I have been working professionally in the financial world for more than 20 years. While I would not categorize that I am “extremely” successful (or I would have been a CEO of a large company by now) I would consider myself as an “A” employee.
Climbing up the career ladder sometimes is quite daunting as there are other employees who are vying for the same positions. After working for over than 20 years for two large multi-national corporations I learned that there are certain skills that are very essential. If you just graduated from college and aspire to work in the business world, I hope the following pointers will give you some idea how to have a successful career.
I recall when I worked at Arthur Andersen 20 years ago that some of the Partners did not know how to use a computer and all of the Partners had executive assistant (or secretaries) who would assist them, taking notes and answering phone calls. If you step in a large corporations today you would rarely see secretaries and everyone would be using a computer or laptop. On top of knowing how to use a computer, it is given that 90% of business people use Microsoft Office Suite software. Certain positions would require specialized skills in certain software such as Tableau, or data mining tool.
I find that having logical thinking is an extremely important skill. You cannot attend a meeting without thinking logically. Upper management today are more agile and they expect results quickly. As such in order to more faster management expect each employee to be able to adjust to the environment and think how to best approach the challenge. If you read the IBM of the yesteryear, everyone would dress in blue and go with the flow because that was how it was done.
Time Management Skills
Managing time is as important as getting things done. At any given time, an employee can have up to 20 to-do items, including major projects and minor tasks. Without a good time management skill it could spell disaster if certain projects could not be completed on time. It is no longer that easy going into an office and tackle the questions and challenges one at a time. To be able to meet all the deadlines all employees are expected to juggle their responsibilities effectively.
Every year we are required to complete a performance management review. This annual exercise is to gauge if we are meeting company and personal goals. I recall several reviews that I had with my manager where I was rated less than ideal. And the skill that held me back was having good communication. Since then I worked twice as hard to improve my skills through taking training in speaking and writing. Additionally I learned to read my email twice before sending it out to avoid having confusion in what I am trying to convey.
I list listening skills different from communication skills because it is not easy master the listening skills. Yes, all of us know what listening entails but to be able to move up the ladder in the business world you need to know when to start listening and when to start speaking. It is very easy for us to interrupt the speaker because we make assumption of the message that is being conveyed. I’ve seen a few people who tend to jump in the conversation without allowing the speaker to stop. Not only this is rude but it could cause confusion on what message that we as listener are suppose to pick up.
Do you know what is the major difference between a CEO and high school teacher? A successful CEO is able to connect with his/her employees and get things done. A high school teacher only cares about getting the lessons across and hopefully the students understand the contents. To be able to climb up the career ladder it is important that we are able to have good rapport with the people we work with. Living under the rock and work on the project alone can only go so far.
The company I work for care of future skills and it continues to encourage employees to gain knowledge through training (in person and virtual). However, all those investments would be wasted if employees do not care to improve their skills. When I had my performance management with my manager 15 years ago I told my manager that I did not take any training because I did not have the time. My manager told me that, “I make the time.” That was the wake up call that I need to focus on myself my continue to make commitment to learn new skills. Today, when schedule permits I would take training focusing on Artificial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering.
What I list here is not an exhausted list of skills that you should focus on. Depends on certain professions certain skills are are more important that others. For example if you are in investment banks, having good math skill is as important as good listening skill. Or if you are in communications department, you are likely place people skill first and technical skill last.