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10 Professional Work Skills to Focus on that Have Stood the Test of Time

24 May 2021
Reading Time: 3 minutes

eerYou’ll likely hear a lot about professional skills, work skills, or job readiness skills as you start to think about your career and starting work: we know we’ve written about them a fair amount!

Skills are essential, and having the right ones will set you up not only to land the jobs you want but to progress or change careers too.

But with so many lists out there describing the vast array of potential skills we should all be working to develop, where exactly do you begin?

The World Economic Forum surveyed Chief HR Officers to better understand some of the top skills employers and hiring teams look for. These skills have been consistently cited as top, year after year, so if you’re looking to start anywhere, this list of the top ten is as good as any!

Let’s take a closer look:

  1. Cognitive Flexibility: This is the ability to adapt your ways of thinking to match fast-paced, changing circumstances and situations. It’s linked to the ability to take on unexpected challenges and respond proactively with solutions-focused ideas. It includes being adaptable and flexible and focusing on a positive mindset over a negative one.
  2. Negotiation: If you’ve ever sat in a meeting with several different strong opinions, all trying to be heard, you’ll know negotiation is a key – and sometimes tricky! – skill to master. Similar to cognitive flexibility, negotiation is an excellent skill in the workplace. It helps to listen to others, communicate effectively, problem-solve and focus on positive outcomes for all parties.
  3. Service Orientation: Service orientation is all about knowing what is needed from you to deliver effectively in your role, including going above and beyond to deliver successful outcomes when needed. It means being fully aware of how your role fits into your larger team and company dynamics and what impact you can have. It’s awareness for yourself and the positive impact you can have when focusing on how to deliver on your work goals.
  4. Decision Making: Decision making has been valued as one of the top-ranking skills amongst employers – it demonstrates a strong understanding of your role, initiative and the value you can bring to your workplace. Decision making fits in nicely with other desirable skills, such as the ability to work autonomously. It helps employers to have confidence in your capacity to do the work that needs to be done.
  5. Digital Acumen: Especially in the past year, as we’ve seen more of the workforce move to fully remote roles, the need for strong digital skills is a must for many employers. Lots of time can be lost when staff don’t have the know-how to utilise the technology they need for their roles, so staying up to date is a must!
  6. Teamwork: Teamwork isn’t just about contributing to a team effort; it’s also knowing who has what strengths, your own strengths, and banding together to reach goals successfully through the utilisation of those strengths. Communication skills and delegation skills are also vital here, as teamwork often involves speaking up and adding ideas/resources as much as doing specific tasks.
  7. Self Leadership: Some people are born leaders, others are made – or so the saying goes. While not everyone will aspire to leadership roles, leadership doesn’t necessarily mean managing other people. It encompasses various skills that bring value to a workplace, for example, being passionate and knowledgeable about your chosen role or industry. Leadership comes in many forms, and it’s the broader set of skills around this – clear communication, honesty, fairness, good judgement, passion – that you should be working to build as a professional skill.
  8. Creativity: A creative mind allows room for asking questions, thinking outside the box and coming up with solutions – all good things in the workplace, be it a creative industry or not. As the world of work continues to evolve, employers need staff who aren’t afraid to be innovative and look for creative ways to overcome the key issues companies may face.
  9. Critical Thinking: Critical thinking means evaluating, analysing and seeking various information sources to form a solid, well-thought-out decision. It means not taking the first piece of information you find as the ‘status quo’ and questioning different issues. This is a great skill for the workplace, as it allows individuals to add value to things like process improvement, quality and consistency in work delivery.
  10. Diverse Communication Skills: It’s no longer just about having communication skills, but knowing the best ways to communicate for what tasks and with which audiences. Workplaces and their clients/customers are increasingly multi-cultural. A good understanding of different means of communication and how to use them positively to achieve results with different groups of people is a fantastic skill to have.

Start Preparing Today

This list is not exhaustive, and it will continue to change and develop as the landscape of the working world continues to evolve. You should also account for any and focus on developing any skills you know are highly desirable in the chosen industry sector(s) you want to pursue a career in.

But it’s a great starting point and food for thought when looking at how you engage with careers, work experience, and the broader skills you could be developing today to support your future career decisions and adaptability.


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