Improving Your Career Smarts
Having a rewarding career where you have opportunities to grow, be promoted and earn the respect from your managers and colleagues as a highly effective employee doesn’t just happen by accident. I’ve discovered that the recipe for a truly satisfying career is hard work, and a strategy to improve your career skills.
So, let me ask you, do you have a career development plan for at least the next year ahead
Have you taken the time to write a list of your annual and short-term goals? Do you know what soft skills you need to develop further and study? Within each soft skill, have you identified where the gaps currently are what you need to learn to be effective truly and where you are right now?
I’m often asked by managers and employees what skills they need to focus on and hone to improve their career prospects, so I thought I’d provide you with a list of skills that every manager and employee really should not only know about but truly excel in on this podcast.
As I take you through each skill set, consider honestly how much you know about this particular skill already and how you would rate yourself on a scale of 0 to 10. Zero meaning you know nothing about this skill set at all, and ten meaning you are an expert, you use this skill every day and could teach it to others. For better communication skills, your presentation skills must accurate.
Now before you start rating yourself with sevens, eights, nines and tens, there’s a very quick test that you need to give yourself that’s going to indicate whether you truly do have those skill sets. If you can tell me the names of three books you read over the past couple of years on this topic and the names of gurus who you know quite a lot about and who teach this skill. Communication skills is as important as leadership skills because if you cannot deliver what you are doing then it is useful to do that work. Always concentrate on your communication skills.
For example, if I ask you how you would rate yourself on the skill of time management, and you said that you are a nine. I’d ask for the names three books you’ve read on time management over the past couple of years? Who were the authors and in a sentence or two what was the thesis of their books?
If you tell me you’re an expert (or pretty close to it) on time management, can you name three time management experts or gurus within a couple of seconds? Do they come to mind quickly
If you can, then chances are you’re the real deal. If you can’t, then I really have to question whether you truly should be rating yourself that highly. Now right about now you might be saying, Paul, an excellent at managing my time, but I’ve never read any books on time management, and I couldn’t tell you the names of so-called time management and productivity gurus. If that’s the case, then I’m going to suggest that you do start to read books on the subject and learn about leading experts in these fields.
In today’s business world, it’s not just good enough to say that you’re good at something, you have to be able to back it up with some additional knowledge. I hope that makes sense.
Now, by the way, today I’m only going to give you a very brief introduction into some of the most important soft skill sets that you need for the months and years ahead. It’s by no means a conclusive list. If you like a more comprehensive list of soft skills that you need to develop, then please contact me, and I’ll be happy to send you a PDF template. In the meantime, let’s go with the shorter version. It should give you an indication of how you’re doing overall.
Are you ready?
All right, let’s start with Alignment.
What is the vision, mission and values of your organisation?
Take a moment and write them down for me. So, can you articulate the difference between your organisation’s mission and its vision? How many values does your organisation have? What are they?
If you know your organisation’s vision and mission and can explain the organisation’s values exactly, then rate yourself at the high-end. On the other hand, if you’re not quite sure you can’t remember, you need to rank yourself on the low side.
Let’s talk about communication skills
How would you describe your verbal communication skills? Do you speak confidently and clearly in front of strangers? Do you enjoy speaking to customers? If you’ve answered yes, then you might want to give yourself a high rating. Before you do, what are three books on the subject of communication you’ve read over the past few years? Can you name several communication skills experts that you know of?
Are you someone who listens more than you talk? When you’re on the phone with someone else or in a meeting, do you find yourself talking over the top of the other person and then excusing yourself? Do you have a head full of ideas and want to let the other person know what you’re thinking?
If you answered yes, then you may not have good active listening skills yet. On the other hand, if you find yourself being able to give the person sitting next to you or on the other end of the phone your complete attention. If you’re naturally inclined to repeat back a summary of what they’re just said. If you can remember clearly most of the key points from your conversation after you’ve departed, then you may very well have good active listening.
Do you believe customers are the most important people in your organisation? Do you go out of your way to impress them and provide them with a high level of service whether it’s by email, telephone or in person?
Do you respond to customers quickly and always look for a way to help them? How would you rate yourself in your customer service delivery between zero and 10?
Remember, before you give yourself a high score, can you give me the names of three books audio programs you’ve read or listen to over the past couple of years and customer service? Can you tell me the names of at least three customer service experts either in Australia or overseas that you know about?
Top 10 communication skills, presentation skills, writing skills
Let’s talk about writing skills.
How well can you compose a business letter or email to a customer? Do you know the correct way to structure an email? In other words, what information goes in the first paragraph, the second paragraph and in the final paragraph?
Do you know how to structure and write a report? For example, if I asked you to give me an overview of what to include in a table of contents for a business report, what would be the order of the contents of the report? If you’ve never written a report, that’s okay. Let me ask you; do you think you might need to learn how to write reports at some point in the future?
Okay, so go ahead and write yourself between zero and 10 for report writing.
This really is such an important skill to master, yet so many managers and employees do struggle to manage your time and priorities effectively. How about you? learn more about communication skills here:
So, can you tell me the difference between an annual, monthly, weekly and daily plan? When you set your desk in the morning how do you initiate an action plan before the start of work?
Do you tend to get most things done on time? For example, do you turn up to meetings on time?
What about your to-do list?
Where is it right now? Is it sitting next to you on your desk or do you have some sort of to-do list as an app on your phone or tablet? If so, can you turn do it right now and tell me the next three things that you have to do in order?
All right, time to rate yourself between zero and 10? If you’re scoring a seven, eight or nine, what books or learning have you done over the past couple of years? Can you name the books? What about the names of at least three time management experts or gurus? Can you tell me about them and their time management methods or theories?
Okay, a quick assessment. Right now, if you’re at your desk, have a look at your inbox. Do you have less than 20 emails sitting in your inbox waiting to be processed, or do you have 100 or more emails?
How many times a day do you stop what you’re doing and check email? Never, because you have a set time several times a day to check email, or do you stop and check email when you’re bored, or hear the sound notifying you of an incoming message?
Do you find yourself constantly looking at your phone and checking email? What about after hours? Can you go home and forget about email most of the time, or are you checking email in between dinner or your recreational time?
What does your inbox an email program look like? Do you have email folder set up to store your email messages, or is your inbox more like a junk box? Come on, be honest! Time to rate yourself. 0 to 10? Can you name three books or courses, or even podcasts you listen to over the past couple of years on the subject of email management? If you can, give yourself a high rating. If you can’t, don’t!
How are you going so far? Are you rating well or is the work to be done? Will just a couple more for today’s podcasts.
Let’s talk about emotional intelligence.
First up, can you articulate what emotional intelligence is within a sentence? If I asked you to tell me before elements of emotional intelligence, could you explain what they are?
How do you handle stress and pressure? For example, if someone sends you an email blaming you for something that you didn’t do, what your first reaction? Do you get upset and respond immediately? Or, do you realise that what they’re saying isn’t true, and choose a time to respond later on, when you’ve had time to think about what they said and why they said it?
Can you quickly tell me three of your greatest personal strengths and three of your weaknesses? How hard or easy as that for you? If it’s easy, then it may indicate a high level of emotional intelligence? If you find it difficult to list three of your strengths or three of your weaknesses, or you’re unwilling to admit that you have any weaknesses, that might be an indication you need to work on your EQ?
So how would you rate your emotional intelligence between zero and 10? Come on, be honest!
You’re at a supermarket and someone pushes in line. What is your first reaction? Are you incensed that someone just did that? Do you give them a piece of your mind or, do you just let them push in and don’t say anything because you don’t want to cause a fuss? Or, do you do something else?
Does your partner at home tell you that you’re argumentative, even if you don’t think you are? Or, in your personal life do you find yourself not standing up yourself with your partner because you want to keep the peace and don’t want to argue? In other words, you find it easier to give in then to engage in a conversation?
When someone at work disagrees with you, do you try and argue your point first, do you quickly give in in order to not cause a disturbance, or do you ask the other person to clarify the situation?
So how would you rate your conflict resolution skills between zero and 10? If you rate us of highly, can you tell me the name of a couple of books and experts that have written and spoken about this topic? If you can, that might mean a higher rating.
All right, let me just discuss three more to finish up today.
Do you need to negotiate any number of things at work? For example, you need to negotiate the purchase or sale of products or services? What about the completion time of projects or when your manager asks you if you can do something before the end of the day? Is your natural instinct to agree to get the manager of your back, or do you try and negotiate a completion time that works better for you?
When you enter into a negotiation with say, a customer, do you tend to fold early and give in? Do you not like the tension that can often be associated with negotiating? Or, are you the opposite? Do you enjoy a good robust disagreement? Are you reluctant to take no for an answer? Are you an argumentative negotiator?
Do you know much about the four-step negotiation framework? What about if I asked what are BATNA is? Do you know the term BATNA? What about the term “tradable”? What are the three categories of tradables that you have at your disposal?
If you know the answer to these questions, then chances are you understand quite a bit about the art of negotiating. Even if you think you’re a good negotiator, and maybe you are, if you don’t understand some of the theory, then you can’t rate yourself that highly. This is something you’ll need to learn more about and improve on over the coming 12 months.
Okay, time for racing between zero and 10.
So, what are you like in front of an audience? Are you a naturally warm, charming and persuasive speaker? Do you feel comfortable delivering short or longer length presentations in front of others
If your manager asks you to prepare and deliver a 20-minute presentation for your next team meeting, how would you feel about that?
Out of everyone in your team at work, would you be someone your manager would typically call upon to speak on behalf of the team? Is that a yes, no or and I’m not sure?
Do you know how to structure a presentation using the eight-step presentation format? If I said you need to prepare a “hook” for your presentation, what exactly do I mean by that and could you tell me at least five different presentation hooks that you might be able to use?
If you know exactly what I’m talking about, then chances are, you might score recently hi on a scale of zero to 10. If you’ve got no idea what a hook is, no could you list five, this might be a lower score. Do you know how a TED talk is structured?
All right, time for three presentation skills courses or books you read? What about a favourite presentation skills broadcast you listen to over the past couple of years? Can you name a couple of speakers or presenters who teach on this topic?
Congratulations, we nearly there. Thanks for hanging in. Finally, for this lesson, let’s talk about interpersonal networking, or, social networking. Now I’m not referring to how good you are a Facebook or Twitter. Rather, I’m referring to what you’re like when you meet people you don’t know at conferences, trade shows, Chamber of Commerce meetings and the like.
So imagine you’re at an industry networking event. Do you know how to go up to anyone and start a conversation? Can you keep the conversation flowing and make it interesting? Do you know what to talk about?
What about introducing new members to an ongoing conversation? When is the best time to exchange business cards, or, to know that offering a card is a waste of time?
Do you believe that networking is an opportunity of building business relationships, or do the palms of your hands get sweaty when you know you have to attend a networking event with strangers?
After a networking event, do you send those people you’ve met a thank you note or an email? Do you connect with them on Facebook, especially those people that you have something in common with?
Alrighty… How would you rate yourself between zero and 10 when it comes to social networking?
So let me conclude today. I’ve given you a list of just a few soft skills that you might need to develop and improve on over the coming year and beyond. Right now, I want you to think about your career. Based on your job role this what are the most important skills you need to develop over the coming 12 months? What is going to have the biggest impact on improving your career smarts?
If you haven’t done so already, how about you take a moment and make a list right now. If you’d like a more comprehensive assessment, how about you send me a reply and ask me for my comprehensive soft skills assessment.
I appreciate you considering how you rate your soft skills and career smarts right now. More importantly, what you need to do over the coming months to develop these even further and become the sort of employee that any organisation will desperately fight to keep?