What Skills Should You Develop for Career Growth?

Nidhi Bahl updated on : 12 Apr 2016
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For continuous success, you must be clear about your career goals, plan to develop yourself to achieve those, and finally, deliver your career goals

Career Growth

Career journeys can be confusing. You’re here now, what next? Where do you go, who do you turn to, what are your options - and a million other questions! One of the most critical questions in your career journey, however, is the one about skills. I'm sure you have found yourself asking - what skills should I develop to grow my career?

The skills you need to build for the future depend heavily on your aspirations. After about three decades of helping people achieve in their professional lives, I am clear on one thing: Poor planning = Poor performance. For continuous success, you must be clear about your career goals, plan to develop yourself to achieve those, and finally, deliver your career goals. Yes, it takes a lot of work (but is completely worth it!)

Before you pick the skills you want to develop, take a minute and ask yourself: Which one of the below resonates most with you?

a) "I have limited education, limited funds to develop myself, and no desire to put in effort into my career. I will find a job when I need a new one."

The skills you develop must differentiate you from others. A focus on five core skills will ensure that you are always employable: an ability to work well with others, great customer relationship skills, learning to type efficiently using a keyboard, learning to work quickly and accurately, and finally, a good aptitude for Mathematics.

b) "I have a limited education and limited funds to develop myself, but a passion to develop my career and myself."

For you, it will be critical that you become aware of the new world. A question you must be obsessed about seeking answers to - How is the world developing around me? Each country has a different focus. Some countries are focused on agriculture, while others concentrate on manufacturing and other services. Learning about growing industries will help expand your perspective. A focus on the core skills above, plus these five future-focused skills will prepare you for success: Coding at different levels, mastering collaboration tools, improved productivity and problem-solving skills, project leadership, and presentation skills.

c) "I have a good career now, and want to continue to develop myself to ensure that I am ready for future opportunities."

You may have built a good level of skills already (many of them in the ten listed above). I recommend you continue to strengthen your strengths, and work on your weaknesses - do not rest on your current level! In addition, depending on your career aspirations, focus on the next set of skills to develop - a few examples below:

“I want to become an expat”                                                                                  

I believe that you need to focus on developing your functional skills to match the gaps of the country you see your future in. Deep specialist skills have become critical in many overseas markets, e.g. expertise in software, automation, and dental services. In addition, there is a shortage of vocational skills in many countries - in services, construction, and engineering roles. Language skills will always be helpful - easy to develop online, if you a natural ability.

 “I want to become the supervisor of a team”

As a supervisor, your key skills are a set of good function skills (as above), and these five supervisor skills: Performance and process management, measurement, and improvement, coaching, providing feedback, active listening, and an ability to ask focused questions.

“I want to become the manager of a team”

There are different types of management roles - some focused on deep functional specialists, others on general functional leadership or cross-border country leadership. Key general skills beyond developing functional skills will include: business acumen (including finance), basic strategic thinking, strong operational/execution skills, project leadership, strong team and cultural leadership skills.

Ultimately, a number of us want to be entrepreneurs or a senior leader in a company. Along with critical function and general skills (like the ones mentioned above), the five core skills you must develop are those focused on delivering the opportunities of the business you want to lead: Strategic and financial acumen, the ability to manage externally, organisation development, macro performance and project leadership skills, and finally, the obvious (cross-border) team leadership skills.

It is imperative that your context and career level goals drive your focus - consistently reviewing where you are and where you want to be will ensure that you achieve your aspirations.

Once your skilling goals (what) are identified, it will be critical to consider how you will develop them. A focus on the three ways to grow will help: Learning through experience (70%), growing through productive learning relationships (20%), and education (10%).

The great news is that the decision is in your hands! You will not be disappointed by your growth, and the opportunities will come as you plan - I truly believe that. Remember: opportunities match your capabilities and aspirations!

By Richard Cowley

About the Author:

Richard Cowley is a global HR thought-leader and change-maker. He founded WorkAmmo, a suite of intelligent, game-changing, holistic HR solutions, with the singular purpose of helping people achieve. In a career spanning over 30 years and 5 continents, Richard has worked with organisations like Kimberly-Clark, Tetra Pak, Coca Cola and DHL.

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