Four outdated skills that aren’t skills (unless they are)

Listing outdated skills on your resume can cost you jobs and leave you subject to ageism.

When creating a resume, you need to list all your skills that are relevant to the job. But not all skills are created equal, and some have become outdated or obsolete. Listing outdated skills on your resume can leave you subject to ageism, which, though technically a human rights violation, is rampant on the job market. So, you want to avoid doing that. And it can cost you jobs, simply because it looks like you don’t know what’s going on.

In some instances, the relevance of a skill depends on your level of proficiency and how it relates to the position. As an extreme example: most people can walk, but not everyone can walk a tightrope.

Here are four outdated skills that are no longer relevant and should not be included on our resume, except when they are not outdated and should be included on your resume.

Word processing or typing speed

Once upon a time, most people couldn’t read or write, and those who could were considered particularly skilled. Now, most people in developed countries can read and write and these abilities are not considered particularly impressive. Word processing and typing are sort of like that. Word processing just means that you know how to write things on a computer, which we can all do. And most people type pretty fast these days, or at least type at a reasonable pace. You’re expected to be able to type.

There are some jobs that require typing skills and for which you should highlight them. These include court reporter, minute taker, transcriptionist, and closed captioner.

What is a good typing speed? According to Wikipedia, an average professional typist types about 50 to 80 words per minute (wpm), while some positions can require 80 to 95, and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120 wpm.”

MS Office

When most people write “MS Office” on their resume, they usually mean “Word.” And everyone can use Word. Or at least, we can use it to write stuff. That is the most basic of skills required for any job (see: word processing).

MS Office isn’t a skill unless you know how to use the whole thing, which most of us don’t, and hiring managers know this.

So, be specific. If you can create amazing templates and presentations in Word or Powerpoint, say that (but only if you’re truly great at it). If you’re a whiz with Excel, say that (many of us are terrified of Excel and hate it passionately). Access and OneNote are considered advanced Office skills. If you possess advanced Office skills, spell out what application(s) you are proficient in, depending on how it relates to the job for which you’re applying. And list your level of competency so you don’t undersell yourself or create unrealistic expectations.

Ability to work independently or as part of a team

This isn’t even outdated, it’s just strange. And it’s so common on resumes that it’s a cliché. What are you even saying? That you are able to work by yourself and also with other people? How is this a skill? It is not a skill. It’s the bare minimum of what a manager should be able to expect from you. There are very few jobs that don’t require the ability to “work independently or as part of a team.”

There is no example of when you should include this.

If you are a great leader with a professional history of motivating and managing teams, that’s something to list, with relevant examples. If you have launched and executed projects all by yourself, that can also be impressive. But just the ability to work by yourself or with others is not at all impressive.

Research

There was a time when people who wanted to research something had to go to a library or archives, or find other channels to do it. Now you have Google and almost every piece of information in the world is at your fingertips. If your research skills consist of using Google and looking at Wikipedia, you should not include that.

Where research is important is in science and academia. If you’ve grown and compared cultures in a lab; conducted randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies; or examined meta-data of 200 studies on the use of a pharmaceutical drug, then you have research experience. Another example is conducting surveys across populations and running focus groups for market research. These are research skills. Google, in most cases, is not a research skill.

Before listing a “skill,” ask yourself if it’s actually a skill, or if it’s something everyone should be expected to be able to do. If it’s the latter, leave it out.

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