Today’s multi-cultural professional environment requires one to be much more than a subject-matter expert. Previously overlooked topics like soft skills, negotiations and networking are gaining traction within the curriculum of every B-School. The success stories of entrepreneurs from non-business and/or non-technical background have only managed to stir the curiosity within general audience about the importance of these skills. While there is no shortcut to success, one can increase the probability of having a successful career by avoiding stagnancy. Here are a few life skills one must possess to become a successful professional.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of work life. Successful careers are built on the basis of effective verbal as well as non-verbal skills. Being able to put across one’s thoughts with clarity is a skill often tested during job interviews. Communication skills go far beyond the idea of ‘just’ speaking. There are many examples where even introverts have amalgamated their talents with effective communication in order to attain success.
Relationship building / interpersonal skills
Man is a social animal and cannot survive without constant support from others. Same is true about one’s work life. In order to succeed, one should be accepted by their colleagues, whether superiors or subordinates. One of my earliest supervisors once told me – it is not right for him to move up the ladder without taking along his subordinates, lest he creates a self-induced vacuum under him that sucks him in. This is precisely what most managers should practise to build trustworthy teams. Successful professionals invest their time in ensuring their team members’ growth.
Decision making and handling pressure
Every day, professionals have to take decisions within a strict timeline; whether it is something as underrated as a ‘dressing sense’ or a more complex topic of long-term growth strategy. Unless one has clarity about problem at hand and its impacts at various levels, taking a decision for the sake of it becomes an ill-conceived thought. Decision-making skills must percolate not only into one’s professional lives but also their personal ones. Most mature professionals with years of experience are best mentors for the young workforce.
The art of negotiation is by far the most difficult of skills within professional domain. One should be able to efficiently advocate their needs to the powers to be. For managers, such negotiations are not only about oneself, but often expand into the ambit of project and team members. ‘Know Thyself’ is one of the best traits a successful negotiator should possess. Though we have seen women break the glass ceiling and enter the boardrooms, most still remain vulnerable when it comes to negotiating. But we will get there soon.
Work-life balance and time management
Considering that even seasoned professionals display the ‘student syndrome’, time management is the need of the hour. An early understanding about the advantages of managing one’s time will go a long way in building an efficient working class. Professionals should be able to devote enough time to their families in order to refresh the minds and fulfill their duties towards the close ones. We have all witnessed how too much work leads to a burnout. Mental fatigue impacts productivity at work. Successful professionals know how to value their and other’s time. This is one field of discipline I wish colleges inculcated within students.
With the multi-fold increase in data-generation, it is necessary to have professionals who can analyse this data. Some of the most sought-after work profiles of today did not exist 10 years back. It is therefore essential that one keeps an open-minded approach towards learning newer technologies. This will ensure one’s employability and also keep profiles up to date with current requirements.
Respect, empathy and work ethics
Practising strong work ethics from early days of career builds a strong foundation. One can be an expert in their field of work, but sheer contempt for ethics will breed distrust among the key stakeholders. As a professional, it is important to gain and hold on to the trust of one’s colleagues and managers. In a world connected through social media, it is very easy for one wrong deed to travel far. At the same time, one has to showcase values of respect towards fellow colleagues. Everyone, no matter their profiles, will expect to be respected as a human. There are many examples where rude and unethical behaviour from employees have cost companies goodwill and at times billions of dollars in judicial matter.
Nilesh Gaikwad is Country Manager at EDHEC Business School.
First Published: IST