“What got you here, won’t get you there,” says leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith in his best-selling management book. And he’s not wrong.
To be successful at work, having the right technical skills is absolutely necessary. However, it isn’t enough. If you look at senior leadership in organisations, leaders aren’t automatically the best programmers, marketers, accountants, etc. Don’t get us wrong, they are likely very good at the field they built their careers on, but this isn’t what enabled them to get promoted, move above their peers, and keep growing professionally.
Whether you are looking for your first (or next) job, or you feel the time has come to try and step up and get that promotion you set your eyes on, there are five skills needed for a job that will serve you well on your professional path. Any time spent on these will be well invested and pay a nice dividend in due course.
Here are five skills that can help you take your career to the next level:
1. Public Speaking
Legend says it is the one thing that many people fear more than death. It is nerve-wracking to have all those eyes on you, but it’s also an amazing opportunity: all eyes are on you. It is the most captive you will ever have any audience, your opportunity to show you know what you are talking about and have them start to see you through a different lens (i.e., someone who could absolutely deliver for them).
Master public speaking and you will stand out. People will want to listen to you. Your message will be understood, and your audience influenced. People also assume that if you say something confidently, you know what you are talking about, so it is a great path to positioning yourself as an expert in your area.
Additionally, the better you become; the more opportunities (to speak) appear.
The more opportunities (to speak) appear, the more visible you become.
The more visible you become; the more growth opportunities will come to you.
How to become a better public speaker: stage time, stage time, stage time. The only way to become a better speaker is by being a speaker. Volunteer for opportunities to speak at work and consider joining your local Toastmasters club to get many opportunities to learn and flex your muscles.
2. Strategic prioritisation
Here is a difficult pill to swallow: you will never run out of tasks to do. Never. There will always be more to do than hours in the day. The worst mistake you can do is to work every hour of every day to clear the backlog.
Instead, be strategic. Understand that not all tasks are created equal. The impact you can deliver for your organisation will be a direct consequence of how well you prioritise tasks.
How to learn to prioritise: understand that something may be urgent, but it doesn’t make it important. That distinction is crucial. A great framework for this is called the Eisenhower matrix.
Beyond the distinction between important and urgent, you need to make sure you prioritise your own goals above other people’s. You will have specific goals that will be set for you for the next quarter or year. Don’t let a single week go by without working on your own priorities. Charity starts at home goes the saying. One tangible action you can take in that direction would be to block out one hour every single day to focus on your own goals. We call it TOBT – The One Big Thing.
Being resilient and reliable is probably one of the most underrated yet most critical traits you can have. It boils down to one thing: do you consistently do, without fail, what you commit to?
Truth is, it is far too easy to commit to respond to someone by a certain day or complete a task by the following week and not only miss the deadline, but not communicate proactively about it.
Every time this happens, you become slightly less reliable. Every time this happens, people become less likely to send the kind of projects (and promotions) you want your way.
How to become more reliable: Keep a log of all the commitments you take to your stakeholders. All of them. And make sure you frequently review. If there is a commitment you won’t be able to comply with, proactively reach out to explain why it won’t be possible and what you will do about it (‘Sorry, I can’t deliver this report by Friday as I have an urgent task from Bob that I need to prioritise. What would be the impact of pushing the report to next Wednesday?’).
This commitment log can be kept on your calendar, your task management software, or in a paper format (a colleague used to have one post-it per commitment on my desk, only throwing the post-it away when the promise was realised).
4. Proactive communication
Proactive communication is a big part of being seen as reliable, but there is so much more to it. If you communicate proactively, people will see you as someone who thinks strategically, thinks forward, and is a genuine team player. It literally comes down to reaching out to people, unprompted. It could be sharing an interesting article you read, and you think they would benefit from it or letting them know what problem you intend to tackle next (particularly if you think they have a vested interest) or managing upwards effectively.
How to become better proactive communication: One very simple example that will reap our benefit if not in place in your organisation is to write a weekly summary to your line manager. Every Friday, write to them about what you have worked on during the week, any breakthroughs you had or obstacles you are facing. Completement this with what your priorities are for the next week.
This note gives them visibility of the good work, which allows them to fight your corner in progression conversations, but it also allows them to rubber stamp you are focusing on the right things before you waste any time. This is the very best way to get your line manager, the most important person for your career growth, on the side.
5. Apply what you learn
We all know someone who reads countless business books and somehow doesn’t seem to be taking any lessons from them. They are a wealth of theoretical knowledge, yet don’t translate this into their work life.
The single most powerful skill you can have been that of applying. An idea is worth nothing until it is executed. Great ideas are cheap. Execution is where the riches are.
How to apply what you learn: Commit to working on one of the previous skills. Start today. Build a plan to master one of these skills and make it a priority to implement that plan. The power of knowledge is in execution.
Work intentionally on improving those skills and your career will benefit tremendously, positioning you ahead of the competition for the kind of opportunities you want to be given next, whether internally or in a different organisation.
Cultivate those traits today, as they will serve you well for the rest of your career, no matter what path you take or how senior you go.
Implement these skills for your career advancement
Skills are crucial for professional success in today’s fast-paced business environment. Employees with strong corporate skills are more likely to have increased job opportunities, higher earning potential, better problem-solving abilities, and stronger leadership potential.
The above-mentioned common skills and technical skills may be rounded out by taking advantage of FastFutures’ job training options. Our programs are designed to be engaging and interactive, with a mix of self-paced learning and virtual instructor-led sessions. Enquire for additional details to speak with an admissions advisor if you are ready to get started.