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Want to Excel Professionally? Work on These Key Skills

By Maurie Backman – Sep 16, 2019 at 7:36AM

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Hint: They're not skills you can learn in a classroom.

The skills you develop in the course of your career can set the stage for success. But don't expect to learn those skills inside a classroom; rather, they're the type you're likely to grow on the job. We're talking about soft skills, and according to a recent survey by outsourcing company Airtasker, 66% of employees feel that their soft skills have helped them more in their career than their formal degrees.

Not only can soft skills help you excel at your current place of work, but they can also increase your chances of landing a job in the first place -- especially if you do a good job of talking those skills up on your resume, and demonstrate them during job interviews. Furthermore, Airtasker reports that workers are more likely to get fired for a lack of soft skills than for absent hard (job-specific) skills.

Smiling woman sitting at desk, holding a pen and resting hand on open laptop

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Clearly, it pays to work on improving your soft skills. Here are a few specific ones to focus on.

1. Time management

Strong time managers know how to make the most of their days. They recognize the importance of setting priorities and often utilize tools and technology to accomplish the tasks they set out to tackle. To boost your time management skills, dig around and find some apps that'll help you track your priorities and better manage deadlines. Once you improve, your boss is apt to take notice.

2. Attention to detail

Paying attention to smaller details is a good way to score the more coveted or high-profile projects your manager has to dish out. If you're detail-oriented, you'll likely be regarded as more capable and trustworthy. Part of being good with details, however, is building enough time into your day to be more thorough. To this end, schedule time to edit reports before sending them out, or carve out room in your day to read instructions when you're assigned tasks so you're more likely to deliver in a manner that pleases your manager.

3. Problem-solving

Part of being a strong problem-solver is having the right attitude. If you approach challenges with the mindset that you are, in fact, capable of tackling them, you're more likely to succeed. At the same time, don't be afraid to use all of the resources available to you when handling problems, whether it's the internet, your colleagues, or professionals you know outside of your organization.

4. Communication

Being a solid communicator involves a number of things. It means choosing the right words, using the right medium, and timing your messages so that they're most effective. It also means knowing what not to say in certain situations, or when to go the extra mile to explain things that may not be obvious to others.

It always helps to build on the skills that are unique to your job. For example, if you're in IT, learning additional coding languages or mastering new software could help you advance professionally. At the same time, your goal should be to constantly work on improving your soft skills, because ultimately, they could wind up helping your career just as much, if not more so.

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