Are you organised? What does that mean to you? When you plan the skills section of your CV, remember that the hiring manager doesn’t know you and doesn’t understand what you mean when you say you have “organisational skills.” You need to break it down for them so they get a better picture of how you function during the working day.
To do that, you need to first think about all the elements of organisation which are most important in your career and the position you wish to hold. We’ve got you covered. Within this blog, we will answer the following questions:
- Why are organisational skills important?
- What are examples of organisational skills?
- How can I demonstrate organisational skills on my CV?
- How can I improve my organisational abilities?
Why are organisational skills important?
The old saw “absent-minded professor” exists for a reason. It conjures up an Einstein-like image of someone who is deep in thought, but can’t tie his own shoelaces. That’s fine – if you’re Einstein, but your prospective employer wants to know that you can get the job done in a timely manner. You can noodle on quantum physics in your own time.
Put simply: organisational skills provide the framework for completing all your tasks without drama. These skills, also called executive functioning, make your work and your life run more smoothly. Efficiency gives you more breathing room to perfect your work, improve upon processes, and get out ahead of potential problems.
We’ve all had that coworker who is rushing to meetings late (or missing the beginning of the Zoom) with a pastie in hand and an apology on their lips. They are the ones who complete their work at the last minute or beyond. It may be brilliant but they’ve held up the rest of the team from completing their tasks. You don’t want to be that person and your boss doesn’t want you to be either.
More than the annoyance of coworkers, a lack of organisation can lead to:
- Disgruntled clients
- Lost opportunity and profits
- Negative workplace culture
While your supervisor can teach you a trick of the trade you haven’t mastered yet, it’s unlikely they will spend time showing you how to manage your calendar. Within your CV, you must prove that you already have these talents.
So what are they? We tackle that next.
Top organisational skills examples
Organisational skills examples fall into broad categories that you should break down as you compile your job application documents. Always keep in mind the priorities from the job advert as you do so. For deadline-driven jobs, make sure you include examples of time management and prioritisation. For collaborative positions, focus on teamwork and communication.
Time management: You may think that time management is not a big deal if you don’t mind working 12-hour days, but how you manage your time affects all of those who are touched by your work. A Wednesday end-of-day deadline does not mean you should complete your work at 11:59 p.m. Be cognisant that someone downstream from you is waiting for your assessment to be completed.
Time management skills also allow you to cope with the unexpected: the WiFi goes down, an important client calls and you must shift gears to resolve their problem, school calls and you must go pick up your sick child. None of these is a crisis if you have managed your time well.
Communication: On the surface, this does not seem like an organisational skill, but an interpersonal one; however, your ability to communicate, which includes active listening, means you will understand what is being asked of you as well as letting others know what you need from them and how far along you are in your own processes.
This skill is intertwined with teamwork.
Teamwork: Teamwork also falls into the interpersonal and organisational categories. To manage or participate in a project from start to finish, you need to be able to function within a team. That requires you to complete your portion of the project on time and efficiently, to communicate with the members of the team, and to manage several moving pieces at once.
Dropping the ball on any of these playing fields means either that someone else has to pick it up or the project suffers.
Goal-setting: Here we mean daily, weekly, monthly, and overall career goals. Many workers are required to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound) during a review process, but setting realistic benchmarks for yourself is more than an HR exercise.
What do you have to accomplish today? Tomorrow? By the end of the week? How will you organise these tasks to ensure they are completed? Which coworkers must you communicate with or hand off tasks to in order to reach your goals? All of these questions need to be answered daily so that nothing falls through the cracks.
This exercise also helps you be realistic about what you can accomplish. Feeling as though there’s no way you will be able to handle all that work? Panic early and often! Get help, rearrange your schedule, or push off something less important, which brings us to prioritisation.
Prioritisation: Disorganised workers often attend to whoever is waving a flag in their face at the moment. That can lead to missed deadlines and uncompleted work. Organised workers know that some tasks can be put on the “when I get a chance” pile and some should go on the “get them done this week” pile. Not every task must get done immediately.
Prioritising increases your ability to make deadlines, to focus on the task at hand without getting distracted by lower priority responsibilities.
Resource management: Disorganisation leads to waste in material items, money, and time. Efficient use of resources requires you to know what you need and when. For example, if you are event coordinator, but you neglected to order the coffee, you won’t have time to negotiate a better deal.
Demonstrating organisational skills on your CV
There are three key places in your CV to highlight your organisational skills. The first is your CV skills section. This list of 5-8 of your top abilities should combine both your knowledge in your field and some of the organisational skill examples discussed above.
The second place to demonstrate organisational skills is within the bullet items of your employment history section. Here are a few examples of organisational skills for your employment history bullet items:
- Created scheduling spreadsheet to prioritise needs of 15 clients
- Closed books and paid vendors accurately and on-time
- Improved efficiency of delivery runs with upgraded software system
Notice that none of these examples includes the word “organisation.” Instead, each uses a specific accomplishment that requires organisational skills.
Finally, if organisation is one of your core strengths, add a phrase in your summary, too. Tell your prospective employer that you never miss a deadline, or that you can spot inefficiencies and correct them. Mention that you orchestrated a new team structure that evened-out the workload and reduced burnout.
If you have gotten this far and realise you have room for improvement, there are ways to get more organised.
How to be more organised at work
The first step to improving your organisational skills is taking a critical look at how you function now. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is my day like before work? Do I need more time before the workday begins?
- How do I decide which tasks to attend to first?
- Are details slipping through the cracks or am I scrambling at the last minute?
- Do I forget about meetings or other time-oriented functions?
- Is my workspace functional? It’s OK if it’s a mess as long as you know where everything is and it doesn’t make the office look unprofessional, but if you’re losing things in your stacks, it’s time for a cleanup.
- Do I get distracted by chores such as laundry while working from home?
Once you’ve identified your weak spots, you can begin to try out some of the plethora of organisational tools designed to help. For example, if you swipe away reminders on your phone or laptop, try a physical planner.
If you feel you need more than simple organisational tools, try an executive function coach.
Free online organisational tools
- Any.do: to-do lists for you and your team
- Asana: task management
- ClickUp: customisable and offers docs, reminders, goals, calendars, and an inbox
- Evernote: take and organise notes
- Freeplane: keep your ideas flowing and organised with mind mapping and brainstorming
- Google Calendar and Google Tasks: obvious, but useful
- Habitica: game-based app that helps you build good habits based on your goals
- Microsoft To-Do: if you like the Microsoft environment, this one's for you
- Padlet: an online bulletin board for organisation and collaboration
- Remember the Milk: a to-do list that sends reminders, organised tasks
This list is far from inclusive. You may find none of these is perfect for you, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Try a different one or combine one or more to create an organisational system that improves your productivity.
- Organisation affects all aspects of your life, not just your job. Getting organised can reduce stress and help advance your career.
- Organisational skills are the backbone of your ability to excel at your job
- Better than listing “Excellent organisation” on you CV, break down the category into discrete skills
- Sprinkle examples of your organisational skills throughout your CV
- Take advantage of the many tools available to create processes that work for you.