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The 4 Essential Skills Needed to Build a Successful Career

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For the most part, early stage career advice tends to be industry-specific and not broadly applicable to the vast majority of people. That’s because there aren’t very many people that know exactly what they’d like to be doing in the future with enough certainty to make such advice useful. That doesn’t mean, though, that there’s no way for people to prepare to build a successful career until they know what line of work they plan to go into.


In fact, there are plenty of skills that professionals of all stripes should develop as early as possible that will propel their careers forward no matter what industry they enter. Think of them as the Swiss Army Knife skills that are required to succeed in the vast majority of positions. For students and those embarking upon a new career, here are the four essential skills you’ll need to ensure a long and prosperous future in the professional world.

Communications Skills

No matter what type of career you’re looking to build, there’s a good chance that you won’t be working alone. In fact, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be taking on roles that require you to work within a team, or at the very least be a part of a larger organizational structure with other employees above and below you. To make the most out of those positions, it’s absolutely essential that you have a mastery of communications so you’ll be able to keep those around you on the same page and transmit your ideas in a group setting. This is arguably the most vital basic skill that any professional can have, and it’s one that remains relevant as your career progresses. Communication skills are even prized by those recruiting top talent for executive leadership positions, so their importance cannot be overstated for those planning to rise through the ranks in their chosen career.

Time Management Skills

One of the things that every professional will be confronted with in their career is the need to manage multiple priorities at once with limited resources. At a basic level, this requires sharp time management skills, to make the most out of the limited time available to work through a priorities list. Once again, this is a skill that will serve you just as well early in your career as it will as you advance. In your early days, it will help you to be efficient and demonstrate that you’re capable of juggling multiple tasks. Later on, it will become a vital part of your people management skills, helping you to delegate tasks to the people you manage without overwhelming them.

Leadership Skills

In any profession, success means rising through the ranks and taking on additional responsibility. Most of the time, a key part of that added responsibility will be to organize, manage, and motivate teams to maximize output. To do that you’ll have to build up your leadership skills so others will be willing to follow you. For some, leadership comes naturally, for others, it’s a skill that requires dedication and patience to develop. Either way, progressing in any career beyond the lower ranks is all but impossible without leadership skills, and they become even more vital the higher you climb within an organization.

Change Management Skills

Today almost every industry imaginable is going through massive changes linked to technology, economic developments, or demographic shifts. All of that change adds up to a business environment that’s always in flux, requiring a specific set of skills to ensure business continuity and overall success. Those skills have crystallized into a field of study known as change management. As a modern professional, it’s now expected that you be able to handle change at both the individual and organizational level. As you progress in your career, you’ll also be expected to become a driver of change, helping the organization to meet its goals by altering processes, habits, and culture as needed to react to shifting business realities.

A Versatile Toolkit

By now, the one thing that should be apparent about the skills listed here is that they share one very important thing in common: they all help to make you more effective in the early stages of your career but remain relevant or increase in importance as your career progresses. That’s what makes these four skills so important for any professional to possess, regardless of their specific industry or career path. Mastering them provides an excellent and broadly-applicable toolkit that one can use to work their way up in their chosen field. Of course, you’ll still need to work hard and be great at what you do, but starting with the right skills will help more than you can imagine – and now you know which ones to develop.

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