Five Skills Needed for Success

Students often ask about the skills most critical for success.  While there are certainly unique factors for specific jobs and companies, I hear very consistent themes from employers on this topic.  The following five skills are critical for success in today’s job market.

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate, you risk being passed over for the next exciting project. Professional, business communication skills are still the expectation.  Employers expect employees to write a clear, concise email or executive summary.  Grammar, punctuation and spelling do matter.  Increasingly employers are seeking candidates who can analyze large amounts of data and then share a concise, actionable summary with senior management.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with other across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days. Demonstrate your curiosity by learning more about the organization and how your work impacts other groups.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved. There is no room for the “blame game.”
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator. These days there are times when there is too much data and knowing what is important and relevant data is a key skill.  Employers have described what they are looking for as candidates who can go from “mining to meaning” and who are “analysts not reporters.”

These skills alone may not put you on a direct track to the corner office but, employees with these skills will definitely be more successful in their careers.

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Critical Skills for Success

Employers identified five critical skills for success on the job and these apply to positions in all departments and functions.

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate you risk being passed over for the next exciting project.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with other across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved.
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator.

While many candidates may offer the technical skills to do the job, these are the skills that often differentiate candidates for the job and make employees successful.

Five Skills Needed for Every Employee

Students often ask about the skills most critical for success.  While there are certainly unique factors for specific jobs and companies, I hear very consistent themes from employers on this topic.  The following five skills are critical for success in today’s job market.

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate you risk being passed over for the next exciting project.  Professional, business communication skills are still the expectation.  Employers expect employees to write a clear, consise email or executive summary.  Grammar, punctuation and spelling do matter.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with other across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved.  There is no room for the “blame game.”
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator.  These days there are times when there is too much data and knowing what is important and relevant data is a key skill.

These skills alone may not put you on a direct track to the corner office but employees with these skills will definitely be more successful in their careers.

Returning to Work After a Long Break

Common Mistakes of Those New to the Workforce or Returning After a Long Break

  • Impatience – It is easy to get impatient on a new job but you have to fight the urge to complain.  There is a learning curve you have to endure to learn the company, the department, the systems, the products, etc.  You have to learn how things get done.  Don’t expect to receive the most challenging and rewarding projects first.  Even though you talked about them in the interview, you have to learn the basics and prove yourself with your early assignments to earn the more interesting projects.
  • Deadlines matter- When a manager gives a deadline, take it seriously.  It isn’t a wish list but an expected deliverable.  You should work to beat the deadline whenever possible.  If for any reason you think you may not make the deadline, do NOT wait until the deadline to let the boss know.  Raise the red flag early, express your concern, brainstorm ways to overcome the obstacles.  You are not perceived as a hero if you wait until the last minute to ask for help.
  • Questions – Do not be afraid to ask questions.  They expect lots of questions initially and will be concerned when you don’t ask.  The challenge is to ask the same question only once.  Take notes.  When they explain something write it down so you don’t have to ask again.  Identify “go to” resources who can answer certain types of questions for you.
  • Be punctual and present – Do not start a new job showing up late, leaving early, requesting time off.  Show that you are committed to success on the job and reliable.  They need to be able to count on you.
  • Pay Attention to the Culture – Observe the culture and adapt.  Is it an open door culture where you can pop your head in with a question or are you expected to make an appointment?  Do people eat lunch together or alone at their desk?  Pay attention to the expected dress code.  Don’t be the most casual person in the office.  As you perceive who the successful people are, watch and mimic their behaviors.
  • Clarify Objectives – Ask for goals.  Ask what will be measured.  How is success defined in this job?  Be sure you know what is expected of you so you can meet and exceed those expectations.  If no one tells you, ask.
  • Prepare to invest in yourself – you need to allow extra time at the beginning to get yourself acclimated.  You may need to do some outside reading or research to get up to speed on various topics in your job, you may need to boost your Excel skills or learn PowerPoint.  Take initiative and invest time in helping yourself succeed in the job.

Five Key Skills Critical for Success on the Job

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate you risk being passed over for the next exciting project.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with other across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved.
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator.