The single most important skill that you need to propel your career movement is to be proactive. Ask yourself every day “What action can I take today to move myself forward”? Here are some examples of how to be proactive and also enhance your professional development.
The following excerpt is from the Harvard Business Review article by Marlo Lyons entitled: 5 Essential Soft Skills to Develop in Any Job.
Skills to hone when you’re in the role
If possible, look for ways to practice the hard skills from your profession. For example, if you worked in finance at a tech company and are now working as a host or server at a local restaurant, ask if you can do the reconciliation at the end of the night or the financial planning or modeling for ordering food, beverages, and supplies to cut down on waste.
If you can’t use your hard skills, focus on soft skills, which are needed in every job in every industry. Consider how you can develop or improve these five soft skills while working outside of your chosen field:
Working in any industry affords the opportunity to improve your communication skills. Being able to take complex problems and simplify them for all audiences is a critical capability. Use the new job to work on adjusting your communication to each audience you interact with and see how they receive what you say. What worked? What didn’t? For example, some people like direction and some people like to be empowered. For those who like direction, provide guidance in your communication, and for those who like to be empowered, be curious and coach to allow them to come up with their own resonant solutions. Delivering communication to each audience in the way they like to receive it is crucial for success in nearly every business.
Depending on what kind of employment you found, you may have the opportunity to elevate your teamwork capabilities. For example, can you learn and practice new ways to resolve conflicts? Can you advance your ability to align stakeholders? Working with new people who have different personalities and perspectives will always provide opportunities to increase these interpersonal skills.
Influencing without authority
If you take a job in an industry outside your current career path, you may be able to use your experience to influence how the business runs. For example, I once had a client who lost her sales job and worked for her father at his small marketing agency while she continued to job search. Her experience in sales gave her great exposure to which marketing tactics work and which don’t. But her father believed he knew what was best for his company. She had to work incredibly hard to influence him to think in a different way. After two unsuccessful attempts, she worked to see things from her father’s perspective and brought him along on the journey of change at his pace. It worked, and her father encouraged her to try her approach, which increased business by 20%. While she was successful in driving her father’s business, she was also successful in learning how to influence more effectively, and that helped her in her next career move.
Every job has challenges, some more complex than others. Being adept at problem solving — which includes understanding the problem and root cause, then brainstorming solutions and alternatives — shows structured thinking with logic-based reasoning. Look for challenges in the new job and actively work to solve problems in creative and constructive ways. Once you’ve implemented the best solution, determine if adjustments need to be made to ensure long-term success.
Leadership is about guiding and influencing others to maximize their capabilities to achieve a collective goal. Perhaps you want to be a manager in your chosen field and haven’t had the opportunity, or you’ve been a manager before. Either way, you can develop or improve your leadership skills in any job where you want to advance your listening, coaching, and guiding capabilities to align a group of people to move toward the same direction. You can also use any leadership experience you have to help the next generation develop their own leadership skills, which will help them achieve their career goals.
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