Most modern online job forms want applicants to have specific key skills. Some of these skills are technical and centered around specific fields of knowledge. Other key job skills are conceptual in nature - less about memorizing knowledge and more about being able to wrap your head around abstract principles.
Everyone has conceptual skills at which they excel and conceptual skills they can refine with hard work. With this article and its guidelines, you’ll learn more about what conceptual skills are, how they’re used in modern businesses, and what careers your own conceptual skills will pair best with.
In this article, we’ll explore:
What conceptual skills are
Conceptual skill categories such as analytical, creative, strategic, and communication
Careers that pair well with specific conceptual skills
What are conceptual skills?
As the term suggests, conceptual skills are abilities centered around ideas (rather than physical objects or technical procedures). A conceptual skill lets you understand an abstract concept, then use that understanding to make smart, effective choices.
Professionals with conceptual skills are valued by many businesses thanks to their ability to identify patterns and trends in a company’s operations, then leverage those insights to guide their employers away from disaster and towards success. Professionals with conceptual skills are also seen as versatile, able to tackle unexpected challenges and learn from both their successes and failures.
Some conceptual skills are general purpose and can be used in any career. Other conceptual skills shine the brightest in positions centered around leadership, analysis, problem-solving, or simply being good with data. Regardless, conceptual skills are always worth adding to your professional resume, and will almost always catch the interest of a hiring manager that’s interviewing you.
Most conceptual skills can be divided into these categories:
Interpersonal communication skills
Analytical skills: you’re good with data
The common thread between most analytical skills is data - specifically, the art of gathering, organizing, and gleaning insights from data. Many analytical skills require a grasp of disciplines such as logic, critical thinking, or mathematics, and are vital for jobs in science, engineering, statistics, finance, or computer science.
Professionals seeking work as an analyst need conceptual skills that let you gather information through research, surveys, or studies. They’ll also often need to analyze data sets through data mining, the art of finding useful patterns and trends in chunks of information.
If you’re proficient in analytical skills, most hiring managers will see you as a reliable, focused potential employee who can be trusted to handle the complex tasks that keep their company running. You’ll also be seen as a good critical thinker who can spot blind spots or fallacies in your perspective or the perspective of others and steer the company away from flawed strategies or falsehoods.
Creative skills: you’re a problem solver
Businesses centered around journalism, marketing, media publications, art, or storytelling will always be on the lookout for professionals who self-describe as creative. Individuals with creative conceptual skills, however, will be valued within any company that seeks to grow and expand beyond its limits.
According to a recent Psychology Today article, 94 percent of interviewed hiring managers believe creativity is an important factor to consider when hiring job candidates. Additionally, training in creativity-fostering skills lets problem-solving groups generate 350% more ideas than groups without said training.
Creative professionals typically learn writing, graphic design, or marketing techniques by studying at a university or through years of hands-on experience. To be a successful writer, graphic artist, or marketeer, however, these professionals must also know how to identify their audience’s interests and create content that speaks to them.
Outside of artistic or marketing careers, creative skills are also essential when you’re asked to come up with solutions for your company’s long-standing problems. Key problem-solving career skills can include, but aren’t limited to:
Imagining or asking about the perspectives of others
Identifying ways to improve or modify a pre-existing solution
Telling the difference between ideas that are crazy yet practical and idea that are just crazy
Offering positive, constructive criticism to the idea your colleague offers.
Brainstorming and recording a variety of different ideas.
If you advertise your creative conceptual skills in your resume or during a job interview (and provide concrete examples of your creativity), hiring managers will see you as a useful expert that can be relied on to bring useful concepts to life while working solo or leading a team.
Decision-making skills: you’re a leader
When leading any organization, the first top career leadership skill a manager needs is a basic understanding of their organization’s operations - how it makes money, the resources it needs, and what the workforce can and can’t do. With this understanding, business leaders can then develop the conceptual skills needed to spot short/long term problems their company must address (falling profits, changes in customer demand).
Once a business leader understands what helps and harms their business, they can grow skilled at picking the best strategy for their business going forward. In general, business leaders will have a consistent record of success if they pick strategies that are:
Simple and direct
Have clear “win conditions”
Can be scaled up or down as needed
Don’t alienate or harm employees
Are based on strategies that worked in other companies
Will bring both short-term and long-term benefits
If you’ve mastered the decision-making skills above, most hiring managers will see you as an ideal candidate for management, executive, team leader job openings. Additionally, you’ll be viewed as a trustworthy professional who can be relied on to make calm, practical decisions during stressful situations or emergencies.
Aside from self-help books and leadership seminars, quite a few business leaders in the modern economy like to consult classic manuals of military strategy such as:
Sun Zi’s The Art of War
Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book Of Five Rings
Carl von Clausewitz’s On War
The Thirty-Six Stratagems
Managers who study these texts (mostly) aren’t trying to raise an army or invade a country. Still, these classics do offer timeless advice on how to motivate large groups of people, establish clear strategic goals, and make choices based on reason rather than ego.
Interpersonal communication skills: you’re a good listener
Interpersonal communication skills are valuable in practically any workplace, letting professionals thrive in both entry-level positions and the highest strata of management. But what does it mean to be a good interpersonal communicator?
The first pillar of interpersonal communication is active listening - that is, thoughtfully responding to what a conversation partner has to say. By asking people encouraging questions and communicating your interest with nonverbal communication skills, professionals can help them express their ideas more clearly and foster feelings of mutual trust and respect.
The second pillar of interpersonal communication is active empathy – a conceptual skill where professionals pay attention to a conversation partner’s words, body language, and tone of voice. By noticing these cues, they can spot feelings and concerns their conversation partner may not be trying to express and know how to assure or encourage them.
The third pillar of interpersonal communication is eloquence. To master this interaction-focused verbal communication skill, professionals should avoid lofty language in favor of polite yet direct statements. They should also avoid going on tangents and give their conversation partners space to respond.
By showing that you understand these three conceptual skills and other related communication methods, hiring managers will see you as a great candidate for educational, managerial, or customer service positions, thanks to your ability to absorb information, present information and build rapport with others.
Conceptual skills let you understand abstract ideas and make good business choices.
If you’re applying to data-focused jobs, hiring managers will be very interested in your analytical skills.
If you’re applying to art/media jobs or positions that involve problem solving, hiring managers will greatly appreciate your creative conceptual skills.
If you're applying to management positions, hiring managers will appreciate your decision-making or strategic conceptual skills.
Hiring managers will always have positive reactions to job-seekers with interpersonal communication skills.