Professional skills are the building blocks of a successful career. They are the tools and techniques you use to succeed in your job, whatever it may be. Whether you are a manager, leader, employee, team leader, or supervisor, having the right professional skills can lead to tremendous success for you and your organization.
What are professional skills?
Professional skills are the abilities and knowledge required to effectively perform a job or task. These skills give you the confidence and ability to handle any situation in your work with poise and grace.
Professional skills are a combination of hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills can be learned and measured through experience and training — technical or job-specific skills, such as knowing how to use software or operating a machine.
Soft skills, also known as interpersonal or people skills, are harder to quantify but can be vital in determining success. Soft skills are more general, such as managing people, solving problems, or working well in a team.
Professional skills are the foundation upon which your career success is built. They are the skills and abilities you need to do your job well.
The most successful employees have mastered developing and strengthening their professional hard and soft skills. The best way to do this is through training, practicing, and learning from others. Here are 14 examples of professional skills and abilities:
1. Oral communication
Oral communication is a critical skill for professionals. It allows you to build relationships with clients, customers, and colleagues and effectively relay your ideas and proposals.
You can connect with other people on a deeper level. It is one thing to send an email or text message, but another to have a conversation with someone and look them in the eye.
You can directly share your ideas with others. When you speak about your thoughts, you can refine them and clarify them for others. This makes it easier for people to understand your message and see its value.
Also, you can tailor your message to fit the needs of your audience and respond to questions and comments in real-time. It helps you build trust and credibility with your listeners.
Being able to speak eloquently shows that you know what you are talking about, making people take you more seriously.
2. Time management
Time management is the process of planning and controlling the use of time to accomplish specific goals. It includes setting priorities, scheduling tasks, planning work periods, and estimating the time required to complete tasks.
Anyone who wants to be successful in the workplace must know how to manage their time effectively. Good time management skills allow you to do more work in less time, making you more productive and efficient.
Imagine if you had no control over your time. You would be constantly behind schedule and struggling to catch up. This would be very frustrating and cause much stress.
However, when you manage your time well, you can avoid many time factor challenges and stay on top of your work without feeling overwhelmed.
Read also: 26 Examples of Good Decision-Making
3. Written communication
As a professional, you must write and do it well. It means communicating clearly and effectively, whether you are writing an email, a proposal, or a report.
It would help if you convey your ideas clearly and concisely, making you look polished and professional.
Writing is more than just putting words on a page. It is a form of communication you use to convey ideas, emotions, and feelings.
Excellent writing involves using words to evoke emotion, educate, and persuade. It is also about connecting with the reader and leaving them with something memorable.
It is essential to write well under pressure — especially in a fast-paced work environment. You may need to turn around drafts quickly or respond to emails in real-time.
Being able to write a message or an email while under pressure will demonstrate that you are a valuable team member.
4. Critical thinking
Critical thinking is assessing information and arguments logically to form judgments about them or draw logical conclusions.
It includes the ability to identify and evaluate sources of information, distinguish between fact and opinion, and reason logically.
Thinking critically allows you to see through lies, manipulations, and propaganda, making you less likely to be fooled by false claims or misleading arguments.
It also enables you to assess better the validity of any evidence or arguments presented to you so that you can make more informed decisions.
Lastly, critical thinking helps you become a more effective problem solver by allowing you to break down complex problems into smaller parts and address them systematically.
5. Solving problems
Every workplace has challenges and issues that need to be solved — but they do not come with pre-determined solutions. That means you must work hard to identify the problems and figure out what is causing them.
There is no room for hesitation or second-guessing when it comes to problem-solving. You have to be decisive and act swiftly to find a solution or take control of the situation.
In other words, when you face challenges, you do not wait for someone else to step up and take care of it — you take ownership of the problem, assess the situation, and devise a viable solution.
Creativity is the ability not to think in straight lines and come up with new ideas and solutions to problems.
Some people are so narrowly focused on following the rules and acting like robots, which means they are not very creative.
They may be able to follow pre-planned orders or instructions and complete tasks as they are supposed to, but they are too rigid and can only think in straight lines.
On the other hand, some people look at things from different perspectives and see things more imaginatively.
So, they are creative and often have an “anything is possible” attitude, which can be infectious and inspiring.
But creativity is about finding solutions to problems and facilitating change. It is also about being innovative and coming up with new products or services that consumers will love. It is essential to be creative not just in your thinking but also in your actions.
Leadership is influencing and inspiring others to follow you or achieve a common goal. It is not about being bossy telling people what to do or demanding results, but empowering people and building consensus to achieve something they couldn’t achieve on their own.
A good leader can motivate others to work together towards a goal, even when they do not agree with each other.
To be a leader, you do not need to have positional authority but must be able to influence others and create a sense of buy-in. Leaders can come from any level in an organization or any background or discipline.
Read also: 15 Examples of Commitments
Collaboration is working with others by sharing ideas, brainstorming solutions, and pooling resources to achieve a common goal.
The benefits of collaboration include increased creativity and productivity, improved problem-solving skills, and better communication.
The ability to collaborate effectively with others is more important than ever in today’s workplace. Work is now more fragmented or scattered around different geographical locations than ever before.
With the advent of technology, people can now work together from anywhere in the world at any time of day. This has led to a more collaborative work environment, where team members can work together regardless of location.
So, to be successful in today’s workplace, working well with others as part of a team is essential.
9. Relationship building
Relationship building is developing and managing positive, productive relationships with people who can help you achieve your personal or professional goals.
It involves identifying and cultivating connections with people who can provide you with opportunities, resources, or advice and then building strong relationships with them so that they are more likely to help when needed.
The most critical relationship-building skills include networking, communication, assertiveness, and social intelligence.
People who are good at relationship building have an extensive network of contacts, know how to communicate effectively with them, know how to get what they want from them without alienating them, and can read people’s emotions and react accordingly.
Negotiation is engaging in discussion with others and tugging back and forth until all parties are satisfied with the outcome.
It might sound like an aggressive process, but it is all about finding common ground and working together toward a solution that benefits everyone involved.
It is used in various situations, such as negotiating a salary or contract or resolving a dispute.
Sometimes negotiation can be a complex process, as you may not always get what you want out of it — each side tries to get as much of what it wants as possible while also trying to protect its interests.
Often, negotiation involves some give-and-take, with each side making compromises to reach an agreement.
Most successful people are great negotiators, as it allows them to get what they want while still keeping the other party happy.
It is a skill that takes practice to master but can be extremely helpful in getting what you want out of a negotiation while also ensuring that the other party feels like they have gained something.
11. Decision making
Decision-making is an essential skill for professionals because it allows you to step forward and take action. The ability to make decisions quickly and effectively can be the difference between success and failure.
It is staggering the number of people who struggle with making decisions — either they cannot seem to make them at all, or they agonize over the possible scenario and potential outcome for eternity. It can paralyze and lead to a lack of action or bad decisions.
Good decision-making skills come down to a few key things — gathering information, analyzing that information, and then making a choice. Not everyone is good at those things, but doing them well will help you make sound decisions.
Read more: 17 Examples of Personal Aspirations
In the workplace, things are constantly changing. The technology we use, the way we communicate, and how we work are constantly evolving. And if you cannot change with it, you will quickly find yourself left behind.
That is why flexibility is such an essential professional skill. It means rolling with the punches and adapting to new situations and demands.
Being rigid can be seen as a weakness since it indicates that you are unwilling to change your ways. It can also make you less effective when working with others since they will become frustrated if they fail to get you change your mind.
To be a good team member, you must be flexible and easy to work with. This means adapting to changes in the workplace and collaborating with others.
In short, a flexible mindset enables you to be resourceful and adapt to any situation — two essential qualities for success in the modern workplace.
One of the most critical professional skills is the ability to prioritize. There are always a million things clamoring for our attention, and if we do not sort through and decide what is important, we will quickly become overwhelmed.
Prioritizing allows us to focus on the most important tasks or distinguish between those that are urgent and those critical, and then focus on the most — ensuring that we are using our time on things that matter. It also allows us to avoid distractions and stay on track.
There are many different ways to prioritize, but some standard methods include focusing on goals, breaking down tasks into small steps, considering urgency and importance, and using a time management matrix.
Demonstrating integrity is having strong moral principles and honesty in all dealings. Professionals must demonstrate integrity because it builds trust with clients, colleagues, and the public.
Clients want to know that they can trust your customer service to be honest and ethical. Colleagues appreciate working with someone truthful and straightforward, and the employees trust managers to always act with integrity.
Another reason to act with integrity is that it sets an example for those around you. If you are known as someone who always does the right thing, even when no one is watching, it will encourage others to do the same. This type of behavior can create a positive ripple effect throughout the team.
Strong professional skills are essential for becoming an indispensable member of any team or organization. Developing these skills takes dedication and hard work.
Still, it pays off in the long run as it opens doors for new opportunities and provides an invaluable foundation for further growth throughout your career.