You know your stuff. You’ve got the skills that are foundational to your job, or you’re actively acquiring them. You are well on your way to becoming the best in your field and nothing can stop you now. Right?
The required job skills for your chosen career are absolutely essential. But we all know that there is an entirely separate set of skills that you need outside of your core competencies. Although these skills may not be an integral part of any interview or performance review, mastering them now will set you apart in only good ways.
Here are three job skills that will help you succeed in any career.
1. Project management
A designer in the agency where I used to work once completed a project entirely by himself. The client didn’t have the budget for a full scope but we knew we could help them if we slimmed down our team. So we did, to just one person. Over the course of the project, that one designer created a set of new pages for the client, met each and every deadline, and managed the entire thing on his own.
Along the way he earned a great client relationship and the awe of more than one co-worker. And this wasn’t the first time he had performed such a feat. In fact, he was regularly called upon for these sorts of solo performances, making him incredibly valuable to the firm.
Even if you don’t have one-person-band aspirations, learning some foundational project management skills will do much more than just endear you to your PMs. Developing a solid understanding of timelines, how they come together and the ways in which they change, will help you manage your own pieces of the projects you collaborate on. Familiarizing yourself with budgets and how they are managed will help you support your company’s bottom line. And cultivating a knack for working with people and keeping a team pointed in the same direction will help you succeed and further your career.
For a great introduction to project management that isn’t too deep in the spreadsheet weeds, check out Scott Berkun’s Making Things Happen.
2. Writing and communication
At some point, you will need to write about your work. Whether for a status report, an article or case study, or just for your own needs, you will need to find the words to describe what you do. The ability to clearly and succinctly convey an idea or situation with words is invaluable in just about every job today.
Think about your next status report. You will need to write about your work, your progress, the problems you’ve run into, and your expectations for the work moving forward. If you can write clearly, so that your manager understands your status without having to ask additional questions or follow up with you in person, then you’ve just saved budget and time.
And then think beyond that. As Sally Kerrigan points out, “When you write about your work, it makes all of us smarter for the effort, including you—because it forces you to go beyond the polite cocktail-party line you use to describe what you do and really think about the impact your work has. “ So learn to write and work on improving your skill. If you need a place to start, Kerrigan has great advice.
3. Monitoring / analysis
We live in an age of monitoring. We want to know how our websites are doing and what our stats say. We want to know how our social media is performing and track our reach. We want to review our marketing and fine tune so that each successive piece can be more effective than the last.
We want to keep tabs on how we’re doing, individually, professionally, how we’re moving through our career and we want to watch how our teams are performing too. So, perhaps more than any other skill, we need to understand monitoring and analysis.
If large sets of numbers terrify you, don’t worry. Gathering data and sitting down to analyze it can be scary but, like anything else, the more you do it the better you’ll become. You may never be able to crack open Google Analytics and churn out a beautiful and useful report in minutes. Unless you’re pursuing a career as a data analyst, that shouldn’t be your goal.
You should, however, be able to take a set of data, make some logical conclusions and suggest some realistic ways to improve. Increasingly, companies need people to engage, uncover problems or inefficiencies, and make a change for the better.
For an introduction to the world of numbers and data, check out Introduction to Data Science and Analysis.
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