Whether you lead a sales team, drive a truck, work in a factory, or do nearly anything else, there are skills that will help you no matter your line of work.
In fact, working on these skills can make you more valuable not just at your job, but in your entire life. Here are some skill sets that everyone could stand to work on.
Selena Maranjian: Being able to communicate clearly and professionally is an invaluable career skill. Among other things, it helps you to collaborate with others, negotiate promotions and raises, and network with people inside and outside your own company.
Clear and persuasive writing is valuable if you're preparing a business proposal, marketing text, a letter to customers, a confidential memo, or an email requesting a raise. If your writing is full of errors or is known for being too lengthy and full of jargon, that's not helping you get ahead. A few extra moments spent reviewing and editing can really pay off.
The ability to communicate well verbally is a big plus, too. It can make you better understood and respected in meetings and elsewhere at your workplace. Even when leaving a voicemail, you should be clear and concise instead of rambling and mumbling. If you're speaking in person, be sure to make eye contact, smile, and maintain good posture. That makes people more comfortable with you and reflects self-assurance.
You may need to do some public speaking, too. This can be nerve-wracking for many people, but it can also help you develop a higher profile at work -- perhaps being sent to speak and give presentations to clients and big audiences. Look into local public-speaking clubs or courses, such as Toastmasters. Even a local improv group could do wonders for your public-speaking skills.
In all communication, think about your audience and what motivates them. Tailor your writing or speaking to them as you aim to inform or persuade them. And remember that listening carefully is equally important.
Maurie Backman: I've held a number of different jobs throughout my career, and in a variety of environments. I managed a trading desk at a hedge fund for several years, which was a high-pressure role. I also worked for an online marketing firm, where my time was split between telecommuting and showing up at an actual office. In addition, I've spent many years freelancing, which has meant working from home at my own pace.
But throughout these different jobs and environments, the one skill that's always been essential is the ability to manage my time. Take the hedge fund, for instance. No matter how early I came in or how late I stayed, there was always work to be done, so I had to be extra-efficient during trading hours, when it was easy enough to get distracted by the constant ringing of phones and shouting of traders. At the marketing firm, meanwhile, I wore a number of different hats, and so I had to arrange my schedule so that everything I was responsible for ultimately got done.
Now that I'm back into full-time freelancing, however, managing my time has become all the more crucial. That's because I don't have a boss breathing down my neck or coworkers constantly hounding me to get things done. Rather, I have deadlines and goals that I need to meet, and it's up to me to manage my time so that I'm getting my work done while also balancing the responsibilities that come with running a household.
If time management isn't your strong suit, there are a number of apps out there that can help, so it pays to check them out. You should also do your best to eliminate known distractions and create a list of daily and weekly tasks and goals to keep yourself on track. The better your time management skills, the more success you'll have on the job, no matter where your career takes you.
Daniel B. Kline: It's great to have confidence, but cockiness can get you into trouble on and off the job. That's why it's important to remain humble. No matter how good at your job you are, you should remain open to the possibility that you still have things to learn. Keeping that attitude can make it easier to adapt when conditions change or when something unexpected happens.
I spent much of my career working at newspapers, including a stint at The Boston Globe. That entire industry has suffered from a lack of humility. Too many excellent editors, publishers, and owners approached their jobs with arrogance. That made them blind to the sweeping changes that would dramatically change their business.
These were titans -- people who were very good at their jobs -- but people who did not spend a lot of time thinking about what they didn't know. In many cases, these career newspaper people were openly dismissive of the rising digital tide, and they did little to learn to about how they might adapt.
No matter how good you are at your job, there is always room for improvement. To make that happen you need to develop the humility to accept that no matter how much you know, there's always more to learn.