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Many people who are more than prepared to have a successful, fulfilling lifelong career may doubt their ability to rise to the top. They often fear that they aren’t the best at what they do, or they aren’t talented enough to achieve their dreams. In reality, talent has little to nothing to do with it. Sure, having a massive amount of talent in a particular field helps. The problem comes with relying too much on that talent or having the talent to the exclusion of other important skills.

Being talented is great, but without the right supporting characteristics, it’s simply not a sustainable crutch that will carry people to fruitful futures. Employers often look for workers with natural gifts and innate skills, but often find out that talent alone is not enough. Without the right work ethic, determination, attitude, and practical skills, it is very difficult to truly excel at one’s job and reach success. Instead of relying on talent alone, these seven predictors of career success may go on to define someone’s professional legacy.

1. A Strong Work Ethic

A commitment to getting the job done right often means a lot more than talent. A talented person can give a particular task their best shot, but they aren’t necessarily getting better at their job with each goes around. Someone with a strong work ethic will be willing to come in early and stay late if it means that they know the job is done right and on time.

It’s easy to count on someone with a strong work ethic to stay the duration – they aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty and they clearly understand exactly what is expected of them.

A Programmer Working at Night

These types of workers are willing to face adversity and work themselves to the bone. They’ll learn more than a talented employee will ever have to. They have their pride, and they’re highly unlikely to give up when a task seems to be too complicated or stressful. This will effectively make them practical experts in their field. A few years of experience with a strong work ethic will always supersede talent.

Certain wisdom comes from unrelenting commitment and a persistent desire for improvement.

2. Communication Skills

If the most talented person in the world lacks critical workplace communication skills, how effective can that individual be? Workplace communication is the only way things can get done right. Every member of the team needs to thoroughly understand their role and responsibility. Defining who needs to do what by what time, and knowing when to consult with someone as it pertains to their area of expertise ensures the quality of completed work.

People who can effectively listen and ask questions are naturally going to thrive in their careers. They’ll always know what’s going on, and their communication skills will make them less likely to make mistakes. Thorough communication also improves their chances of picking up skills from others, helping these people to become jacks of all trades and competent troubleshooters through knowledge alone.

On the other hand, talented employees who are either unable, or unwilling to become a part of the team and communicate with their co-workers will still excel at their tasks, but may not be able to help as much if a task requires a cooperative effort of the entire team.

3. Willingness to Learn

Some people take bold leaps and discover they have a knack for things. Someone might wake up one morning with little knowledge of the industry and decide to embark on a career in investing. If that person turns out to be extremely talented in this field, who knows: they just might succeed.

However, at the end of the day, talent still won’t teach them as much as the hours spent experimenting with different approaches, the willingness to learn from some investing courses, and the old fashioned experience will. The people who took the time to learn every little detail are more likely to find their careers to be successful, sustainable, and lucrative.

The Habit of Reading-Career Success

People who rely on talent alone are missing the growth opportunities that eager lifelong learners have set before them. Many employers underestimate the capabilities of their employees who have a genuine interest in additional training or corporate tuition reimbursement programs. These people can continue to build upon their skills, eventually allowing them to reach the top rung of their career ladder.

No one will ever be outright talented at being the CEO – someone who is willing to become a lifelong learner can learn their way to the head of the boardroom table.

4. The Ability to Fail Gracefully (and Try Again)

Everyone fails at certain points in their lives. That’s not a bleak reality – it’s just the course of life. We’ve all made mistakes that range in magnitude. Some of us burn toast, but it’s those of us who read the manual for the toaster, keep turning the dials, and scorch a few loaves before they find the perfect toast who have the resiliency to achieve anything in the world. At the end of the day, those are the people who would go on to become professional toast chefs (if ever there were a thing).

The ability to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again is the measure of a true career success. Nearly every billionaire on the face of the planet has made huge, costly mistakes. They’ve been fired from jobs or lost millions on deals they shouldn’t have made. That’s completely normal. It happens.

These people came to be successful because, rather than letting those mistakes dissuade them from pursuing their goals, they allowed those mistakes to help them refine their approach on the second, third, fourth, fifth, or even hundredth try. And they kept going until they got it right.

5. Attention to Detail and Planning

Being detail-oriented and willing to plan your actions is a massive key to career success. Over-reliance on talent might lead someone to miss the little things. Detail-oriented people want to investigate a problem from all angles and then prepare the best possible solutions. These are the kind of people who plan their meals for the week to make sure they eat healthily and save time, use a budget planner to know exactly where their money is going, and take notes at every meeting. These are the detail-oriented people who get an advantage that others simply never will.

Team Discussion at Work-Career Success

If ever a crisis occurs in the workplace, a talented person may have great ideas for how to fix it or implement a workaround. A detail-oriented person will be able to forensically account for how it happened when it happened, and why it happened. Their answers can prevent the same situation from ever occurring again. In the end, their skillset is ultimately the most valuable for career success.

Seeing what others can’t (or what others miss) is a priceless skill that may trump talent in most situations. Watchful eyes are the most useful eyes in the workplace – especially when something needs to be done with utter perfection. It’s almost like having a mystical oracle on the payroll. Their presence becomes invaluable when a project begins to seem impossible.

6. The Right Attitude

If an employee is talented but also particularly big-headed and difficult to be around, it will negatively impact the productivity and efficiency of the entire office, making cooperation difficult if not impossible. Optimism, dedication, determination, immersion in company culture, and an easygoing personality are all core facets of a successful employee.

Even if that person makes mistakes sometimes or fails to perform something precisely as well as the most talented employee would, they’d be willing to take feedback about how to do better next time.

Someone conscientious and easy to work with makes the workplace a great place to be. It’s hard to be in a negative mood around someone who always encourages you to look at the bright side. People with the right attitude are motivators who understand what their goals are. The workplace simply cannot have enough people with excellent attitudes working towards the mutual completion of a goal.

 7. Attention to Self Care

Believe it or not, companies are more likely to get high-quality results from an employee who is focused on self-care than an employee who mainly relies on their talent. People who eat right and exercise are likely to be full of energy and positive endorphins, helping them breeze right through that after-lunch slump that so many employees fall into. Since they’re taking great care of themselves, they’re also likely to have better immune systems. They won’t call in sick very often – you can count on them to reliably attend work throughout every major project.

These employees will sleep well, use their vacation time when they need it, and approach looming challenges with an adequate amount of confidence. They’re reliable, and they value themselves. Their attention to self-care might also indicate that they’ve found a perfect work-life balance, making them less susceptible to burnout that may inspire them to quit or bounce over to a competitor. This will carry them a long way throughout their careers.


There are far more aspects to the “dream employee” than talent for career success. You may have heard the saying “what I lack in talent, I make up for in enthusiasm” and this is remarkably true. If you are an employee who fears that you may not be talented enough, look at all the other skills in your arsenal.

If you’re an employer who is questioning an employee (or potential employee) based on talent, consider what else they may bring to the table. You might be glad you did it for your career success.


Written By
Evie Cooper is an experienced team leader and a career blogger who enjoys writing about all things connected to self-improvement and growing one's career. Whenever not working, Evie might be found online, participating in debates and conferences with employers and employees alike. Feel free to get in touch with her on Twitter.

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