Colleges and job training programs tend to focus on the hard skills you need for a particular career — how to use specific tools and programs, the knowledge needed to complete your tasks — but there are other skills, so-called “soft” skills that are perhaps even more important for a truly successful career.
In fact, there’s nothing soft at all about soft skills; they can be difficult to master, but if you do, you’ll be employable in practically any field. No matter what your industry, position, or current employment, the following seven skills are vital to success in any chosen field.
1. High EQ
EQ stands for emotional intelligence quotient, and your emotional intelligence determines how well you relate to other people, your ability to put yourself in other’s shoes, and your ability to build rapport. It’s important when you’re managing or working with a team, in networking, in understanding workplace politics and really any time you need to interact with a co-worker or client. In other words: it’s invaluable to develop these skills. You can improve your EQ by mindfully practicing putting yourself in another’s shoes, for example, to practice empathy and understanding.
2. Communication Skills
You might have the most brilliant ideas in the room, but if you aren’t able to effectively communicate those ideas, you’ll never get anywhere. Being able to communicate clearly is vital to working with managers, teams, and clients. You can start improving your communications skills by studying the words and phrases you should never use, and paying more attention to what you say.
3. Decision Making
A decisive person is going to be desirable in any position, at any level, and the ability to make decisions is especially important the higher up you climb on the ladder. Taking forever to decide, procrastinating by doing unnecessary research, or avoiding making decisions altogether aren’t a good way to get ahead anywhere. Practice being decisive and demonstrating your decision making abilities to get ahead.
Integrity at work means owning your mistakes, doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, acknowledging when new information means you’re wrong, and being willing to say, “I don’t know.” People will respect and trust a person much more who has a reputation for integrity than someone who never admits he’s wrong or always puts the blame on others.
Having drive doesn’t have to mean working 80 hours per week or volunteering for every extra project. Instead, demonstrating that you have drive could mean consistently working hard while you’re at work. It could mean having the initiative to continue your education in your field or go the extra mile for a project. It demonstrates that you’re committed to your work, and that’s very attractive to employers and managers.
Maintaining focus is an extremely important skill, whether we’re talking about focusing on a single task at hand or on your long-term objectives. It also means not getting sidetracked by “shiny object syndrome” or by what seems easy or expedient.
Perhaps most importantly, the key to a successful career in any job is maintaining a healthy balance. Only you can determine what makes a healthy balance for you, but it’s vital to balance your career with those things that will make you truly happy.
These are my picks for the top seven skills that are essential to career success, but they’re certainly not the only ones. What soft skills would you add to the list?