Four Basic Job Skills Everyone Needs, But Not Everyone Has
When we think about our careers, we tend to focus on the type of work we do, the industry we're in, or the salary we need. These are all important factors to consider, but they're all content-focused. They are the "what" part of your work life--and not a complete picture of what makes a career satisfying. What often goes ignored is the importance of planning for how you show up at your job.
Showing up isn't about the work, but about how you conduct yourself at work. It means taking specific and intentional actions to support and sustain a satisfying career. And to show up effectively, you need to develop a certain set of skills.
While not an exhaustive list, four critical skills in particular will grow your ability to behave in ways that produce positive interactions at work, regardless of the content of your job. And positive relationships at work lead to not only greater satisfaction with your job, they make you better at what you do.
Set boundaries and stick to them
Some workplaces pride themselves on following the mantra, "no pain no gain." Many cling to the belief that working endless hours and being accessible day and night leads to success. This notion of having to suffer to succeed must first be unlearned.
Instead, put in place practices that protect your wellbeing. Take intentional small breaks to restore your energy throughout the day. Get away from your work area, move around, and engage socially with colleagues. Set boundaries for when the workday begins and ends, and stick to them. It's no wonder that when people prioritize their wellbeing at work, they perform better.
Know when to speak up, and how to accept feedback
When disagreements arise or decisions need to be made, the easiest approach is to stay silent. We've all done it. Sometimes it's because you believe your ideas will get shut down. Other times it might be out of indifference, or a reluctance to take on extra responsibilities. The problem is that when you stay silent, you are robbing your bosses and your colleagues of your unique perspective.
But speaking up also means learning to accept feedback. Be willing to learn from others, and worry less about what others think of you. It's not an easy skill to develop, but it is an important one: If your ideas get shut down, seek to understand why, and keep moving forward as a productive member of a team. If you're in an environment where you can't do that, it may be a sign the job isn't a good fit--but you can't know that until you actually take the risk and speak up.
Favor problem-solving and flexibility over complaining
Viewing problems as something to be solved instead of something to complain about is core to a satisfying career. Conversely, complaining and gossiping stalls us and keeps us fixed in a moment. You can't get anywhere new if you're obsessing over a bad situation. This isn't to say you can't complain occasionally. You can, because it feels good, which means it can provide relief in a stressful moment. But it must remain short-lived.
One strategy to pivot out of complaining is to seek other perspectives. If you're irritated with a colleague over how they communicate, consider their experience, skills, and stress may be influencing their behavior. Seeking out other perspectives helps you build empathy, something every workplace could use more of.
Connect with your mentors
Mentors can benefit your career in countless ways. They provide helpful advice for navigating tricky situations, are able to introduce new contacts into your network, and will hold you accountable to your career goals.
But the real skill is finding a potential mentor--and making the ask. The burden is on you to establish mentoring relationships, and not to wait for one to drop into your lap. This means you need to develop a clear understanding of what you want to learn from a mentor, put the word out through friends and colleagues that you're seeking one, building a relationship with that person, and then following through on your meetings with them.
Building a career is so much more than the job you find yourself doing, or even the industry you've chosen. It is also about the relationships you build--and you do that by leaning how to show up for work everyday.