Skills for Success in Any Career
Specialized skills help you stand out amongst job applicants, but they aren’t the only skills that employers seek. There are many transferable soft skills that are sure to come in handy throughout your career. From professional communication to emotional intelligence, here are just 10 of the abilities that make you an invaluable asset in the workplace.
The importance of professional communication skills cannot be overstated. Whether you are speaking with your coworkers via email, phone, or video call, what you say — and how you say it — matters.
You may have heard that potential employers begin interviewing you the moment you contact them. Any email interaction you have with your interviewer before your initial phone screen or meeting is of utmost importance in the interview process. If you are unable to clearly express yourself via email, they may question whether or not you will be able to express yourself in the office.
Remember to greet the recipient(s) of your email by name and close professionally (“Thanks” and “Cheers” are great options). This isn’t always necessary when talking with coworkers, but beware of lingo that may jeopardize your high standard of communication.
When it comes to video communication, ensure that you are dressed professionally before the call begins. As a rule of thumb, avoid distracting clothing and jewelry. Wearing your favorite Marvel Comics shirt could distract the person with whom you’re speaking, and they may spend the entire call wondering where they can get one just like it. Not exactly productive.
In general, speak clearly and be concise. And most importantly, if you need to ask a question for clarification, go for it!
I just wanted to check in and make sure you received my email last week. This is a time sensitive issue, so if you could get back to me ASAP, I would greatly appreciate it.
The Person Who Wrote That Email You Lost
We’ve all been there: Emails are piling up faster than you can respond to them. Your inbox is filled with so many unread messages, you’re afraid to count them. You’ve long since stopped trying to delete the junk mail as it comes in, and why isn’t your spam filter working anyway?!
Take a deep breath, my friend. Emails can smell fear.
Organization skills begin with a decision to clean up and clear out. To avoid the dreaded “Did you get my email?” message, you might have to consider the unthinkable: folders. Create folders for certain people and/or projects. Create folders for the product ads that you may find useful at a later date. And by all means, move those junk messages to your spam folder.
Another great organization tactic is to keep lists of your in-progress and upcoming projects. You should never have to ask yourself, What am I supposed to be doing?
Use a calendar app (or two) to keep track of important dates and deadlines so that you can focus on one task at a time (but don’t forget to set reminders!). You can also turn off distracting notifications from social media apps.
Finally, keep your desk as organized as possible. The pile of papers next to your laptop makes you look busy, which, unfortunately, is not the same as being productive. Keep your space clear and your mind focused on the task at hand.
Keep Learning New Skills
It’s easy, once you’ve landed a job, to believe that you are unstoppable. You have the uniform, and the desk, and your list of tasks. You are on fire.
But not for long.
Technology is changing every day. The skills that were impressive just a few years ago are now, sadly, outdated. The ability to recognize when updated or new skills are required is invaluable in any career.
Are you a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Knowing this can help you pick up skills in a uniquely efficient way. You may learn best when you’re reading, or maybe online courses better suit your style. Either way, engaging with great content is a fantastic way to become better at your job.
While you’re gobbling up information on the latest tech and marketing trends, don’t forget that professional skills aren’t everything. Outside of work, discover practices that inspire the creativity and mindfulness you need to do your job well.
You don’t have to work in the sales department to hone your sales skills. In fact, the ability to sell comes in handy in virtually every career on the planet.
Do you know your product? Can you use it well enough to teach someone else how it works? This is important knowledge for any employee.
Another invaluable sales skill is the ability to speak clearly and empathetically. Get to the point but remember that you’re not a robot! Human beings value authentic conversations with other human beings. No one enjoys a shallow phone call or meeting.
Finally, become a great listener. This is the only way you’ll be able to ask intelligent follow-up questions during conversations.
Emotional intelligence is not an easy skill to hone, but once you can use it, you will instantly become more valuable as an employee (and improve the overall quality of your life!). This form of intelligence requires that you recognize not just your own emotions but the emotions of your coworkers and customers as well. The ability to wear multiple hats while on the job is great, but the ability to step into someone else’s shoes is magical.
Always take a moment to pause before commenting or asking questions. Learn from constructive criticism, no matter how harsh it may seem. And as I mentioned before, be your authentic self and show empathy.
When giving feedback, it’s always a good idea to use the “compliment sandwich.” Deliver your suggestion/criticism between two compliments. This makes it easier for people to accept your thoughts without making them feel underappreciated.
One of the challenges that comes with emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize when you’re wrong. When you make a mistake, it’s important to have the strength to admit it and redirect your actions. On the flip side, don’t forget to show grace when others make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, right?
Keep Your Commitments
“To be on time is to be late. To be early is to be on time.”
Consistently showing up early for meetings sends an important signal: you’re reliable. If you plan to be early and then life (bad hair day, traffic, mass escape by animals at the local zoo) happens, you still have the potential to show up on time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case if you plan to be on time.
A missed phone call may seem like a small thing, but the more reliable you are with the little things, the stronger your good reputation becomes. Ultimately, if you can’t prove that you’re worthy of their trust, your boss and coworkers will lose faith in you and possibly pass over you in favor of someone they can count on consistently.
Keep an eye on the clock. You got this.
You know how it goes: You’re working on a project that requires your full attention. You’ve gotten into a rhythm, and there’s no stopping you now. This thing is getting done today.
And then your phone rings.
In a movie-esque moment of unrehearsed drama, you sweep your arm across your desk and watch your hard work tumble to the floor. Or maybe you just pick up the phone.
Answering the phone confirms your suspicions — you have a new, high-priority assignment. Your other project will have to wait. You hang up the phone, slump into your chair, and wonder if you’ll ever find your perfect rhythm again.
The ability to go with the flow without compromising quality is invaluable in any career. As long as there are plans, there will be wrenches to mess them up. But as long as you’re flexible, you can keep plugging along with confidence.
Roll with the tasks as they arise, and remember that you are only human. You can only do what you can do — no more, no less. Approach each task with a positive attitude and nothing can stand in the way of you doing your best.
You knew this one was coming.
Prioritizing your daily tasks is of utmost importance when you’re striving to manage your time. In addition, checking your email at designated times can help eliminate any pressure you may feel to answer your messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox (one of the main culprits of suffering time management).
This seems like a good time to remind you about those distracting social media notifications….
Finally, don’t skip your lunch break. It may seem like a good idea in the moment, but skipping your break inhibits productivity later in the day. Treat yourself to dessert and be thankful for 30 minutes of “me” time!
Be a Team Player
Do you work well in groups and on teams? If so, congratulations! You possess a skill that employers value and that few people can claim.
Being a team player becomes much easier when you are willing to cooperate with and appreciate your coworkers and their ideas. But don’t let this stop you from taking on a leadership role when appropriate. By showing confidence in your own abilities, your other team members will be inspired to do the same. Soon, your team will be running like a well-oiled machine, with each individual focusing on the tasks that are best suited to him/her.
Grace Under Pressure
Finally, any career will require you to handle deadlines, crises, and stress with grace. Do your best work… even when your efforts feel futile. Stay calm and collected in difficult situations. Most importantly, reframe tasks that you don’t enjoy into challenges to be overcome. By keeping a positive attitude in the midst of the proverbial storm, you’ll remain connected to your inner joy. And if you can do that… well, then, you’re virtually invincible.
What skills have been invaluable in your career?
Let us know in the comments below!