The business world is extremely demanding these days. Employers today are looking for more than just technical skills, having shifted a considerable amount of focus onto soft skills.
To succeed, employers need team players, strong communicators, problem solvers, and leaders all rolled into one.
In this competitive environment, cultivating the right set of skills determines whether you stay stuck in a rut or excel in your field of work. Below, we have listed 6 important skills that will set you up on the path to success.
Skills That Give You a Competitive Edge
1. Stop Talking, Start Listening
Although technology is fast becoming the medium through which businesses communicate and conduct their operations, you still need strong interpersonal skills to establish an effective relationship with your work mates and employers.
Of course, you cannot always talk your way to the top. Sometimes you have to listen. Effective listening is an important skill to have; one that can really help you get ahead in your career.
In a workplace, listening to instructions effectively translates into fewer errors and less wasted time. Making an effort to actively listen to what others have to say can really help you understand their demands and needs.
For example, listening to your boss can help you understand what they expect of you, so you can effectively work towards fulfilling those expectations. Along the same lines, listening to your customers can help you understand their needs, so that you can cater to them better.
However, not everyone is a good listener. It is a skill that comes with patience and practice. The first step towards becoming an active listener is to really pay attention to what is being said.
You need to make a conscious effort to understand and contextualize the message behind the words being spoken. Most importantly, you have to try not to lose your focus and drift away mid-conversation.
By becoming a better listener, you can improve your ability to influence, convince and negotiate. This skill is also instrumental in building a positive relationship with those around you, which is essential for success.
2. Adapt to Change
The business environment is constantly evolving. The ability to adapt to these changes has been called the new competitive advantage; not just for businesses but also individuals.
Like Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
With rapid changes in technology and demand, employers are looking for people who are flexible enough to stand firm, adapt and perform in challenging situations.
In a recent study, 91% of the HR directors surveyed predicted the adaptability of an employee as an important skill to have and a major recruitment goal.
Against this backdrop, the ability to adjust and to take on new roles as circumstances change is a career-winning skill set. To be adaptable, you need to be willing. This means you must be willing to accept change, be open to new ideas and prepare for when things do not go your way.
This is all the better when you are able to ‘kill your darlings’, as it were – or let go of ideas you hold dear if you can find a better alternative.
Therefore, it’s important that you learn to shift your focus as your company’s priorities change. More importantly: Practice. When you practice being adaptable, you invariably become adaptable.
3. Learn to Manage Your Time Better
Time is valuable. Knowing how to manage your time means that you’ll be able to accomplish more in less time. Businesses are always looking for employees who are better able to manage their time and meet set deadlines.
Having good time management skills can have a huge effect on your performance and productivity in the workplace. Being more productive will give you more time to improve the quality of your work and complete your tasks on time – and the cycle continues.
All of this also translates into a better work ethic and helps you get noticed at work. Standing out, of course, is essential for success.
So how can you get better at managing time?
Use a time management app that helps you keep track of your daily tasks and meetings. Of course, you could also keep a journal for the same results, or even ask a friend to keep you accountable. Getting rid of distractions such as TV or social media can also be a huge help.
4. Be a Problem Solver
Businesses have to deal with a score of problems every day. No business is immune to it. Every job has hurdles, and employers want to hire people who aren’t afraid of tackling those challenges.
Problem-solving is a basic work skill that finds its use in any position and every industry. It refers to our ability to confront challenges in an effective and timely manner.
Every employee has a set of problems they have to solve as part of their job. Employees with strong problem-solving skills are thus better at doing their job and are considered a valuable addition to any team.
Problem-solving is easy when you know how to approach it effectively. To be an effective problem solver, you need to first clearly identify what you’re looking to resolve in the first place. Once identified, you need to brainstorm and come up with possible solutions.
You then need to look at each solution in the context of the problem and identify the best possible option for it. Researching things online, reaching out to those with experience, and thinking through all possible consequences of a major decision are all great ways to become a better problem solver.
If all else fails, you could just stick with a specific choice and later analyzed how you could’ve done things better. After all, there is often a no better teacher than experience!
Improving your problem-solving skills helps you stand out in your workplace. Your managers start seeing you as the go-to guy for solutions. This increased exposure helps you grow and puts you in line for better job positions.
5. Take the Lead
All the skills outlined above can make you a great employee. Leadership skills allow you to be more than that. Businesses are always looking for employees that can take the lead. In a survey, 73% of business identified “leading people” as the most important skill needed in an employee.
Employees who take the initiative to lead at a workplace are more likely to get noticed. Being a leader separates you from the rest and gives you the ability to showcase your skills and talents better.
To be a leader you need to have strong interpersonal skills, be a problem solver and an expert at managing both your time as well as the people working under you. You need to be able to inspire the people around you and help them work at their best potential.
In addition to this, you need to have confidence in your own skills and the skills of your co-workers. Another important aspect of this is the ability to take responsibility for the successes and failures of yourself and those working under you.
Developing your leadership skills helps you build a powerful professional reputation. It enables you to gain visibility within an organization and is a surefire way to excel in your workplace.
The world of work is changing much faster than we could imagine, and the competition is only getting tougher. Given this competitive nature of today’s workplace, it is becoming increasingly difficult to progress in your field of work unless you truly stand out.
The skills mentioned above give you the competitive edge to get ahead of the competition – and stay there in the long term!