Anyone who’s worked in Human Resources will tell you that after awhile, all CVs start to look identical. Everyone lists the same qualifications: their expensive education, their world-class internships, and all the ways in which they increased their previous company’s finances. But these accomplishments hardly matter once you’ve gotten the job. Success in the workplace comes through exercising soft skills that can’t really be quantified, let alone put on paper. It doesn’t sound fair, but the reality is that things like being personable, optimistic, or even looking good can help you clinch that promotion more than your elite education ever could.
So if you’ve ever wondered how your seemingly uneducated colleague climbed the ladder so much quicker than you did, well, this article’s for you. Keep reading to learn about the most useful job skills that aren’t on your CV.
1. Being a good speaker
Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean that you’re good at projecting it. Case in point: the NTU valedictorian who caused an uproar a few weeks ago after unintentionally offending Chinese-speaking people in his commencement address. You might have a good idea at work, but it’ll never get off the ground if you don’t know how to present it. And speaking well requires so much more than eloquence – like legendary speech-giver Barack Obama, you must speak to people’s hearts without manipulating their emotions. Practically, that means exuding conviction when you tell your boss about your ideas, while presenting facts and evidence that will help back up what you say. And on a more micro level, being a good conversationalist will help the people around you relax while piquing their interest in you as a person. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Projecting a likeable personality
Likeability is not as subjective as it sounds. Can you make friends easily? Do people remember your name? What kind of first impression do you make? Having a good personality isn’t the same as having a good heart, and unfortunately, the former counts more than it should in the working world. If people invite you out to lunch, laugh at your jokes, and make an effort to talk to you about things other than work, then chances are, you’re a likeable person. And like recruiters always say, employers would rather work with people that they like than with people who are simply competent. If you have a hard time getting along with other people, you might want to ask those who are close to you for an honest assessment of what you’re doing wrong.
3. Being attractive
Once again, this ain’t fair because beauty is only skin deep, looks don’t matter, and judging people based on their appearance is shallow. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all, but there’s a reason that some employers ask you to attach a photo to your CV. Looks matter in careers where you have to meet and make a good impression on people, like public relations, sales, or journalism. And while you don’t need to be Brad Pitt, having a good sense of style gives others the idea that you know how to take care of yourself (and by extension, them). And several studies have shown that taller and skinnier people make more money than their less attractive counterparts. So do what you can to present your best self: cut your hair, wear clothes that fit, and take regular showers.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your career is turning down too many invitations to work events. Networking doesn’t end after you get the job. You’ve got to fine-tune those PR skills. It’s not so much about connecting with people who seem useful as it is about understanding that you won’t get anywhere in life with your own talents, efforts, and qualifications. We all need other people – and the people you meet could end up being your business partners, your mentors, and even your friends. Learn how to connect with others, and you’ll have access to a world of bigger opportunities.
Every office needs a McGyver. You can be that person. It’s not as hard as it sounds: simply pay attention to your office’s resources, be one with your boss’ moods, and think on your feet. Become the type of person who knows how to fix computer glitches without calling the company’s incompetent IT department. Be the person with useful contacts when your boss needs a favour or a connection. And most of all, know how to fix problems on the ground before they escalate to the higher-ups.
6. Being super organised
Never underestimate the power of a Type A personality. While creative geniuses are stereotypically disorganised, in the real world, you’re going to look much more on top of things if your work is in order. Your employer doesn’t want a mad scientist or an absentminded professor; they want someone who’s reliable, who knows where things are located, and who knows how to plan his time properly. Not everyone is born with good administrative skills, but you can start by at least cleaning your cubicle and submitting your work early.
7. Displaying a high emotional quotient (EQ)
Please, oh please, develop this if you don’t have it. EQ is what enables you to approach people at the right time instead of when they’re in a terrible mood. It makes you good at getting what you ask for. It’s what you use to correct people without making them feel too bad about themselves or too resentful of you. And it’s what keeps you from rambling on and on when the person you’re talking to is clearly getting bored. In short, it’s that uncanny ability to not annoy or creep out the people around you. Have a high EQ, and you’re golden. But show low EQ, and people will hate you before you can even prove your worth around the office.
8. Balls of steel
The world has many different types of leaders: good ones, bad ones, shy ones, outgoing ones. But if there’s one thing all effective leaders have in common, it’s boldness. A bold person stands up for himself. He will ask for that well-deserved raise, speak up in meetings, and be the first to assure his teammates that yes, what they dream can be done. The best thing about boldness is that it inspires others around you to act boldly as well. By putting yourself on the frontlines, you not only set a standard for what’s possible to achieve, but you show that you’re willing to take the first bullet for a worthwhile cause.
Success might require talent, hard work, and opportunities, but more than anything, it comes through pure endurance. People who succeed in the office have a fight in them. When the going gets tough, they don’t complain, they just keep going. These are the people who stay late in the office – not because they slacked off too much during the day, but because they treat their projects with utmost importance. Honestly, a big part of success at work is about having the energy to accomplish everything you desire, and thick enough skin to tough out the obstacles.
10. Being a fast learner
Finally, we’ve arrived at the most important item on this list. Not everyone has the aforementioned qualities – let alone all of them in a sufficient degree. But fast learners will pick up these skills along the way. So how do you show you’re a fast learner while you’re still the process of adapting? First, pick yourself up quickly after being corrected. And instead of avoiding tasks that you previously failed, embrace them – and do a better job the second time around. This will show that you’re not only good at learning, but that you’re willing to learn in the first place. Secondly, say yes to just about any new tasks the boss throws your way, even if you’re not confident enough to try it. If you were truly incapable (or if the task were THAT important) they wouldn’t have asked you. Showing that you’re versatile and teachable not only can compensate for your lack of experience, but it can open you up to other opportunities within the company.
The most useful job skills that aren’t on your CV
Anyone who’s worked in Human Resources will tell you that after awhile, all CVs start to look identical. Everyone lists the same qualifications: their expensive education, their world-class internships, and all the ways in which they increased their previous company’s finances.