The modern businesses climate is constantly evolving, but one thing is constant: if you wish to be really successful, you need to consistently show your organization the high value you bring for both your specific job, as well as across other areas of the organization. Having high utility in cross-functional teams will raise your visibility in the organization and will work to make you a candidate for better positions down the line. In addition, having cross-functional value during downtimes will make it far less likely that you are the one to be let go.
Always remember that you are constantly marketing yourself to your colleagues and executives. Through your words and actions, you show them who you are and what your value is. This is a continuous process that is going to happen whether you are consciously looking to climb the ladder or not. Multi-function competence, a willingness to take the lead, being reliably trustworthy, and a reputation for being easy to work with are uncommon assets that will make you stand out in your career.
Whether you are a new college graduate, are switching careers, or are looking to brush up your resume a bit, here are a few skills you need to master in order to build a successful career and stay marketable to potential employers:
- Versatile Technical Skills –Every employer wants a (legit) Full Stack developer who understands the entire environment from front to back. To qualify for these positions, you’ll want to have a highly portable skill set that you can easily take from one company to another… not niche or proprietary knowledge that few companies can benefit from. With technology constantly and rapidly changing, you must consistently be learning and updating your CV with new tools and skills. This will require a bit of homework. However, spending time outside of work improving your technical skills demonstrates you possess an excellent work ethic and will make you an A player for any employer.
- People Skills – Traditionally, technology has been driven by engineering and R&D. But today, it is being driven more and more by both the users (and the user experience) and marketing/sales. Your company’s digital transformation executive is most likely not a technologist. Therefore, you must learn to speak the language of sales and marketing so you can continue to deliver on the things that will help those organizations move the needle. Understanding sales and marketing as your “customer” in the workplace, and what they are trying to accomplish, will make you invaluable to the broader organization as a primary stakeholder… especially when the really big initiatives flow down from the top.
- Cultural Skills – Kindness and a positive attitude always translate well in the workforce. Always be kind to those you interact with – even when you need to speak critically or deal with shortcomings or failures. Let your words and deeds towards others be guided by how you would like to be treated if the situation were reversed. This doesn’t mean glossing over challenges or problems – it means dealing with them in a positive way. This goes hand in hand with having a positive attitude. Everyone has a natural tendency to view and react to situations in a positive or negative way. Having a positive attitude is actually pretty common. However, the real value is derived from the consistency of your attitude and behavior: that you can be trusted to respond to every challenge in a positive fashion every single time. This is a learned skill. There are a million books on how to become more positive and be mentally and emotionally strong that you can read. I will just emphasize that having a positive attitude it a choice that you make every day. Eventually, that choice becomes a habit that you find yourself doing automatically. And some day, after a lot of practice, it becomes who you are and part of your nature. Choose today to become a consistently positive person and find the good outcomes wherever possible.
- Leadership Skills – If there is one skill set that is lacking today, it is effective positive leadership. As you work and succeed in improving yourself, you will find more and more opportunities to lead. The key to leadership is to retain complete ownership while delegating proper responsibilities to team members to accomplish outcome-based goals (rather than strictly process-based work). In other words, give your people outcomes to achieve, rather than demanding they do things the way you want it done. Great leaders enable their people to be successful by working with them, not by doing the work for them. As challenges arise, leaders must remove roadblocks and enable their team to fix or work around these issues quickly. Lastly, if things are not ultimately successful, a true leader understands that all responsibility lies with them and does not try to deflect it to other people or organizations. Ownership is a key principle of leadership and it is also a learned skill.
All of this may seem like a lot, and you’re right—it is. Successfully learning these skills won’t all happen in a day or even a year. Consciously focus on improving and building your technical, people, cultural, and leadership tool bag. Focusing on these skills will not only aid you on your journey to professional achievement — they will also ensure your happiness as you navigate through the successes and difficulties you encounter throughout your career. Whether you climb the ladder to the top or not, I would say that being happy in your career is a great outcome in and of itself.