industry. Getting certified prior to you exiting school could be a good way to put your foot in the door.

Interested to know more about the specific skills needed a food industry jobs?

In the end, all jobs need some degree of soft skills and hard skills. If you are interested to know more about jobs in the Food and Beverage industry then check out FoodGrads “Career Paths in Food and Beverage” where we outline different career paths in food, the facts about these jobs and more importantly the information needed to succeed at the role!

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