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Top 10 Skills for Career Development and Progression

October 4, 2022 - Izaskun Olarreaga

“One quality of leaders and high achievers in every area seems to be a commitment to ongoing personal and professional development” – Brian Tracy.

Alternative titles for this article could be ‘How to make yourself indispensable at work’ or ‘How to increase your chances of promotion.’ It could even be a guide to winning a better job with a new employer!

Career advancement is important to most people, and the lack of opportunities to progress is one of the biggest reasons for switching jobs. One study found that 94% of employees would stay loyal to their current employer if they received sufficient learning and development support.

Sometimes, it’s up to you to find training opportunities that match your private aims and ambitions. So, here are ten skills that are universally essential for career advancement.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo.

1. Self analysis

“Cultivate a deep understanding of yourself – not only what your strengths and weaknesses are but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution. Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.” – Peter Drucker.

The starting point for ambitious people in any role is using emotional intelligence to establish your own skills and knowledge levels, and enhancement goals.

Many employers ‘push’ training opportunities geared around their corporate needs. For example, they may steer you towards advanced technical or business skill courses to meet business planning and talent mapping requirements.

This is why you need to develop the ability to step back, assess your performance in the workplace, and then confidently go after areas of personal growth. This often focuses on the so-called soft skills; now increasingly referred to as empowerment skills.

If you want employer approval for this, simply argue that empowerment skills dovetail brilliantly with becoming a more resilient and effective leader.

2. Data analysis

The expression ‘information is power’ has never been more appropriate. The days when only your IT department needs to be ‘computer literate’ are long gone. Being comfortable with modern software is now a job requirement for many roles.

As industry and commerce are now driven by digital information, the ability to collate, analyse and apply data can enhance your employment prospects greatly.

Every decision maker – including marketing managers, financial directors, production controllers and project leaders – needs to deal with data confidently (and compliantly). Including being able to carry out forensic, real-time and predictive analysis tasks, to underpin business development.

“There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through to 2003. But that much information is now created every two days.” – Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google.

3. Innovative thinking and critical analysis

This skill for career progression and personal growth links with the above area of learning and development. Yes, ‘overnight’ ideas that are pure genius can happen. However, often innovation comes from ‘data crunching’ and a great deal of observation and research.

How can you develop your ability to be more innovative and intuitive in the workplace, beyond learning the basics of data analysis?

Some of the best ideas in business come from simply asking the right questions and encouraging good communications upward and across your organisation. Then, be ready to spend time developing feasible ways to expand and validate those initial concepts.

Confidently presenting well-conceived ideas will certainly impress existing and future employers.

“Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way.” – Tom Freston Co-founder of MTV.

Innovative thinking and critical analysis

4. Change management

Not all changes in an organisation are welcome and even the best ones are not always easy. This is why many employers put a high value on executives able to lead well under pressure.

How can you grow your ability to manage change successfully? You need to focus on being able to demonstrate such attributes as:

  • Calmness and good problem-solving abilities
  • Excellent communications skills
  • Strategic thinking
  • Leadership abilities that include motivating and inspiring others.

5. Professional agility

It is hard to be adept at managing change if you personally tend to be set in your ways and singular in your focus. Being blinkered can also lessen your ability to see problems that lie ahead!

Acquiring the ability to be more responsive and adaptable is something you may need to invest in over time. It can include, for example, staying carefully tuned into what’s happening across your organisation and constantly researching the marketplace and the activities of your commercial competitors.

Invest in project management and communications courses too, to build your responsive leadership abilities.

From all of this comes a highly-valued ability to ‘roll your sleeves up’, lend a hand in diverse situations and slot easily into any project team. Your collaborative prowess will improve too.

Discover how the VirtuaSpeech platform uses practice exercises to help you learn up to 4x faster.

6. Problem solving and conflict resolution

These have been grouped together as they can be summed up with the expression of being able to ‘think on your feet’.

Having an intuitive personality helps. However, you can also develop this sort of skill to drive your career progression, as being the author of practical and effective solutions can make you even more indispensable in any role.

You can build this skill by gathering as much knowledge and insight as possible so you can draw on that learning promptly. It also helps if you have excellent interpersonal and communications skills, to enable you to combine both emotional intelligence and active listening.

This combination makes you more alert to issues, and able to formulate solutions, before a ‘problem’ becomes a ‘crisis’. Including diffusing conflict or disenfranchisement in the workplace. Being able to spot the early warning signs and intervene in a constructive way could make you especially vital to your employer.

7. Advanced presentation skills

The skill of public speaking can be valuable in a multitude of roles and situations. It will provide you with greater competence and confidence when you need to negotiate, persuade and influence, for example.

From an initial job interview, through funding meetings and sales pitches, to delivering motivational team briefings.

8. Business communications for the digital age

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy.

You may already consider yourself an accomplished communicator who can perform well in meetings and networking opportunities. However, this is one area where there is often room for improvement. Especially when it comes to communicating well digitally.

Do you know how to use non-verbal communication in virtual meetings, for instance, and how to choose the correct communication methods to get the best response to each situation?

Finding an advanced and up-to-date communications course is a wise investment in your career.

9. Self-belief and confidence

This is the ultimate in transferable skills when you switch career paths. A sense of self-worth and a belief you genuinely have something to offer to your next employer can carry you a long way in interviews.

That level of confidence can come from investing in the employment skills mentioned in other points. Especially enhanced communications skills to help you think fast and be persuasive when you get to the tough questions!

10. Empathy

Empathetic leadership skills will enhance your work relationships, personal growth and career prospects. Empathy is very difficult to measure and ‘fake’ so why is it important?

Empathy is the linchpin of emotionally intelligent leadership – including managing change, conflict resolution and many other of the skill sets outlined above.

The meaning of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” and it can be the only way to get the best out of teams, and deliver successful communications strategies.

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own” – Henry Ford.