If you want to advance in your career, develop these 7 skills

Want to move up in your career?

It’s not just about working hard. It’s about building the right skills.

No matter what job you have, there are some skills that can help you succeed in any field.

In this article, I’ll explore 7 must-have skills that can give you an edge at work.

These skills aren’t about knowing how to use a specific tool or software. They’re skills that can help you be a better problem-solver, communicator, and team player.

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been working for a while, these skills are worth learning. 

Let’s get started. 

Skill 1: Communication

In any job, being able to clearly express your ideas and thoughts is a game-changer.

Good communication isn’t just about talking, though. It’s about listening to others and understanding their perspective.

When you can communicate effectively, you build better relationships with your colleagues and superiors, and you’re more likely to be noticed and valued at work.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Practice Active Listening: Focus on the person you’re talking to, ask questions to show you’re engaged, and repeat back what they say to make sure you understand.
  • Be Clear and Concise: When speaking or writing, get to the point without going off on tangents. Use simple words and avoid jargon.
  • Body Language Matters: Pay attention to your nonverbal cues. Eye contact, posture, and gestures can say a lot about how you’re feeling.
  • Adjust Your Communication Style: Everyone communicates differently. Try to understand how others prefer to communicate and adapt your style to match.

In my view, active listening is probably the most important skill you can develop. That is what has helped me the most. 

As American author and motivational speaker, Stephen R. Covey says, it will also set you apart from most people:

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

Skill 2: Problem Solving

Let’s face it, no job is without its challenges.

Whether it’s a technical issue, a tight deadline, or a disagreement with a coworker, problems are a part of work life.

Being a good problem solver means finding solutions even when the going gets tough.

It’s about thinking outside the box, staying calm under pressure, and making the best decisions for the situation.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Break It Down: When faced with a big problem, break it into smaller, more manageable parts. Tackle each part step by step.
  • Stay Open-Minded: Be willing to consider different approaches. What worked once might not work again, so be flexible in your thinking.
  • Learn from Experience: Take note of what worked and what didn’t in past situations. Use that knowledge to inform your future decisions.
  • Collaborate: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or involve others in finding a solution. Two heads are often better than one.

Skill 3: Time Management

In the fast-paced world of work, managing your time effectively is crucial.

Being able to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and still have time for yourself can make a world of difference in your career.

Time management is a skill that can help you stay organized, reduce stress, and be more productive.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Set Goals: Start by setting realistic goals for yourself. Break them down into smaller, actionable steps and create a timeline for achieving them.
  • Prioritize: Not all tasks are equally important. Learn to prioritize based on urgency and importance. Focus on tasks that align with your goals and have the biggest impact.
  • Use Tools: Use digital tools like calendar apps, to-do lists, and time-tracking software to stay organized and on track. Set reminders and deadlines to avoid procrastination.
  • Avoid Multitasking: Trying to juggle multiple tasks at once can be counterproductive. Focus on one task at a time, complete it, and then move on to the next.
  • Take Breaks: Don’t forget to take short breaks during the day to recharge. It can help improve your focus and productivity.

I used to struggle with time management, always feeling like there weren’t enough hours in the day. I’d often find myself working late into the night to catch up.

Then, I started setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and using digital tools to stay organized. My favorite for prioritizing tasks with Google Keep and Clockify, an app that actually tracks your time. 

Focusing on my time and the tasks I need to accomplish has helped me a great deal.

I’ve become more efficient, I always meet my deadlines, and this has allowed me to have more time for myself.

In the end, time management isn’t about squeezing more work into your day; it’s about working smarter, not harder.

Skill 4: Saying “No”

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the most important skills you can develop for your career is the ability to say “no.”

While it’s natural to want to take on every opportunity that comes your way, spreading yourself too thin can lead to burnout and hinder your overall performance.

By learning when and how to say “no,” you can focus on what truly matters and excel in those areas.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Know Your Limits: Understand your capacity and workload. Recognize when you’re at risk of taking on too much and be honest about what you can and can’t handle.
  • Prioritize Your Goals: Identify your most important goals and commitments. When faced with a new opportunity or request, evaluate whether it aligns with your priorities.
  • Be Respectful: When you need to decline something, do so politely and respectfully. Explain your reasons and offer alternatives if possible.
  • Practice Assertiveness: Saying “no” can be challenging, especially if you’re not used to it. Practice being assertive in low-stakes situations to build confidence.

I used to be the person who said “yes” to everything, thinking it would help me get ahead in my career.

But I soon found myself overwhelmed and stressed, struggling to meet deadlines and maintain quality.

It was only when I started saying “no” to tasks and opportunities that didn’t align with my goals that I began to thrive.

I was able to focus on my most important responsibilities, deliver better results, and enjoy a healthier work-life balance.

Learning to say “no” may seem counterintuitive, but it can be a game-changer for your career.

It allows you to focus on what truly matters, be more effective in your work, and maintain a healthy balance in your life.

Remember, it’s not about rejecting opportunities, but about making intentional choices that align with your goals and values.

Skill 5: Adaptability

Being adaptable means being open to change and able to handle new situations with ease.

In the workplace, things can change quickly, whether it’s new technology, a change in your team, or a shift in your company’s direction.

Being adaptable is about rolling with the punches and not getting too stuck in your ways.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Stay Open-Minded: Be open to new ideas and approaches. Try not to immediately reject something just because it’s different from what you’re used to.
  • Learn from Others: Watch how others around you handle change. You might learn new strategies or ways of thinking that can help you be more adaptable.
  • Be Proactive: Don’t wait for change to happen to you. If you see an opportunity for improvement or a new way of doing things, be the one to suggest it.
  • Practice Flexibility: Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Try a new way of doing things or take on a project that’s different from what you’re used to.

I used to be the type of person who liked to stick to what I knew. I was comfortable with my routine and didn’t like when things changed.

But then, my company decided to switch to a new software system, and I had no choice but to adapt.

I realized that by being open to change and willing to learn, I was able to handle the transition smoothly and even found some new efficiencies in my work.

Being adaptable is about being willing to learn and change. It’s a skill that will serve you well in any job or industry.

Remember, change is a part of life, and being able to handle it with grace and ease can only benefit you in your career.

Skill 6: Networking

Ah, the dreaded networking! I hate it, you hate it, but in the end, it’s pretty important.

After all, networking is about more than just exchanging business cards at events. It’s about building genuine relationships with people in your industry and beyond.

A strong network can open up opportunities, provide you with valuable insights, and offer support when you need it.

As much as it pains me to say and it grates you to hear, developing this skill can make a huge difference in your career.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Start Small: Don’t try to network with everyone at once. Start with people you already know, like colleagues or classmates, and then gradually expand your network.
  • Be Genuinely Interested: When you meet new people, be interested in what they have to say. Ask questions and listen actively. Networking is a two-way street; it’s not just about what you can get out of it.
  • Attend Industry Events: Participate in industry conferences, workshops, or seminars. These events are great opportunities to meet people in your field and learn about the latest trends.
  • Join Online Communities: There are many online forums, groups, and communities for professionals in various industries. Joining these groups can help you connect with people who share your interests and goals.
  • Offer Help: When you can, offer help to others in your network. Whether it’s sharing an article, making an introduction, or giving advice, these gestures can strengthen your relationships.

Networking is about building and nurturing relationships. It’s a skill that can help you grow in your career, open up new opportunities, and provide you with valuable insights and support.

Even if it can be a bit tiring at times, it’s certainly worth it to make genuine connections and move forward in your career. 

Skill 7: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is about more than just being “nice.”

It’s the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions, as well as the ability to connect with others by recognizing and understanding their emotions.

Trust me, this is a skill that can make a world of difference in your career.

How to Develop This Skill:

  • Practice Self-Awareness: Pay attention to your emotions and reactions. I used to get really frustrated when meetings ran long, but after some self-reflection, I realized that I just needed to plan my day better.
  • Develop Empathy: Put yourself in others’ shoes. When a coworker seems upset, take a moment to ask how they’re doing. I once had a colleague who was having a hard day, and a simple “how are you feeling?” went a long way.
  • Improve Your Listening Skills: Listen, and I mean really listen, to what others are saying. Sometimes we’re so busy thinking about our response that we miss what’s really being said.
  • Manage Your Emotions: Find ways to stay calm and collected, even when things get tough. I used to get stressed out easily, but deep breathing and short walks outside have worked wonders for me.
  • Build Healthy Relationships: Be genuine in your interactions. I’ve found that just being myself, and showing appreciation for others, has helped me build some amazing relationships at work.

Honestly, emotional intelligence is a skill that can benefit you in every area of your life, not just at work.

Whether it’s dealing with a difficult colleague or just wanting to build stronger relationships, trust me, it’s worth investing the time to develop your emotional intelligence.

It’s one of those things that can make your work life, and your personal life, just a little bit better.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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