Whether you're new to the workforce or are already climbing the ladder within your company, it pays to continuously develop the skills that make you a valuable employee. And while it's always wise to hone the skills that are specific to your job, there are certain universal attributes that will make you a more well-rounded, desirable candidate on a whole. Here are a few specific ones to focus on.
1. Time management
Like most employees, you probably have a lot on your plate. Maybe you're even working overtime most weeks to keep up with all you have going on. But rather than increase your hours to avoid falling behind, you might instead work on getting better at time management. This means not only being more productive with your days, but learning to prioritize tasks so that you don't have to burn the midnight oil just to get your job done. If you need some assistance in this area, there are a number of useful apps you can turn to. Trello, for instance, lets you create to-do lists and can help you stay ahead of deadlines. Oh, and best of all, it's free.
2. Project management
No matter what industry you work in, the ability to manage multiple moving parts is always a plus. That's why it might pay to pursue a PMP (project management professional) license. The PMP is basically the gold standard of project management, and it's the sort of thing that can really help your career in the long run. But even if you don't want to sink time and money into an official certification, you can still work on improving your project management abilities by dabbling in different software or employing new approaches to delegating tasks and setting deadlines.
Whether you tend to make them in front of hundreds of people or a couple of teammates at a time, it'll serve you well to polish up on your presentations. Even if public speaking makes you nervous or isn't your strong suit, there are plenty of ways to compensate. For one thing, always make a point of practicing what you're going to say, and make plenty of eye contact so that your audience stays engaged. It also helps to use visuals when presenting to others, so brush up on PowerPoint or a similar program.
Communication is an integral part of managing people and maintaining business relationships, and it comes in several forms, from the face-to-face conversations you have with your colleagues to the emails you fire off on what's most likely a daily basis. Email in particular offers a huge advance because you're not on the spot; even if you're not a natural wordsmith, you can take the time to compose messages that do the best job of getting your point across.
Furthermore, a big part of communication boils down to knowing how to convey a point quickly and succinctly. For example, if you get a couple of minutes in front of your company's CEO once a month, you'll want to get right to the point rather than ramble on. If you have a manager who's well-spoken and well-respected, spend some time observing that person to see how he or she does it. You might also try asking for a little mentoring, which never hurts.
Not everyone has that magic ability to appease others and get them to see things a certain way, but if you work on building diplomacy skills, those tactics will no doubt come in handy throughout your career. Being diplomatic is a key part of building and preserving relationships, or resurrecting ones that have become strained.
Of course, it's easiest to be diplomatic over email, when you're free to respond on your own time, but here's a good way to go about it when you're in the heat of a conversation: Pause, take a deep breath, and compose your reply inside your head before saying it out loud. Cough or clear your throat, if needed, to buy yourself a couple of extra seconds to think, and then find the nicest possible way to convey your message. For example, rather than respond to a coworker with "your idea won't work," try "I hear what you're saying, but I'm concerned about the following pitfalls."
Another way to be more diplomatic is to watch your tone, whether live or in an email. Sometimes, lowering your voice can do the trick of softening an otherwise harsh message. Furthermore, be mindful of the fact that email doesn't convey tone, and choose your words wisely. Instead of typing "I don't understand why we're doing things this way," try "I'd really like to understand the thought process behind this decision." It's the same message, only the latter version won't put your recipient on the defensive.
No matter where you are in your career, you should consider yourself a work-in-progress. This way, you'll be motivated to keep building these and other key skills that will benefit you perpetually.
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