You probably have a pretty good handle on the hard skills you’re going to need to get your first job in your career. That much is usually listed on the job posting itself: a bunch of relevant skills and experience for the work you’ll be doing, plus a handful of more general people skills or organizational talents, etc. What you’re probably less familiar with is the set of skills you’ll need to hone at later stages in your career.
Though you’ll be hired on the strength of your hard skills and continually evaluated on them at the junior level, their importance will start to diminish as you progress. There will be a shift to an evaluation of your soft skills around the mid-career mark. Eventually, your promotions to the senior level and beyond will rely almost entirely on soft skills.
Such as? Well: likeability, the ability to get things done, and leadership. If you want to go as far as you can in your career, you’ll need to start developing these skills early, so you can rely on them when the time is right.
What are Soft Skills?
- Mentoring team members and junior associates
- Volunteering to lead tough projects and picking up extra slack
- Participating in your industry outside your company
- Being proactive about going above and beyond what is asked of you
- Building a reputation as a competent and caring team leader, collaborator, and mentor
- Building strong relationships with your manager and your coworkers
- Making sure your efforts and successes are visible to everyone in your office, not just your boss
ABILITY TO GET THINGS DONE
- Working independently
- Collaborating with coworkers (and resolving conflicts that might come up)
- Meeting your deadlines no matter what the internal and external pressures might be
Here are three steps toward growing these skills.
Take an honest look at your work personality
A little self-assessment will go a long way. Look at your habits, your strengths and weaknesses, your workplace demeanor and routines. Figure out where you need to grow and prioritize the most important areas to work on.
Talk to your manager
Once you have a good handle on where you are, take it to your manager to see where your needs overlap, and where her priorities for your development and performance might differ from your assessment. Get on the same page. And get specific on what you’re being evaluated on at each level of your progress.
Be proactive and seek out opportunities
Without sacrificing any of your hard skills (or the continued development of your technical arsenal of tools), start figuring out how your current job and position can equip you to advance. Look for collaborative and leadership opportunities. Take on extra responsibilities. Ask your boss what she needs the most and give that to her precisely.
As soon as you can start building these skills—in addition to the ones that got you the job in the first place—you’ll be well on your way to proving worthy of promotion after promotion.