Developing your Career Smarts Skills
If you’re going to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive, ever-changing and disruptive workplace, then you are going to need to be constantly developing and upgrading your skills.
Executive business coach and author, Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book several years back called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. The title of the book perfectly sums up the mindset of the man or woman who is going to thrive and not barely survive in today’s workplaces.
Regardless of your qualifications, awards or years of service, what got you to this point in your career is not necessarily going to be helpful in getting you to where you need to be in the next five, 10 or 15 years.
The skills that matter most to advance your career
Over the next few pages, I’m going to list some soft skills that I believe are critical for improving not only your current situation but to build strong career framework for the years ahead. These “career smarts” skills are focused on three core career areas:
1. Your ability to manage your self
2. Your ability to engage and interact with others
3. Your ability to add value to your organisation
One of the most important, if not the most important soft skill that you need to be constantly working on is the strong belief and commitment to your professional and personal growth.
For example, how many training courses did you deliberately put your hand up to attend at work over the past 12 months?
What was the number of books you purchased for your professional development library (which is tax-deductible) to increase your skills and knowledge over the past 12 months? Approximately many paper or audiobooks have you borrowed from your local library with the intention of learning or improving on a particular, or several professional career-enhancing skills?
Generally, how much money do you put aside each year to invest in your learning and development? When estimating this amount, including attending conferences, purchasing learning materials or working with a coach.
So what are these career skills and how would you rate each one right now from a score of 1 to 10. How much you know about each of these “smarts”? How would your manager, your colleagues and customers rate you from their dealings with you? How much time and effort have you put into learning and developing each of these skills over the past 12 months?
Are you ready? Here we go!
It’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that your EQ or EI (emotional intelligence quotient) is much more important to your success and happiness in life as compared to your IQ (your intelligence quotient). Your EQ comprises the four key areas: Self-awareness. Self-management. Social awareness. Relationship management.
- Self-awareness is all about knowing and understanding what motivates, drives, frustrates, and inspires you. It’s about knowing your values and what you believe. Also, it’s understanding your personality style and being able to observe yourself objectively – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your career and personal success.
- Self-management relates to managing your emotions and your behaviour to achieve important outcomes at work and in life. For example, you might be aware that you struggle with time management. In fact, many people do. But self-management is the ability to manage yourself to get things done. To have the discipline and desire to overcome any personal weaknesses and to become better at managing your time.If you’re overweight and you know it, that’s self-awareness. If you’re overweight, you know it, and you’re consciously going to the gym, working out, cutting out sugar and carbs from your diet to lose weight – that self-management!
- Social awareness is being aware of the people, customs, cultures, beliefs and values and personalities of the people you’re at any given point in time. Do you know what motivates your manager? Do you have an appreciation why in some countries it’s normal and natural to have an open disagreement and even raise your voice and gesticulate, while in other cultures raising your voice and getting emotional is considered highly inappropriate?
- Relationship management is all about knowing how to bring the best out in other people at work and in your personal life. Relationship management relates to individuals as well as groups. It’s consciously able to use your interpersonal relationships to get things done and to enjoy harmony and cooperation.
Another popular soft skill is personal resilience. Closely linked to stress management, a person who was resilient can bounce back after a disappointment or a setback and continue to move onward and upward, regardless of what life throws at them. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems. What resilience is all about is knowing how to recover quickly.
Are you someone who gets things done? Do you create a plan to accomplish your main projects, goals and tasks at the beginning of each month your month, at the start of every week and upon commencing work each day?
Do you finish most days at work feeling a sense of achievement that you’ve completed the majority of your most important tasks? Is there a to-do list sitting next to your keyboard and do you use it as part of your daily plan?
When given a large project to complete, are you able to divide something that will take many hours into smaller, more manageable chunks and do you have the discipline to block off time each day in your calendar until the task is done over the coming weeks?
Being able to stay calm and balanced when all hell is breaking loose around you and knowing how to manage your stress levels is another important soft skill.
When you go home at night, can you switch off from work? Do you have stress management rituals that bring calm and contentment in your life? What are those helpful methods for reducing your stress when you’re feeling under pressure?
You’ve probably never thought about it before, but from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you’re communicating with other people, and not just by the words you use. As you already know, most human communication is non-verbal, but for the sake of this article, let’s just refer to communication as the ability to connect and interact with others with minimal confusion.
History tells us that our greatest leaders in every field of endeavour were all great communicators. They were able to express themselves clearly to their followers. When they spoke people listen. How strongly your communication skills verbally, in written form as well as through your body language?
Are you a natural team player, all you prefer to work on your own and feel that when other people get involved, I tend to muck things up? In almost all workplaces across the world today, there is a great need for employees and managers to work cooperatively. That’s why teamwork is such an important soft skill to develop. Another reason is important, is that you’re working with people who will most likely be very different in their personality, education, age, upbringing and background to you.
The people naturally want you to join their team, or do they roll their eyes when your name is called out?
Meeting participation skills
Love them or loathe them, in almost all organisations, it will be expected to attend at least one meeting a week.in some cases, managers and key employees send be booked into the end with meetings. Have you developed skills in leading meetings efficiently and effectively? Do you know how to chair or facilitate a meeting? What about as a participant? Do you know how to write good notes, ask important questions and contribute through a meeting, or is a soft skill you need to develop further?
when you’re asked to stand up and speak in a meeting, or to a group of customers do you relish the chance or look for any excuse to not have to do stand up in front of others and talk?
If you have presented in the past to colleagues, customers or conferences, do you know how to prepare an effective presentation? Do you have the skills to captivate audience attention? Even if you’re not a naturally outgoing or gregarious person, have you developed the skills to persuade and influence others in an audience?
Whenever you have two or more people nearby, the opportunity for misunderstandings, disagreements, conflict or even arguments is going to exist.
When disagreements or arguments do occur, do you pretend they don’t exist? Do you run away from them? Do you add fuel to the fire, or have you developed a range of conflict management skills to calm the situation down and to bring people together to work through and resolve their differences?
Now you might be thinking, I’m not in a sales role, so why would you include selling skills here on this list? Well, the reality is that whether you’re trying to get your manager to buy-in to an idea, have a customer make a decision, influence your team to take action on a new initiative, or even convince your partner on your next holiday destination, your selling! So, do you have an ability to persuade people to see things from your perspective? Can you influence others around you to take on your ideas or to champion the cause?
Although your manager does have positional power over you, do you have the ear and can you influence them to see things your way? If you’re stuck with a problem, do you feel comfortable going to your manager and sharing your thoughts and insights and getting his or her feedback?
What about a situation we are overloaded with work and need an extension to complete a particular task? Do you feel comfortable going to your manager and asking for the extension? If so, and your manager is happy to oblige, then you already have good managing upwards skills.
Problem-solving and decision-making
Depending on your job title, you’re going to come up against problems that need a solution. Do you shrug your shoulders and pass on the problem to someone else, or do you consider what your face with and get to work at coming up with some different ways the problem could be fixed? Do you have the skills for making a good decision?
Whether you’re attending a trade show, company conference or having drinks on a Friday afternoon as part of your social clubs activities, do you feel comfortable networking with other people from within and outside your organisation? Can you quickly start a conversation with a stranger and keep it effortlessly flowing, or do you feel awkward not knowing what to talk about?
Are you someone who believes that you are an interesting person, and also display an interest in other people by being able to have meaningful and motivating business conversations. Over the years, have you built a network of associates from within side and outside your organisation whom you can call upon if you need assistance, help or advice?
Are you someone who doesn’t have to wait to be told what to do, but you take the initiative and go ahead and do what you believe is in the best interests of your customer or organisation? Does every day similar Groundhog Day at work, or are you consciously aware the what you’re doing each day is slowly but surely moving you towards your weekly, monthly and annual goals? Should an opportunity present itself, are you ready to pounce on the possibility of a promotion or some additional responsibility?
So, how did you go rating yourself against each of these soft skills? Were you answering eight nines and tens, or where there are a few sixes and sevens? Did you have any ones and twos?
Now that you’ve identified which soft skills need to be worked on, perhaps you have a conversation with your manager. Would he or she agree with your assessment? And how does this self-assessment compare to your own personal development plan (your PDP) that you and your manager set some months back at work?
Finally, let me say that developing your soft skills by putting together career development plan is going to be successful only if you are committed to fulfilling the plan. Can I encourage you to commit a portion of your own time and effort each week and month to accomplish the plan. Perhaps you can listen to learning material on your smartphone on the way to work? Maybe you can take an online course or request to attend specific training? Chances are, your local library will have books and resources on any number of these topics that you could borrow. There is also your manager who I’m sure wants to help you and would be willing to offer you coaching or mentoring in the areas that you’ve identified as needing improvement.
In conclusion, let me share a wonderful quote by Bradley Whitford. “Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope.”