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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The 7 Essential Skills to Advance Your Career

Last time I explained why higher education doesn’t guarantee a good first job, let alone a successful career. One reason is the mismatch between what colleges offer and what is needed in the job marketSkills are what employers want, but higher education focuses on knowledge transfer.

So, what kind of skills are employers looking for? Here are a list of skills that are useful across most industries. Not only should you strive to improve these skills, you should also think about how to demonstrate them in job interviews.

1) Analytical thinking: Most professionals are required to make decisions on a daily basis. To make a sound decision, you need to interpret data and facts, think from different perspectives, and weigh the pros and cons of different options, all of which require good logical reasoning. This is why analytical skills are highly valued in the workplace.

2) Numerical skills: Of course, you don’t need to be an expert in stochastic calculus or abstract algebra, but basic numerical skills are important in most jobs. All organizations have to generate revenue and manage costs in order to survive, and budgeting is important even for non-profit organizations. Itll help if you’re comfortable with numbers.

3) Computer skills: Computers have become an indispensable tool for work. It’s crucial to know how to handle simple spreadsheet analysis and create nice presentation slides, because these tasks come up more often than you think in a typical office job.

4) Communication skills: Make sure you can clearly express your ideas in both speaking and writing. As Haruki Murakami said, “A lot of trouble in this world has its origin in vague speech.” Good communication skills help you avoid misunderstanding, and bring clarity and efficiency to your organization. Being a good listener is important too, since communication is a two-way process.

5) Presentation skills: In many different positions, you’ll be required to sell products, ideas and/or proposals in presentations, either to clients or to supervisors. Whether you can progress in your career often depends on if you can impress them, which in turn depends on your presentation skills.

6) Leadership: Leadership enables you to leverage your skills and experience to achieve better results for the team. Remember that leadership isn’t limited to experienced executives. Even as a junior employee, you can take the initiative to promote your ideas and motivate and influence others. Just believe in your ability to act as a leader and make a difference.

7) Interpersonal skills: Since collaboration is prevalent in most industries nowadays, the ability to work effectively in teams is essential in modern workplace. In fact, business is about people. To deliver consistent results, you need to build relationships and partnerships with clients and colleagues.

Surprisingly, even graduates from top schools may lack basic language, arithmetic and computer skills. It seems while college education may help develop the above skills, there is no guarantee.

Its unfortunate that some students spend lots of time studying (or partying) but do little to improve and broaden their skill set. Without the right skill set, college students can’t find the job they want. Disappointed, they may complain and feel that society owes them because their hard work to obtain a degree doesn’t pay off in the end.

To avoid this situation, students should think strategically about developing these skills outside classroom. It takes time and efforts, but its a high return investment which better prepares them for the job market. The knowledge-based economy is in fact a skill-based economy, and students need to be aware of that.

Questions: Do you agree that the above skills are important in todays job market? Is there any other skill that in your opinion should be added to the list?

Mentality: The Essential Element for Success   Next >


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    1. Hi Stacie, thank you for your kind words! Yes, communication is essential, but sadly many believe that fluency in the language is what communication skills are about.
      The truth is it takes practice and the right mindset to achieve clarity in communication, facilitate discussion effectively, and encourage and inspire coworkers.