Have you ever wondered how a ten-dollar bill can get you a delicious meal at a quick-service restaurant? How about some non-existent digits on your PC monitor that allows you to purchase a home?
This is possible because someone invented the concept of money. This idea was so handy and appealing that it turned into a social contract that spans the whole of humanity.
It’s the power of conceptual skills. These skills can change lives — and contribute to your self-improvement and career development.
What are Conceptual Skills?
Conceptual skills are abilities that enable a person to understand complicated situations better and come up with creative solutions. These skills are highly valuable from a management perspective. Individuals who possess them can solve problems effectively by approaching complex situations in a variety of ways.
The Origin of Conceptual Skills
Robert Katz, an American organizational and social psychologist, came up with the idea of conceptual skills. He named three basic skills that a manager should have: conceptual, human (or interpersonal) and technical.
Katz described these skills as follows:
- Conceptual Skills – The ability to work with abstract ideas and concepts.
- Technical Skills – Also known as hard skills, these are abilities necessary to help you get the job done.
- Interpersonal Skills – This refers to the ability to communicate and cooperate with others.
This managerial skills “trinity” created by Katz plays a crucial part in the success of a person holding a leadership position.
What are Examples of Conceptual Skills?
Conceptual skills come in a variety of categories. Mastering each category comes with benefits that can help improve your career or choose a career that fits you.
Here’s a list of conceptual skills that many employers search for in a candidate:
This skill enables you to break down major issues into bite-sized pieces. It’s essential for determining the relationship between these pieces and coming up with solutions to the problem.
Possessing this conceptual skill at work will allow you to do one or more of the following in your organization:
- Understand the business model of your company
- Understand the relationships between the departments or divisions of your organization
- Define strategies for achieving goals
- Identify the key elements in any situation
- Diagnose problems affecting the organization
- Recognize opportunities for improvement
- Figure out the connection between the company’s new initiatives and the overall strategic plan
Problem Solving Skills
Once you analyze a situation and identify the problem, you now proceed with solving the issue. Individuals with great conceptual skills have excellent problem-solving abilities. They can come up with quick and wise decisions that will yield favorable results.
Effective communication is critical when sharing solutions to problems with other people. By having excellent communication skills, you can express yourself effectively, explain problems and offer viable solutions that people can easily understand.
A few important communication skills that companies value include:
- Active listening
- Oral, written and nonverbal communication
- Asking questions
- Presentation skills
- Inter-relational skills
Leadership is another category under conceptual skills. Possessing excellent leadership qualities allows you to inspire workers and convince them of their solutions to bigger issues within the company.
Great leadership skills that support conceptualization are the following:
- Integrity and honesty
- Commitment to accomplishing the goals of the organization
- Task direction and implementation
- Strategic planning
- Visualizing the business as a whole
Creative Thinking Skills
If you want to get better grades, for instance, you’d look for ways to study smarter, not harder. This is what happens when you use your creative thinking skills.
Being able to think creatively enables you to formulate solutions that are out of the box. This ability lets you look at the problem from all angles and not restrict yourself to popular, simple or obvious answers to an issue.
Highlighting Conceptual Skills When Applying for Jobs
If you’re looking for work, you’ll need to show the talent acquisition specialist or hiring manager that you possess conceptual skills that give you an edge over other candidates.
Here are a few ways to highlight these skills:
In an Interview
During the final job interview, some hiring managers may pose questions that give you the chance to highlight your conceptual skills. If the interview, for example, asks you to develop a solution to a hypothetical problem, you could use your creative thinking and problem-solving abilities to come up with a solid answer. Just make sure that you spend time preparing for these types of questions.
On Your Cover Letter
You also have the option to talk about your conceptual skills in the body of your cover letter. You don’t have to discuss them in great detail. Just select one or two skills that are relevant to the position you’re gunning for and offer examples of when you used these skills in your previous job roles.
On Your Resume
When listing down conceptual skills on your resume, include the specific ones that most apply to the job you want. Create a “skills” section and add the appropriate conceptual skills in there. Alternatively, you can mention them throughout your work history descriptions. Talk about specific examples of how these skills delivered positive results in your previous work.
An example is this statement: “Solved your company’s high churn rate by formulating and implementing worker benefit programs that boosted employee retention by 30 percent over the course of six months.” This demonstrates that you used an innovative solution (worker benefit programs) to solve a complex HR issue (high employee turnover).
How to Improve Your Conceptual Skills
You’re more likely to stumble upon growth opportunities in your career when you take the time to develop your conceptual skills. If you need help honing these abilities, take note of the following tips:
Practice Good Communication
The way you communicate with people affects how others perceive your solutions and ideas at work. Refining your communication skills will allow you to talk to your co-workers and team members more easily and make sure that they are all on the same page when solving a problem.
Other ways to practice various communication skills include proofing your e-mails before sending them and listening attentively during conversations at work.
Hone Your Negotiation Skills
Negotiation is a useful life skill. You use this ability to reach agreements or settle disputes between two or more parties. When strengthening your negotiation skills, remember to practice building rapport, avoid taking rejections personally, be willing to compromise and exercise confidence in what you do.
Abstract thinking is an important category of conceptual skills, as it enables you to be better at seeing the big picture, adjusting and adapting your approaches to a problem and learning new skills. You can practice abstract thinking by formulating several solutions to a common problem or coming up with multiple ways to start and finish a task efficiently.
Break Down Large Tasks into Bite-Sized Pieces
The ability to break down a big tasks into manageable components is vital to practicing conceptual skills. When you need to accomplish a huge project, try to simplify it. This way, the project becomes easier to finish.
Be More Observant
Train your eyes to see situations and issues that are not readily obvious to people. You can do this anytime, anywhere. Pay close attention to what you’re seeing, analyze what’s in front of you and make educated guesses on what will happen next.
Conceptual skills are abilities that will set you apart from candidates (if you’re looking for a job) or employees (if you’re striving to further your career). If you’re aiming for a leadership position in the future, you’ll need to hone these skills. As a manager or supervisor, you need to make sure that everyone on your team is doing their part to achieve the organization’s larger goals.