What Are Conceptual Skills?

Definition and Examples of Conceptual Skills

Manager practicing conceptual thinking skills

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images 

Conceptual skills help employees avoid the pitfall of not “seeing the forest for the trees,” as the saying goes. If you possess conceptual skills, you can both envision problems and brainstorm solutions. Having these skills likely means that you're a creative type, and can work through abstract concepts and ideas. 

Employers value conceptual skills, and in some roles, having them is essential. 

Find out more about the various varieties of conceptual skills, and why they're important. 

What Are Conceptual Skills?

Conceptual skills allow someone to see how all the parts of an organization work together to achieve the organization’s goals. 

They're essential for leadership positions, particularly upper-management and middle-management jobs. Managers need to make sure everyone working for them is helping to achieve the company’s larger goals. Rather than just getting bogged down in the details of day-to-day operations, upperandmiddlemanagers also need to keep the company’s “big picture” aims in mind.

However, conceptual skills are useful in almost every position. 

Even when you have a particular list of duties, it is always helpful to know how your part fits into the broader goals of your organization. Plus, if you have conceptual skills, you can tackle big challenges that come up for your team and devise creative and thoughtful solutions that go beyond fulfilling rote tasks. 

Types of Conceptual Skills

Take a look at this list of the most important conceptual skills sought by most employers. It also includes sublists of related skills that employers tend to seek in job applicants.

Develop and emphasize these abilities in job applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews. 

You can use these skills lists throughout your job search process. Insert the soft skills you’ve developed into your resume when you detail your work history, and highlight your conceptual abilities during interviews. 

Analysis

A very important conceptual skill is the ability to analyze and evaluate whether a company is achieving its goals and sticking to its business plan. Managers have to look at how all the departments are working together, spot particular issues, and then decide what steps need to be taken.

  • Analytical abilities
  • Analysis and diagnosis of complex situations
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Defining strategies for reaching goals
  • Diagnosing problems within the company
  • Forecasting for the business or department
  • Questioning the connection between new initiatives and the strategic plan
  • Recognizing opportunities for improvement
  • Seeing the key elements in any situation
  • Selecting important information from large data sets
  • Understanding relationships between departments
  • Understanding relationships between ideas, concepts, and patterns
  • Understanding the organization’s business model

Communication

Without strong communication skills, an employee won’t be able to share their solutions with the right people. Someone with conceptual skills can explain a problem and offer solutions. They can speak effectively to people at all levels in the organization, from upper management to employees within a specific department. 

People with conceptual skills are also good listeners. They have to listen to the needs of the employers before devising a plan of action.

  • Active listening
  • Communication
  • Contextualizing problems
  • Effectively communicating strategy
  • Implementing thinking
  • Interpersonal
  • Interrelational
  • Presentational
  • Verbal communication

Creative Thinking

People with conceptual skills must be very creative. They must be able to devise creative solutions to abstract problems, whichinvolves thinking outside of the box. They must consider how all the departments within an organization work together, and how they can work to solve a particular problem.

  • Abstract thinking
  • Being open-minded 
  • Creative thinking
  • Examining complex issues
  • Formulating ideas
  • Formulating processes
  • Innovation
  • Intuitive thinking
  • Organization

Leadership

Someone with conceptual skills also has strong leadership skills. They need to convince employees and employers to follow their vision for the company. They need to inspire others to trust and follow them, and that takes strong leadership.

  • Commitment to achieving company goals
  • Delegation
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Motivation
  • Persuasiveness
  • Stability
  • Strategic planning
  • Task direction
  • Task implementation
  • Team building
  • Vision
  • Visualizing the company as a whole

Problem Solving

Once an employee analyzes a situation and identifies a problem, they then have to decide how to solve that problem. People with conceptual skills are good at solving problems and making strong, swift decisions that will yield results.

  • Able to ignore extraneous information
  • Broad thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Breaking down a project into manageable pieces
  • Decision making
  • Executing solutions
  • Formulating effective courses of action
  • Logical thinking
  • Multitasking
  • Prioritization
  • Resolving industry problems

Key Takeaways

  • Conceptual skills allow you to foresee issues, brainstorm solutions, and understand the strategic big picture behind a company's day-to-day operations. 
  • Possessing conceptual skills is particularly important for people in managerial roles, but they're helpful if you're in any role. 
  • Include relevant types of conceptual skills in your resume and cover letter. Plus, use skills keywords during your job interviews. Be prepared to give examples of how you've used each one.