The days of an employee remaining in one job for their entire careers and retiring from that job with a watch and a fat pension are long gone. In May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 35.5% of men and 39.1% of women held individual jobs for less than a year from 2005 to 2017. This means that more than one in three of all workers in the U.S. changed jobs every year.
There is a good chance that you are among these workers. Whether you have gotten a new job within your field, such as a lateral change to a competing employer or a promotion, or you are changing careers entirely, cultivating these five skills will help you perform in your current job and get the next job.
This advice comes from the office of a Pittsburgh criminal appeals lawyer.
Skill #1: Cultivate So-Called “Soft Skills”
This is first for a reason. Having“soft skills” benefits everyone everywhere, regardless of job, career, age, gender, education, nationality, ethnicity, or religion. All interactions go much more smoothly and productively if all or most of the people involved practice soft skills.
So what are soft skills? As a bundle of behaviors and responses, they are deliberate words and deeds that aid in the clarity and productivity of interpersonal communications.
Everyone has had a teacher or parent admonish them to just “get along” with a classmate or a sibling. “Getting along” might point the way to soft skills, but they go way beyond that. Soft skills help you make the most of your relationships, even your work relationships.
Some specific behaviors that are considered soft skills are:
- Being polite (beyond “please and thank you”);
- Responding in kind to colleagues;
- Responding directly to a question;
- Repeating what a colleague or supervisor has said to you to ensure getting it right;
- Taking a breath and crafting a measured, reasonable response to something negative or irritating.
Besides responding appropriately to colleagues and superiors, an essential part of soft skills is adhering to the company culture. If everyone wears jeans, go for it. If everyone eats lunch at their desk, you can too. But if no one eats at their desk, don’t do so and assume that is appropriate. The same goes for cell phone use, personal calls, use of cologne or perfume, use of profanity, and any other behavior that may or may not be offensive to others.
The most effective way to cultivate soft skills is to be observant of what works in your interactions and in the interactions of others. At work, you might identify a mentor to observe, whether they know they are being observed or not. Don’t be weird about it.
If there is someone who is successful at creating and maintaining pleasant and productive work relationships, observing them will be valuable to you. Alternatively, if there are no positive role models at work, look for negative ones so that you know what not to do.
Skill #2: Practice Your Ability to Collaborate
Collaboration does not come naturally to many people, so don’t feel bad if you are uncomfortable with or resist working with others. It is a cultural problem for many of us who were raised in the American culture of “rugged individualism.” As a result, we think that if we want something done right we need to do it ourselves.
This way of thinking limits us. Collaborating at work, especially with colleagues who are different from us as people and who work in different aspects of the field, results in ideas and products that the individuals involved could not have come up on their own.
Why? Because when you bounce ideas off people who think differently from you, you get responses you cannot anticipate. This triggers a different thought process in you, and your response will trigger a different thought process in them. When you have a group of people engaging in this type of dialogue, it results in everyone’s synapses firing, and everyone is interacting creatively.
Open yourself to this process. You will be pleasantly surprised at what comes of it.
Skill #3: Develop a Reputation for Dependability and Integrity
If you say you will do something, do it and do it correctly. If you are required to adhere to a deadline, adhere to it. If you have set work hours, do not arrive late or leave early. If you can help a colleague, help her.
You can tell people you are dependable and have integrity, but in truth, these are qualities of character that can only be expressed and known to others over time, by your behavior.
Demonstrating dependability and behaving with integrity means your superiors will think of you that way. This will not only increase your value to them in your current position but will help you get a positive recommendation from them so you can win your next position.
Be careful. One slip-up can ruin the reputation you’ve worked so hard to develop. Don’t be careless.
Skill #4: Show Your Eagerness to Learn
No one has all the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a new job. Approach each new position with an open mind knowing that you were hired not only for the skills you have but your ability to adapt and learn new skills.
Adaptability and ability to learn are the two aspects of character that result in success and ultimately promotion.
Skill #5: Display Professionalism at Work
Ah, professionalism. The definition of professionalism is elusive because the specifics depend on the company culture. However, there are personal qualities that are considered professional regardless of culture. These include doing your job to the best of your ability, acting with grace, maturity, and patience, remaining positive, being honest, and incorporating the above four skills into your work persona.
These five skills will help you in any job or career. Good luck!
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a legal assistant and blogger living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Todd Mosser, Esq., a Pittsburgh appeals attorney.