Do you ever feel stuck? Or like you’re not on the right career path to make the kind of money you want to?
In many circumstances, your current employer or manager may not be providing you with the kinds of development opportunities that will help you advance up the pay ladder. In that case, it’s time for you to become your own career coach. There are some key professional skills that you should work on becoming excellent at. If you can demonstrate excellence in these areas, you’ll be sure to either get the promotion you’ve been wanting...or land a great new job somewhere else.
Here are some skills you may want to think about honing:
1. Project Management
No matter what you do or where you do it, project management is key to success in most jobs. (Even if you’re renovating your kitchen!) Project management requires strong organization, collaboration, communication, and constant follow up.
In my experience, the best way to improve your project management skills is to observe how your peers and managers lead projects and emulate the best of what they do. If there is a person at your company who is a great project manager, you should try to get some time on his/her calendar and ask for some pointers.
If you feel you need outside help, the American Management Association offers courses in project management. They’re not cheap, so see if you can convince your company to pay for you to take the course. (Many companies offer tuition reimbursement as a benefit, and it’s not always obvious.)
2. “Customer” Service
At the end of the day, no matter what level you achieve, you’ll be judged by the satisfaction of your “customers.” And “customers” is in quotes, because depending on your job, customers might be the people buying your product, but it also might be your boss or colleagues in other parts of the organization. If you’re the CEO, your “customers” are the members of your Board of Directors.
As you think about your working priorities for the week, spend some time considering who your “customer” is, and what he/she/they want. Check in with them, to make sure they’re happy. Try to anticipate their needs. The more satisfied they are with your performance, the better your reputation will become...and the more opportunities you’ll have.
3. Digital & Social Media
In every corner of every arena, the world is becoming digital. And digital skills are in high demand in the workplace. No matter what you do, there is some aspect of your job that you may be able to do better if you were more proficient in digital and/or social media.
Digital skills are also key for career opportunities because they are extremely tangible. Once you understand web development, or SEO, or social media marketing, or whatever other skill you might be interested in learning, you can list it clearly and prominently on your resume.
There are a few great online resources through which you can take courses in digital. Check out General Assembly or Udemy. And again, talk to your employer about tuition reimbursement. Most companies are chomping at the bit to have more digital talent in house, so they are likely to appreciate your initiative.
4. Microsoft Excel
Microsoft Excel is an oldie-but-a-goodie. Excel is an incredibly versatile tool, that can help with many things -- accounting, analysis, project tracking, list management, and more. As a manager, whenever I’ve had someone on my team who excels at Excel (ha!), I’ve been eternally grateful.
If you feel like your career could be enhanced with stronger Excel skills, check out Lynda (from LinkedIn) or Coursera. Or, another way you can get good is by just experimenting or checking out free videos on YouTube. Challenge yourself to solve complex problems.
5. Public Speaking
When I went to business school, many alumns told me that public speaking and interpersonal communication were the most important skills I would develop at business school. I was always skeptical...but they were so right. Your ability to impress through verbal communication -- whether it’s in front of room, at a meeting, in an interview or in the hallway -- can make a huge difference to your career.
If you want to improve your verbal communications skills, practice, practice, practice. Take a video of yourself and watch it for improvement. Join Toastmasters, which is also a) a great way to network, and b) a great thing to put on your resume. And seek out scary opportunities to speak in front of a room. Proactively do a deep dive about a topic and offer to present it to your colleagues. Or (one of my personal favorites), go back to your high school and speak at career night.
6. Business Writing
Because so much of business is conducted via email these days, it’s essential that your written communication is top-notch. Don’t let bad email be your Achilles’ heel.
While there are courses that teach business writing, for this one, I’d recommend finding a colleague to partner with. Offer to be each other’s email coaches and read each other’s email before they go out.
Check to make sure they are cogent, easy-to-understand, friendly but not too casual, and effective. Hold each other to a high standard. Check out tips here from Harvard Business Review on how to improve your business writing.
On Fairygodboss, the #1 thing we hear from our members is that they wished they’d negotiated better for themselves when starting a new job. Negotiation is an important skill for you to use in your business dealings as well as advocating for yourself.
Negotiation most definitely comes better to some personality types than to others, but everyone can work on refining their negotiation skills. Some business schools offer advanced negotiation programs -- which again would be worth taking if you could convince your company to pay. Otherwise, check out some great books about negotiation.
There’s always opportunity for improvement -- no matter how good you are. But also, don’t feel you need to bite off more than you can chew. Think about picking one or two skills you’ll focus on every six months or so.
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