Maybe 2017 was a great year for your career. Or maybe it wasn't. Either way, a new year means a new approach to wowing your boss and taking your job performance to a more impressive level. If you're intent on furthering your career this year, here are a few key skills it pays to focus on.

1. Time management

Most of us who work have a similar dilemma: So much to do, such limited time. If you're constantly left struggling to complete tasks, you may be inclined to simply work longer hours to compensate. But doing so is a dangerous idea, because it can lead not only to burnout but, in some cases, a decrease in productivity. A better solution? Learn to more effectively manage your time. Specifically, learn to set priorities and schedule your tasks so that you're able to accomplish more in less time. You can do this on your own, or with the help of one of the many time-management apps out there.

Smiling man in business suit sits at a small round table, holding a tablet, with a laptop and papers spread out in front of him.


2. Communication

Being a strong communicator is critical to establishing and maintaining good relationships. But it's not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. For example, some folks struggle to put their thoughts down on paper, while others get flustered during meetings or group conversations. The good news, however, is that you can improve your written and oral communications with a little practice.

The beauty of email, for example, is that it lets you choose your words carefully, so if you're not a particularly strong writer, carve out some time each day to respond to messages rather than rush through them. Sending emails that don't contain spelling or grammatical errors is a good way to appear more professional. Furthermore, be mindful that diplomacy can be tough to achieve via email. If you're going back and forth with someone on a somewhat controversial topic, be cautious when writing an email, keeping in mind that electronic messages can't convey tone the same way live conversations can.

And speaking of face-to-face communication, one tactic you might employ is making a point to clear your throat before you speak. This will buy you a couple of extra seconds to think about how you want to respond to others and formulate better replies. Of course, you can't pull that trick multiple times in a row during a given conversation without others getting suspicious. But you can do it during moments when things get heated or the stakes are high, and you need a few extra seconds to get your bearings.

3. Assertiveness

Believe it or not, assertiveness is considered not only a job skill, but a necessary one at that. Though it's great to be helpful and agreeable at the office, there also comes a point where being too humble or eager to please can backfire. For example, say you and another coworker are both hoping to lead an upcoming project. If your colleague is more assertive about it than you, you could end up losing out on that opportunity.

So how do you build assertiveness? For one thing, be more matter-of-fact in your statements. Rather than say things like "I'm sorry, but I don't think I can complete that assignment by your requested deadline," try "That deadline won't work because I have the following priorities to tackle before I can move on to new assignments." In fact, don't utter the words "I'm sorry" at all unless you happen to accidentally trample over a colleague's toe. When you preface a statement with "I'm sorry," it sends the message that you feel you shouldn't be saying it in the first place, when that's probably not at all the case.

Of course, on top of the above skills, it always pays to boost those that are specific to your actual job. But if you're looking to get ahead at your company, working on the aforementioned skills will help you achieve that goal, regardless of what you actually do.