Hard skills or technical credentials are very important at the start of every career. But as your career progresses, they will gradually matter less, especially if you are keen on making real progress in your career.
Even successful people find their abilities start to decline at some point in their careers, and they take steps to stay relevant.
Today’s world of work won’t be the same tomorrow. That means we need to rethink how we present ourselves as professionals.
Your hard skills may be enough to get you from entry-level to another one up, but to advance higher, and get what you really want, you’ll have to show improvement in other areas as well.
When you are busy getting things done and delivering on your tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of the changing needs of your career. What matters today may not be the only requirement to make it in the next five or ten years.
Our performance, skill, and ability decline with time unless we deliberately take control of our personal development. If your hard skills cannot get you what you want from your career, invest more in your soft skills — a combination of people skills, communication abilities, personal habits, emotional intelligence, time management, and leadership skills.
Whether we like it or not, professionals are constantly being judged by employers on other skills apart from their hard skills.
To prevent your inevitable professional decline, you should get better and faster at your craft over the course of your career.
Developing other complementary skills outside your core competency at every stage of your career should be an absolute priority.
You may be an expert in your field today, but you should still pursue new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent yourself to keep going.
Without this unquenchable desire to grow, you will we stagnate.
If you are one of the few people who benefit from employer learning opportunities, you still have to think about your own learning and development and take concrete steps to improve yourself.
It’s the only way to survive the ever-changing world of work.
“By embracing a student-like mindset and learning to turn self-education into a daily habit, you can hone your current skills and develop new ones while enriching your mind. Then, when the time to adapt arrives, the transitions are less bumpy, argues Paul Jun of 99u.
If you can keep the learning habit throughout your career, you’re far more likely to delay or prevent your career decline and improve your employability.
Explore unrelated skills
Tom Peters, best known for In Search of Excellence once said, “A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent you as a brand.”
Improving your skills may mean spending time with other departments, mentoring others, passing on your knowledge, leading a cross-functional project or a major fundraising initiative,
Developing other skills also means attending conferences, joining webinars, participating in industry workshops, reading relevant books, finding mentors, asking for feedback from people whose skills or career you wish to emulate.
It could also mean reviewing past performance, talking to your manager or colleagues about how you can be better. Look for opportunities that offer wider personal leadership contributions.
Use networking opportunities to engage with others higher up the corporate ladder. Use your contacts, such as a previous manager, colleague or mentor to ask for introductions if necessary. If there is an opportunity to speak at a company event, seize it.
If team management skills are increasingly becoming important in your field of work, perhaps you could ask and shadow your manager or asked to be coached by someone you admire in that position.
Say you’re a programmer. Why not study project management? Or let’s say you’re a graphic designer. Why not study team management?
“You should get better and faster at whatever your craft is over the course of your career, whether that’s coding, designing, researching, or something else. But if that’s the only area you improve in, you may find advancement more elusive than you’d expected, explains Ximena Vengoechea.
The rise of online resources and access to professionals anywhere means it’s easier than ever to improve yourself from your office desk or at home.
Equally important is the message personal learning sends out if you are employed; it shows you are investing in yourself and that your career is still in ascendance.
If you’re looking to climb the career ladder, develop people management skills. Leading teams and practical training programs are particularly effective because you can apply those skills easily. It’s important that you engage, discuss, and experiment with the knowledge you obtain.
To get started and take your career to the next level, assess how the skills you want fits with your overall career goals. It pays to know your readiness for a new level of responsibility. No matter where you are in your present career, take a minute to find out exactly where you are today.
Can you work both independently and collaboratively? Can you negotiate and still keep your relationship intact? Are you a team member or leader? Do you have a good relationship with your colleagues or managers?
The further you want to go in your career, the more decisive these traits will become — if the corporate ladder means a lot to you.
Wherever your next challenge lies, with a future-focused plan, you will prepare yourself for the future.
This post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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