There are different skills needed for different paths in the business world. I’d like to explore which skills are most needed at different points of the business professional’s journey.
Students & Entry-Level Professionals
If you’re just starting out in the business world, it’s best to keep a beginner’s mind and be open to as many learning and leadership opportunities as possible. Whether you’re continuing your education with a degree in business or you’re an entry-level professional, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind that can help increase your chances of being hired or promoted. In addition to always being proactive in looking for opportunities to go above and beyond, be sure to seek out leadership opportunities outside of school or work. For example, internships, work projects, and mentorship programs.
Be sure to always communicate effectively with colleagues. This not only means staying in touch regarding meetings, projects, and ongoing schedules; it also means ensuring that every piece of written communication is spell-checked and grammatically sound—as well as professional in nature. A good rule of thumb to follow, with all communication, is to always be honest and use every interaction as an opportunity to develop your emotional intelligence; practice good listening and tap into your intuition to notice unspoken signs via body language. People will remember you all the more for having listened to them thoughtfully and carefully.
As you become more experienced, in your particular department or position, don’t be afraid to gain related, varied experience from those around you in the workplace. For example, if you specialize in on or off-site content marketing, consider learning about the visual side of marketing by spending some time in the graphic design department: you might collaborate on a project together or ask what they think is the one aspect of their job that could be learned by a lay-person (i.e. you). The extra-departmental knowledge could only be a positive, in the event you decide to apply for a C-suite or other related advanced position.
If you don’t have any opportunities to shadow a colleague at work, consider picking up some tech skills in your spare time: among the most in-demand knowledge areas are HTML, WordPress, Microsoft Excel, and image or video editing skills. One very good reason to bother learning some of these programs is because, quite simply, more tech skills can earn you a higher salary. Consider an online tutorial or teach yourself using a thorough but straightforward book-based guide.
Entrepreneurs and Experienced Professionals
If you’ve been in the professional business world for a number of years, now, or are considering starting your own business, you’ll definitely want to learn as much as you can about managing money and financial planning. Entrepreneurs, especially, should be able to predict their cash flow, and they should also be able and willing to conduct a SWOT analysis—that is, an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Doing so will prepare your business for the vagaries of the market and a fluctuating economy.
As an extension of financial knowledge, business leaders need, above all, to have the ability to maintain relationships with business contacts, in order to forward networking and collaborative efforts. How do you build strong business relationships? In addition to keeping in touch with contacts, make sure to treat people with integrity—this will help build trust and expand your network. However, don’t be afraid to socialize and show an interest in others. Finally, always strive to work hard, focus on giving, and focus on quality—not quantity. In other words, leading by example can take you a long way on the proverbial path to success.
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What characteristics or actions do you think are important, for business professionals? Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments section, below!