For companies today, it's a do-or-die world. They either have to keep up with the rapid pace at which their sector is evolving or risk losing out to their competitors. This invariably places a burden on their employees who, if they do not meet the standards expected of them, will soon find themselves frantically searching for other work. Hard skills are, of course, essential to even get a foot in the door; but a repository of strong tangible skills does not guarantee job security for anyone.
Whether you're working in a burgeoning startup or an established MNC, there are a few essential skills that must be developed and honed if one wants to progress in their career. Here are 20 such skills that will benefit any working professional, regardless of the job they're in.
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Communication is a key skill that every employer looks out for in a potential candidate. This skill involves the trifecta of talking, listening, and writing. And while most people think that speaking well alone grants them the tag of a good communicator, this is not the case unless it's backed up by corresponding listening and writing skills. The ability to understand others views and expressing your own views in a clear and concise manner is a crucial skill that needs to be developed.
Problems invariably arise in any job. Whether you're an entry-level employee or a top-level manager, you'll having to deal with problems on a frequent basis. Identifying problems, devising effective solutions, and then implementing and testing those solutions is a critical part of being a working professional.
Whether you're a coder, marketer, writer, or a salesperson, the ability to analyse quantitative data is invaluable. You need to implement a logical and analytical approach while researching and understanding topics. If you can do this well enough, it will significantly bolster your problem solving skills as well.
Negotiation and persuasion
The ability to influence and convince others, without alienating or belittling them, is an important skill to develop. You should be able to have discussions with those people whose viewpoint is different from your own, and you should be able to reach a mutual agreement. This also plays a major role in resolving conflicts which can pop up quite frequently in stressful workplaces.
Maintaining an amiable work environment is one of the top priorities for most companies nowadays. Having good interpersonal skills then, is a must to succeed. The ability to relate to, and get along with, other people is essential. Whether it's your colleagues, customers, or clients, building a good rapport with the people you interact with can do wonders for your career.
Basic technological know-how
Computers have become an unavoidable part of almost every job which makes it necessary for prospective employees to learn a few IT skills. Basic proficiency in commonly used softwares like Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, along with Gmail and the accompanying suite of Google Docs, is a must. For a lot of professions, learning internet-related skills — like SEO, HTML, and web page design — can also prove to be immensely useful.
Strong work ethic
As the work environments continue to get increasingly competitive, displaying a strong work ethic is the best way to establish yourself as a valuable employee. And work ethic doesn't imply sitting in office for absurdly long hours. You should have the motivation and perseverance to get things done proactively. A strong sense of discipline — which includes not taking frequent leaves and not wasting time on social media at work — place you in a positive light in the eyes of your employer.
Being confident not only improves your work life, it can also help your colleagues perform better too. And it's not only self-confidence that you need to develop, you must allow display an equal trust in your co-workers and your company. It's also crucial to make sure that your self-assurance never come across as arrogant.
You may never want to take up a managerial position in your company, but developing leadership skills will only help you in your career. And leadership isn't all about telling others what to do and how to do it; it involves setting a good example, being a motivational presence, and being responsible. Speaking of which...
If you say you're going to do something, do it. If you make a mistake, own up to it. The workplace is not like school where you can explain away not completing your work with a simple 'I forgot.' And constantly passing blame on to others damages one of the most important things you need to strictly maintain — credibility.
Stress is a common part of any job. Whether it's caused by something work related, like deadlines, or something personal, you're always going to have to deal with stress. It's vital that you learn to handle pressure so that your work performance doesn't fluctuate when the going gets tough.
Don't manage your time effectively, and you'll find yourself overwhelmed by tasks and deadlines. Prioritising tasks according to how long they'll take, setting fixed times to check emails and take breaks, and allocating adequate time to relax away from work is necessary to prevent getting stressed-out with work.
Planning and organising
The skill of being able to divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones, and then completing them in a timely manner is an indispensable part of all jobs. This requires formulating both short-term and long-term plans and utilising available resources in the most effective way to possible to achieve your goals.
Building strong relationships with your colleagues, bosses, and other people in your field of work has a huge impact on your career. A good network of professional connections can grant you more opportunities, strengthen your resume (through references), and broaden your exposure in general.
The concept of lifelong learning, as it has come to be known, involves allocating some time each day to learning new concepts and ideas. It happens far too often that people think there’s no need to learn anything knew since they’ve already got the job. This kind of thinking only makes it harder for you to progress in your career path, and even if you've reached the highest position, constant learning is needed to stay there; which is why so many leaders advocate its importance.
Being proactive in your workplace is a habit you must develop. Don't have a task to do? Don't sit around browsing Facebook or YouTube, go to your boss and ask for something to do. Employees who take the initiative to ask questions and get things done are far more valuable to an employer than those who don't.
Indulging in inappropriate behaviour, not maintaining confidentiality, and not adhering to established norms are a few things that can place your integrity in question. Carrying yourself with a professional demeanour inherently makes you more trustworthy and reliable in the eyes of your employer.
At work, just like in life, you're going to face no short number of challenges and obstacles. And being able to work around them is a crucial skill to have. You must be able to adapt successfully to changing situations and environments without the quality of your work suffering.
An employee's ability to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to problems is something that every employer appreciates. Working on your creativity will help you come up with new ideas, dabble in various roles, and add value to your company beyond what is expected from you.
Commercial awareness, or business acumen, is a basic understanding of how your company, and the industry it operates in, works. Learning about the product or service your company provides in detail, the status of competitors, and the general industry trends, is something that can set you apart in a crowd of people with the same hard skills as you.
While it will certainly take some time and effort to first learn, and then implement, these skills, your career will be all the better for it. In the words of the Grammy-winning musician D'Angelo, “Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement.”