Most candidates focus on their technical skills and experience when applying for a new job or developing their career – but neglect basic career skills at your peril.
Career skills are just as important if not more important than technical skills at work, which can be taught more easily and quickly,” says Claire McCartney, CIPD Adviser, Resourcing and Talent Planning. “Having the ability to collaborate with others across the business and externally can also make potential candidates and employees stand out from others.”
Here are five career skills that will help you advance your career – and how to develop them.
Being a good problem solver doesn’t just mean finding solutions when you are given a problem. It also means suggesting them when you encounter a problem for yourself, says Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the graduate careers advice blog Graduate Fog and author of How to Get a Graduate Job in a Recession.
“For graduates in particular, this is a crucial learning point that nobody tells you. If you are working on a task and hit a hurdle, resist the urge to rush straight to your boss in a panic and tell them there’s a problem.”
“Instead, take 10 minutes to think of some solutions. Then approach them calmly saying ‘I have been working on X and it turns out that it’s not quite as straightforward as we thought. So I was thinking we could do Y. Or if that doesn’t work then Z. But I just wanted to check with you first.’”
“By doing that, you are flagging the issue and checking in for sign-off, but your manager will not feel that you are dumping a problem on them and asking them to fix it.”
Were you always the student handing in essays minutes before the deadline? As a student, that is okay – the person marking your work probably will not know you cut it so fine, and your lateness would not have impacted them anyway.
“Whatever level you are at, you never want your colleagues to see you in a flap. Looking out of control is a bad look professionally, even if you do get it done in the nick of time.”
“Also, now it is not just your stress. If you are late with a research report, it is your boss who will have less time to write the presentation.”
“Remember, most tasks take twice as long as you expect, so factor that in. If you are worried you will not have time to get everything done, prioritize the most important things. If you are not sure which they are, check with your boss.”
Good communication skills are often listed on person specifications and for good reason.
“Skilled communicators work well with colleagues, listen and understand instructions, and can express their opinions with confidence without being aggressive,” says David Shindler, performance coach and author of Learning To Leap.
“The best communicators are also able to change their style of communication to suit their audience or task at hand – a particularly valuable skill when leading a team, dealing with conflict or persuading others to your way of thinking.”
“If you want to improve your communication skills, watch how others you admire operate and be willing to learn from constructive criticism.”
You do not have to manage staff to display leadership qualities.
“You want to be a good team player but that does not mean that you cannot display strong leadership qualities that mark you out for potential advancement,” says David.
“Take responsibility for your work, hold your hands up to your mistakes, and continually look for ways to improve yourself.”
“Employers value workers who lead by example, who are able to motivate themselves, can follow instructions and show initiative and who foster an air of can-do positivity.”
You might think that some people are naturally charming, but you can learn to build rapport with others, which is valuable in a variety of situations, from interviews to client meetings.
“The key is to avoid self referencing and to shift your mindset from you to the other person,” explains David.
“We know when we meet someone charming – it is the quality of the attention they give to you. They remember and use your name. They show interest in your world and you as a person, without being creepy, slick or gushing. Their tone is sincere.”
“They use humor appropriately. They empathize and show you positive regard. They convey credibility, care, and warmth. The result is they engender trust.”
If that sounds like a lot to take on, David suggests observing how charming people you admire interact with others and practicing in non-work situations to begin with.
Keep Working on Your Skills
Most of us presume we have good career skills – unless we have had feedback to the contrary. Sometimes colleagues or managers do not feel comfortable criticizing non-technical career skills, which means any problems could potentially go overlooked for years – which is bad news for your career.
“Ask for 360-degree feedback from others about your non-technical career skills and any potential development areas,’ suggests Claire.”
Taking the time to improve your career skills can make a difference to your performance and how you are perceived in the company – and ultimately fast track your career progression.
Thank you to Career Builder for sharing this article with NetAcad Advantage.