Hiring managers make the difficult decision of who the best candidate is for the job based not just on the specific job requirements but also basic skills every worker should have. Many of these are "soft skills": Things like communication and teamwork. Here are the top 10 skills everyone should have to stay on top of their careers.
Illustration by Nick Criscuolo.
10. Writing Skills
If you're not a writer or an editor, you might think your writing ability has nothing to do with your job. Yet 51% of employers say that communication skills (like writing) are a requirement for their employees. Mike Borozdin, a former Microsoft engineer and now senior director of engineering at DocuSign, advises all programmers to sharpen their writing skills. Without being able to communicate clearly or express yourself properly, you probably won't get ahead at work. Writing is also especially important if you work remotely, since your emails, IMs, and other text-based messages will be your primary form of communication with your boss and co-workers. Improve your writing with these top 10 tips or take a look at this periodic table of figures of speech.
9. Verbal Communication Skills
This goes hand-in-hand with writing skills as part of the good communication requirement just about every employer has. Whether it's making a clear point when you're talking in a meeting, giving a presentation that doesn't suck, or simply chatting it up at the office party, communicating better at work is one of your key roles. If you need to get your message across quickly, remember the BRIEF technique or review our top 10 ways to improve your communication skills.
8. Self-Confidence and Assertiveness
Self-confidence might seem like something you either have or you don't, but it's actually something you can practice and develop. Without a healthy dose of it, you probably can't do your job well, much less advance your career. Likewise, being non-confrontational can hold you back in life. You'll need self-awareness too to improve any aspect of your life, including your productivity. There's a difference between confidence and arrogance, of course, as well as a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness, but as long as you don't go overboard, these skills will help you work better. Learn to develop your confidence here or for a quick confidence boost at work, try adopting a power pose.
7. Time Management
This is one of the cornerstones of productivity, so it's no surprise it's an essential skill at work. Over the years, we've shared probably too many time management tips to mention here, but a few work-specific ones you might want to review:
- How to get better at estimating time for tasks
- How to manage your time on an irregular schedule
- The freelancer's guide to time management
- Work only your "good hours" to become more productive
- Three time management mistakes you don't realise you're making
Actually, productivity is more about managing your energy than it is about managing your tasks or time, but you get the idea. Also, forget multitasking — it makes us work less efficiently, not more and wastes time — unless you do it right.
6. Networking Skills
Your employer might not outright say that you need to be able to network in order to do your job, but for many of us this is a skill that comes into play in our work (and not just for finding a new job). For example, if you ever attend a work or industry conference, it pays if you can successfully work a room. It can help you land new clients, recruit new talent, and expand your professional circles. Here's how to step up your professional networking and eight tips to making more meaningful connections.
5. Basic Technology Skills
Even those who don't work with technology directly or don't work in a professional office setting need to have some basic tech skills and knowledge. How to navigate your company's web portal to make HR changes (for some companies, this is harder than it looks!), how to use whatever the company's communication tools are (whether they use Slack, rely on text messages, or some proprietary system), and just the basics of how computers work and what the major components are so you could talk to IT when you need troubleshooting help. Even just prompt and efficient emailing is a valuable skill — Google's Eric Schmidt says it's the number one habit of effective people. Of course, the more technical skills you do add, the more you expand what you can do at work and improve your hireability — such as learning HTML and CSS, you can start contributing to your employer's website and blog. Here are the top 10 simple things everyone who uses a computer should know how to do and more advanced ones if you're a geek.
4. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
We all have to make decisions at work, evaluate ideas and brainstorm new ones. Many jobs, at their core, are about solving problems. Knowing how to think is far more empowering than knowing what to think, but these are skills we have to work at. Learn how to train your mind to think critically, develop Sherlock Holmes-like powers of observation, and make decisions with the six thinking hats technique. When you demonstrate your powers of critical and creative thinking, you'll earn much respect at work and become a more valuable employee.
3. Negotiation Skills
Negotiation skills are important during salary negotiations, naturally, but there are other times good negotiating skills can come in handy at work. Through good negotiation, you can resolve conflicts, Monster points out, and find win-win solutions for your team. You might negotiate regularly with clients or vendors, negotiate with your co-workers to switch shifts, and negotiate with your boss to let you work from home or take on a big project. Use these five tips to negotiate better with just about anyone.
2. The Ability to Work Well on a Team
Hiring managers often emphasise the importance of cultural fit and the ability to work well on a team when they evaluate job candidates, whether it's for entry-level jobs or ones in higher positions. Few people's jobs are entirely solitary ones — we rely on others for our work as much as others rely on us. Simply feeling like a part of the team can fuel your work. Highly effective teams communicate well, share common goals, and even make time for humour. If you can follow these seven rules for collaborating with others, build trust with others, and handle criticism well, you're golden.
1. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
Empathy is your most important skill, at work and at home. Empathizing with others will help you better understand the people around you, the needs of your customers, how to motivate others, and how to deal with conflicts with others. The difference between knowledge and understanding is empathy. You can improve your empathy by learning to really listen and practicing trying to see things from others' point of view.