Career Guide


Top 20 skills you need to develop your career

We are moving away from a mind-set that potential employees should have the technical know-how and the right academic qualifications. We are moving away from a mind-set that potential employees should have the technical know-how and the right academic qualifications.

What is it that truly differentiates one candidate from another during the application process? Whether we are talking about the stage involving the vetting of resumes or the interview stage, certain qualities are increasingly taking centre stage in the mind of recruiters. They are looking for such qualities in potential hires.

For jobseekers who want to remain a step ahead of the pack, it’s important to know what the most wanted skills are in today’s workplace.

Research on what HR experts believe are the most important skills indicates that we are moving away from a mind-set that potential employees should have the technical know-how and the right academic qualifications. Even though the latter is an inevitable prerequisite, the emphasis has shifted.

In today’s world, employers and recruiters have realised that it is much easier to train smart individuals how to perform the specifics of any role. This is as long as they have already acquired a much harder-to-teach skill set. This skill set comprises the likes of critical thinking, soft skills, and some basic competency in a few areas of expertise.

If you want to get the job of your dreams therefore, or excel in the career you are already following, have a look at the skills below, assess where you stand, and find a way to polish the areas you are not doing so well in.


Communication skills are perhaps the first set of skills that potential employers will notice. From the initial moment you get in touch with them, the employer will be scrutinising the way you behave.

Be it the way you talk over the phone, the way you give them information on email, your resume and cover letter, or the way you carry yourself during the interview, they will be assessing whether you have polished communication skills.

Make sure that you proof read any form of written communication you send them, and take your time to listen to what they ask you (or read their instructions carefully), and answer in well-thought out, grammatically correct sentences. The way you communicate your thoughts should be impeccable, as this is the way they expect you to communicate with colleagues and clients alike throughout your tenure in their organisation.


As much as you think a question/problem presented to you is a piece of cake, be very wary of giving a rushed answer. Take the time to analyse the situation, think of all possible scenarios, and if possible ask for some time to go and do some research to find out more.

Being analytical, but also having strong research skills, differentiates one employee from the other. It demonstrates your determination, your ability to assess different scenarios, and your commitment to be 100% sure before giving an answer to your employer. It could mean the difference between a badly thought out idea and something that may gain the company a huge profit!


An ability to manage multiple assignments at the same time, and being flexible enough to work under ever changing conditions, management, environment and rules is highly appreciated.

In today’s world, a job description is very fluid, and can change shape at any time. An employee that is willing to work under a multitude of changing circumstances is highly sought after.

Being able to adapt from one working environment to the next, or even from one type of assignment to another, is a big advantage. It demonstrates the individual’s commitment to the organisation, and will influence their career progression.


“No man is an island”. So the saying goes. Increasingly in the workplace, we all have to work with others in order to complete a project.

Be it working in a team, or dealing with clients or suppliers, interpersonal abilities is a definite advantage and something employers always look for.

The ability to build relationships with those around you under any circumstances, and the ability to inspire them to do what needs to be done is essential.


Decision making and problem solving is another skill that is high in demand. The ability to identify complex problems and review related information in order to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions, can distinguish one employee from another. The ability to use critical thinking to rationalise a decision will set an individual apart.


Simple as it may sound, an individual that can show that he/she has been able to plan and organise their work is very valuable. Pay special attention to the way you plan your tasks, and ensure you keep up with all the deadlines you are given.

An employee that can stick to assigned timelines and can provide pieces of information with ease and speed indicates that he/she remains on top of things and can always be expected to deliver the required task or information. Similarly, knowing which tasks to prioritise and which ones to leave for later is an important skill.


Theoretically, when someone is offered a job, there is a job description included in the contract. In reality however, employees are not expected to stick to only what is under their job description.

On the contrary, they are expected to get involved in other areas of the business, understand all the different steps, and offer help where necessary. At the end of the day, employers look for someone willing to try out different things, and wear multiple hats at the same time, deal with different projects and individuals, and provide more than one sole contribution at a time to the company.


The ability to manage people is a very powerful skill. Not only can you inspire individuals to do what is right, you can guide them along the way, and you can monitor their progress in every step. Being able to lead a group and manage these individuals in a way that does not impede their progress and insult their judgement is highly desirable in today’s workplace.

With Gen Yers taking over the work place, and their strong desire to be left alone to do what they have to do, it is essential to have managers that know how to lead and manage their teams in a way that leaves all employees room to come up with their own ways of doing things. Exhibiting strong management/leadership skills is therefore a big advantage in today’s working world.


Even though many may think that the bigger picture is more important than the tiny details, attention to detail is what will make someone stand out at what they do. Paying attention to detail may save the company a lot of hassle and possibly keep the distance from a catastrophic outcome.


Being self-confident exudes an aura that can convince those you work for (or with) that you know what you are doing. If you do not believe in yourself, your skills and abilities, then you cannot expect anyone else to believe in you. You need to be confident with yourself and ensure everyone sees you as someone that has the ability to pull through whatever situation comes your way.


Why is it that those that are brilliant at memorising information, solving complex mathematical problems, or reciting Shakespearean plays do not always do well in the business space? Why is it that if they have to stand in front of a crowd and argue a case, they tend to flush and lose it?

Public speaking is a very crucial skill to have, which requires a lot of self-confidence, practice, and analysing of your audience. Even though it comes naturally to some people, it is definitely a skill that can be acquired, and it is a skill sought after by employers.

After all, when you meet clients, you represent the company as a whole. It is only fair that they would rather hire someone that can carry themselves well while expressing the values and products of the company.


Being tactful is necessary in many situations, when dealing with clients, as well as colleagues.

No matter how much you believe you are right about something, or that it may be more useful for your colleague to know exactly what you think, realise that not everyone reacts the same way to different styles of confrontation.

It is important for individuals to know how and when to deal with various issues that may crop up in the working environment, whether they are dealing with clients, colleagues, or supervisors.


Being creative can be beneficial to any role you may have in the workplace. It involves the ability to find solutions to problems using creativity, reasoning and past experience, coupled with information and resources.

Using innovative ways to improve workflows and processes in the work place, or finding a new way to process a piece of work can change the company’s dynamics, save time and cost, and even improve the quality of products/services.


Integrity and well-founded moral values should be highly-respected in the work place. Even though many scandals appear with black sheep here and there, it is essential for employees to maintain their values and integrity at all costs. Honesty and sticking to your values will definitely repay in the long run. An untainted reputation after all is what will help you move up the career ladder.


Employers always look for employees that are passionate about what they do and are very committed to their assignments. They need to be assured that their employees will keep at a problem until it is solved, and they will do what is necessary to complete all tasks.

Arriving at work on time and willingness to work and take responsibility are basic indicators of an employee’s commitment. These factors can show whether an employee is cut out for a specific role.


If a person demonstrates an attitude that is appreciative of feedback, it can be deduced that he/she is willing to learn. Irrespective of age and experience, everyone is constantly learning at the workplace, and one should always remain open to new information that can enhance their skills and abilities.

Jobs are constantly changing and evolving, and employees of all ranks should show that they are open to growing and learning, either by experiencing new situations, by training, or even by listening and learning from criticism.


Knowledge of the principles and methods of promoting, presenting and selling products and services is essential, no matter what your role is in a company. At any given point in time, you might be faced with an opportunity to promote your company and its products or services to people you meet.

It could be simply promoting these to a friend or acquaintance, or it could be in a more formal environment where you are pulled in for a meeting or project. Knowledge of at least basic marketing strategy as well as a range of sales techniques and sales control systems may come in handy.


Almost all jobs nowadays require some basic understanding of computers and electronics in general. As we move to rely more on technology to help us conduct our daily tasks, be it communicating, writing, calculating, presenting, drawing, creating sound, and many others, we may need in the work place, we are being pushed towards the need to understand circuit boards, processors, electronic equipment and computers.


Even if your job has nothing to do with mathematics, arithmetic, geometry, algebra, calculus, and statistics, basic knowledge of these may become necessary at some stage.

Refreshing your knowledge of mathematics often is an essential part of keeping your competitive advantage in the job market. Statistics in particular may come in handy, as many a time you might need to produce some graphs and figures by analysing quantitative data.


Computer programming may be seen as a skill that only needs to be mastered by the few IT experts in an organisation. However, knowledge, even at a basic level of computer programming may come in handy if you are trying to develop a new programme that you hope may help your department in the way you process information.

Imagine, for example, that you are working in the HR department of the company and want to come up with a system that monitors and evaluates the progress, performance and salaries of all employees.

Knowing even basic computer programming could help you realise what is possible and how you can get started on this project, putting you in a better position to collaborate with the IT department of the company in order to produce a more advanced system catering to your needs.

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