photo: Alex E. Proimos
While we all aspire to climb to the top of our respective professions, from time to time we come up against a roadblock, a barrier that slows our pace. Whether you are being consistently overlooked in favor of someone else who is a bit more productive, or some intangible quality allows other people to get ahead of you, it can be immensely frustrating to be denied a job you know you could do well.
That said, there are certain skills that can help advance your career.
It is worth noting that all of these skills are transferable and have as much relevance in your personal life as they do in your professional life. Just as importantly, these are all skills that can be learned, so no one should feel that they are at a disadvantage with any of these. Work on them and you will reap the rewards accordingly.
Here are the six skills you need to succeed.
1- Speaking skills
Whether you are hustling for a promotion when you bump into a CEO in an elevator or making an important speech at an international conference, the ability to speak with a wide variety of people is an absolute essential. Good eye contact, a varied vocabulary and the ability to tailor your language to suit your audience are all essential characteristics of an artful speaker. Being a good speaker will give you presence and make you memorable to those who are listening. Practice talking with anyone and everyone you meet, look for a debating society or a Toastmasters group. The rewards are worth it. Being more adept in social situations and being better equipped to network successfully will help you forge working relationships that could be very advantageous to you in the future. It will also be useful to you for performing duties as a best man or maid of honor.
2- Confidence in decision making
Nothing says mediocrity like indecision. A good leader is decisive and will always back himself up when making the correct decision. If you want to be considered leadership material, you have to possess these characteristics. If you are paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong, you will end up doing nothing, which is worse than trying something and failing. A lot of highfliers are prepared to take risks knowing that a mistake can be corrected. Learn to evaluate different decisions for their pros and cons, and make decisions that will take you closer to completing a given task. The key is to make sure that your decisions are thought-out and reasoned. Be confident in your judgment and believe in yourself to get things right. Don’t just play it safe every time — you will blend into the wallpaper and no one will notice you. Putting yourself on the line will earn you respect, and if your decisions turn out to be right, you can expect to be rewarded for your efforts.
Another major part of being successful is accepting responsibility, both for successes and failures. If you want other people to respect you, acknowledge your errors rather than trying to blame someone else for your shortcomings. Everyone makes mistakes, but the real test is how you react to that. Putting yourself in the firing line is the mark of a person who wants to achieve great things and is prepared to be scrutinized. It is a sign of confidence and self-belief, and is a key ingredient among those who want to be successful. Being able to admit you have made a mistake is also a sign of humility and can garner respect from your employees. A useful way to hold yourself accountable is to scrutinize your to-do lists, see what you accomplished and what you did not. Look at ways you can improve your performance and take appropriate steps to correct mistakes yourself.
4- A positive attitude
Connected to everything else we have discussed, being positive about work and life is also essential. While your colleagues may laugh at your endless cynicism and misanthropic tendencies, your boss will see you as someone who hates their job and who will never support the aims of the company. We should distinguish between the occasional bad day (although you should always try to minimize this and remain upbeat no matter how trying the circumstances) and being consistently pessimistic. The eternal pessimist will always try to drag other people down and will probably be less productive. If you can cultivate a positive outlook, you will encourage others to be more positive; also, you will be more productive and possibly more credible as someone with executive potential. A positive attitude is entirely self-determined and can be helped by accentuating the positives in any situation. Don’t see problems — see solutions.
Learning how to present yourself to others is another major aspect of being successful. A polished look, and in particular, smart attire, will project an image of success to other people — before you have even said a word. A huge amount of your impact on colleagues, bosses or clients will be based on how well put-together you appear, and while substance is crucial, having a great style to support it is no bad thing. If you can afford it, have your clothes tailored and shoes made to measure: they will fit much better than off-the-rack goods. Don’t forget that the way you look also enhances the way you feel about yourself, making you more confident.
6- Time management skills
It doesn’t matter how well you dress, how positive you are or how well-spoken you are if you cannot keep everything under control. Disorganization means that you will be forever playing catch-up with your work, rushing to meet deadlines and producing work below par. Learn to keep a detailed diary, listing deadlines and setting a schedule for your work, to ensure it is all done with time to spare. Your work will be of better quality and you will be entrusted with increased responsibility. It will also afford you additional leisure time. It is a key element to success and well-worth practicing. This means overcoming procrastination (which we can all be guilty of at times), setting goals that are challenging (but realistic) and trying to use your time efficiently. Don’t check your e-mails 17 times every hour — spend that time writing up that project that is due tomorrow. Ideally, you will reach a stage when you can get ahead of the curve and start taking on additional projects and responsibilities — a surefire way of setting yourself up for that promotion.
Success is Simple
There you have it: An essential list to help you move up in the world and stake your claim in business. There are more of course, but no other general guide is more comprehensive. A final word of advice: Worry not about an intangible trait you may not have. Even if you aren’t the best communicator or dealmaker, you can still make your mark with expertise in a specific field or venture.
As long as you make your mark in something, the sky is the limit. Just keep in mind that the best of the best have a wide scope of knowledge and do not focus on one area alone.
“6 Skills You Need To Succeed” provided by AskMen.com