The Top 5 Skills Necessary to Be Successful in the Workplace
bySarah CollinsMay 01, 2014
Sometimes, the industry in which you’re employed dictates which skills you need to be successful. A computer-based industry requires someone who can keep up with ever-changing technology, while a communications position necessities high-quality writing skills. However, certain skills -- often referred to as “soft skills,” like communication, time-management and flexibility -- can be applied to nearly all workplace positions, as well as transferred among companies, positions and industries. Mastering these skills can help you get ahead in your career.
Effective communication is one of the top skills in the workplace, says “Business Communication Quarterly.” This means not only oral, written and presented communication, but also the ability to listen and absorb information. “Bottom line, if you can’t share what you’re thinking in a way that others can understand and get behind, you can’t succeed,” says leadership consultant Lisa Kohn of Chatsworth Consulting Group, based in New York and Pennsylvania. “Similarly, if you don’t work with others in a way that they feel included and heard, you can’t succeed.” Some methods for improving workplace communication skills include using clear and direct language to convey your message, actively listening by focusing on the person speaking to you and paraphrasing your takeaway back to your co-worker to ensure you’re on the same page.
The idea that “‘It’s not my job’ doesn’t cut it anymore,” Kohn says. “Companies and managers are looking for employees with a ‘can do’ attitude who will do what it takes to get things done.” Key qualifications for a flexible employee include willingness to change, continuing to learn, accepting of new situations and the ability to learn. Stay flexible by being willing to take on tasks that aren’t necessarily part of your job description and working well with co-workers.
Effective employees are able to complete their tasks in the time available without missing a deadline -- particularly challenging yet attainable for a working mother. A 2012 article in “Workplace Health Safety” noted that good time-management skills require knowing how your time is spent during the day, as well as preparing thoroughly for the next day, managing appointments and planning projects. Good organization is key to managing your time smartly; this includes a system to organize mail and other paperwork and a clear desk. Prioritizing your tasks is a vital skill, Kohn says. “We all have too much on our plate, so the ability to know what is most important to focus on and what to put on the back burner is crucial to getting your job done.”
Leadership -- or the Potential for the Future
An employee rarely comes into a company in a leadership position, but the skill to be a leader or evolve into a leadership role can catapult you on the path to success. “Organizations and strategies rise and fall on leadership,” says Liverpool, Britain-based executive coach John Haynes. “Being able to impart vision, clarify roles and responsibilities … and be perceived and received as one to follow is arguably the most important skill.” Improving your communication skills helps develop leadership qualities, as will the ability to motivate others, maintain a high level of integrity and treat colleagues with respect.
As the saying goes, 80 percent of success is simply showing up. “Business Communication Quarterly” notes a solid work ethic as one of the top skills employers seek in an employee. This includes the willingness to work, taking initiative, being self-motivated -- and simply showing up on time. To cultivate your own work ethic, St. Leo University recommends practicing punctuality, staying professional and positive and using time wisely.