4 very basic skills you might not have (and how to get them)

Can you shuck an oyster or defrost a roast? Rumor has it that most Millennials are lagging in some basic skills.

A study by Google in 2015 explained that many 20 and 30-somethings cooked with digital inspiration and a phone or tablet nearby for inspiration. Early this year website Porch.com broke down cooking ability by generation and discovered Millennials were cooking less and ordering in more. A flurry of follow-up articles blamed everything from meal prep services to shrinking families or paychecks as being the collective culprits.

Last fall, the Wall Street Journal reported that Millennials had no idea how to garden or hammer in a nail, and that companies like Home Depot were creating videos to simplify even the most basic tasks. The bottom line is, if you’re unable to do something, there are more ways than ever to learn to do them and blow up the notion that an entire generation of people can’t figure out basic skills.

Communicate effectively

With spell check and autocorrect at your side, it’s almost impossible to mess up your communication. Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume said: “While it’s now considered acceptable to use emojis and abbreviations to communicate via text, this typo-riddled, shorthand writing style becomes an issue for Millennials once they graduate from college and are expected to communicate professionally with recruiters and prospective employers.”

In fact, when TopResume recently asked employers about the most damaging job-search mistakes made by recent college grads, “inappropriate or ineffective written communication skills” surfaced as the worst offense.

Augustine offered some of her favorite resources including tools like Grammarly, PaperRater, and Slick Write which she says will “help you catch the subtler writing mistakes spell-check may overlook. She also advises enlisting the help of a friend – “you know, the one who majored in English or journalism — to proofread your messages and edit them using the “Suggesting” mode in Google docs so you can see what they corrected and why.”

Last of all, Augustine is a big fan of Lynne Truss’ book, “Eats, Shoots Leaves,” and Patricia T. O’Conner’s book, “Woe Is I.”

Learning patience

We live in the age of instant gratification and Augustine says “Immediate feedback is not only expected but demanded. Unfortunately, this reliance on apps and smart devices has also bred a generation of impatience — and this becomes a big problem when Millennials enter the workforce. From the job-search process to “paying your dues” at an entry-level job, much of the process is a waiting game — and it pays to have a little patience.”

So, how can you develop patience? “You need to make a conscious effort to improve this skill,” Augustine said. She also offers the somewhat radical suggestion of making patience your goal for an entire day. “If you normally tend to rush around or want things done immediately, stop and take a few deep breaths before you act. Give yourself permission to slow down.”

While you’re at it, “pause before you speak to really think about your words before they come spilling out of your mouth.” Augustine also advises practicing delayed gratification in small things like thinking twice before making an impulse buy.

Write in cursive

Nearly everyone I asked about missing skills bemoaned the loss of the art of cursive writing. Many years back I had an accident that almost robbed me of the use of my right hand. While recovering, I had to learn how to write again; that included spending hours trying to form cursive letters using elementary school guides. There are those that believe cursive – or script – writing is a dying art.

The thing is though, that even if you can dash off texts or emails, there are times when a handwritten note reminds an interviewer why you’re the most interesting candidate or your supervisor that you’re the standout in your department.

As Augustine puts it “While you might not necessarily need to use this skill on a daily basis, there’s power in sending a handwritten thank-you note.” She’s a fan of free handwriting courses on YouTube or cursive handwriting books for adults available on Amazon for less than $10.


Defrosting food is easy — if you follow instructions. Cooking is fun! — if you pay attention to the details. Before you give up on mastering cooking skills, try reading the labels, paying attention to the instructions and even resort to *gasp* calling your parents and asking for help figuring it all out. Or take a cooking class. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s an excuse to socialize and eat delicious food.