10 Skills Even The Best Employees Should Always Work On (And Why)

No matter how far along you are in your career, there are always going to be opportunities for you to learn. This is especially true when it comes to leveling up certain skills that only increase in importance as you climb the corporate ladder. Skills like empathy, adaptability and even active listening all require constant practice and refinement to truly master—even for those who already feel like they have a solid grasp on them.

Here, ten members of Young Entrepreneur Council These discuss skills and more, and share why they think working on the following skills can have a major impact on your career.

1. Empathy

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, empathy is one of the most important skills in your professional and personal life. Whether you are in marketing and looking to create sales messages that truly connect with customers, or you’re in manufacturing and you need to collaborate with co-workers, bosses and subordinates, empathy will help you do it all better. It’s not always easy to practice, but just like with anything else, you can work on it and get better every day! – Alex Brown, The Beard Club

2. Patience

Some people are equipped with patience at an early age. For others, it takes a long time to cultivate it, if they ever do. Work can be stressful for a lot of people, especially if you are in a fast-paced industry. You will do yourself and others no favors if you act impatiently in your work, whether it be through actions or words. Impatience leads to frustration, which leads to negative emotions or interactions in the work environment. From there, morale can easily slip and you get a vicious circle. In essence, you will be “spinning your wheels” and getting worked up on a continuous basis, which isn’t healthy. My advice is to take a step back, collect yourself mentally even if all you have is a moment to do so and then step back in with a cooler head. – Kristy Knichel, Knichel Logistics

3. Expectation Management

Most people do a terrible job of expectation management when that’s all they need to keep everyone satisfied with the outcome. It’s simple: Understand what your colleagues, stakeholders, clients, supervisors and leaders see as a successful outcome, match it with reality and feasibility and then communicate and help them see the process unfold so that the end result is as close to what they wished for as possible. Even if it isn’t perfect, they know why and are fine with it. The point here is that just doing a good job isn’t good enough and, despite your best efforts, the outcome may still be perceived as poor, so managing expectations becomes far more important in how your work is received and rewarded regardless of hierarchy, function or industry. – Devesh Dwivedi, Devesh Dwivedi

4. Communication

Effective communication is the only skill that pays dividends every single day in every single one of your interactions with other humans. Whatever challenge you are undertaking—whether it’s a new startup, closing that big sale or getting that next promotion—there is a 100% certainty that there are people in your path. They can be helpful to you achieving your goal or a hindrance. Which one they are largely determined by how you make them feel about themselves. That is the art of effective communication. The impacts of learning how to better understand and communicate with the people in your life will be profound to you, but even more for those around you. Simply put, you will be more effective in providing value to others, which will also provide value to you. – Shane Levinson, Carpets of Arizona

5. ‘Managing Up’

“Managing up” is quite an underrated skill compared to listening, communication and time management. “Managing up” means you anticipate what your boss, and even your boss’s boss, needs by being proactive. The proactive steps for managing up are: First, restating what you understand to be the task, why you’re doing it and when it is needed. I call this the “Three W’s.” Second, you update your boss on how the task is coming, how much you’ve completed and whether the deadline will be hit or needs adjusting. That way, your boss doesn’t need to chase you for updates. Third, when you’re done, tell your boss what you believe are the next three steps to take. That’s thinking “three steps ahead” and showcases your understanding and development. – Beck Bamberger, BA

6. Adaptability

Flexibility and adaptability are hands down the most important skills everyone needs to cultivate in their career and life in general. I’m talking about both employees and their employers. You see that we are living in rapid and unpredictable times. What worked yesterday will not necessarily bring the same results today. You have to be willing and ready to change at any given moment. This will make the biggest difference between failure and success in 2022 and beyond. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

7. Innovative Thinking

Innovative thinking is a critical skill that even the best employees should continue to work on. It’s easy for employees—even those who excel in their roles—to become comfortable in the tried-and-tested ways they approach tasks. But if a business wants to stay ahead of the curve, it needs its employees to constantly innovate and come up with new, creative ways to solve problems. By adopting a 1% improvement mentality on every task, employees can continue to produce high-quality work and earn themselves the reputation of creative thinkers and problem solvers, which are key attributes employers look for in the hiring process. By always looking for ways to innovate, employees can ensure they remain challenged in their roles and open up opportunities that will help them progress in their careers. – Diana Goodwin, MarketBox

8. Data Analysis

The more you can dig through data and uncover unique insights, the more you’ll be able to troubleshoot issues and find meaningful solutions. Doing so allows you to optimize finances, marketing campaigns, performance metrics and even employee happiness. The right data makes it easier to spot opportunities for growth as well as opportunities to curb expenses. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

9. Emotional Intelligence

Smart employees always do their best to improve their emotional intelligence and awareness. This helps them identify their limitations and know when to ask for help. It also prepares them to manage communications, feedback and conflicts more maturely. Emotional intelligence and awareness can be achieved by practicing mindfulness and meditating regularly. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

10. Active Listening

Especially in today’s world where there is so much information overload, it isn’t difficult to lose your way. “Reaction” has taken precedence over “response,” and we quickly form opinions and jump to conclusions. One needs to be keenly aware of how one absorbs information and acts upon it. Actively listening to your leaders, customers, peers, vendors and team members is very crucial. What you derive from a conversation with one type of actor is very different from the other. Unless we are sharpen our listening skills to determine what is relevant, we will either end up with lots of information that isn’t actionable or miss out on crucial parts that can lead us in the wrong direction. It is a continuous learning journey and is necessary to be relevant in the constantly changing world. – Vinay Indresh, Spacejoy

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