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  3. Top 10 career development skills to take the next step on the ladder
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Top 10 career development skills to take the next step on the ladder

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What are career development skills?
  • Top 10 career development skills for career success
  • 1. Leadership
  • 2. Written communication
  • 3. Basic coding
  • 4. Audio and video editing and production
  • 5. Self-management
  • 6. Data literacy and analytics
  • 7. Collaboration and communication
  • 8. Project management
  • 9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • 10. Social media expertise
  • Key takeaways

Are you struggling to take the next step in your professional journey? Explore this list of 10 top career development skills to help you enhance your qualifications and achieve success.

Over the past few years, you may have heard the phrase “skills economy” floating around in professional circles. This refers to the current state of the job market, in which many professions lean heavily on increasingly specialized skills. It also describes the increasing trend of small business ownership, based on specialization and personal expertise.

In this environment, a solid and ever-expanding set of skills for career and life development is the key to professional and personal success. If you’re stuck and unsure of how to move into the next phase of your career journey, new skills might be just what you need. This can increase your value as an employee, making you more competitive, and may even allow you to branch out on your own.

People use all kinds of unique skills to find success, but the current job market values some more than others. In this article, we’ll review some of the most important skills for career development and explain why they matter. We’ll cover:

  • The definition of career development skills

  • A look at 10 of the most important career development skills

What are career development skills?

Career development skills are competencies that help professionals find work, earn promotions, identify opportunities, retain their current jobs, or move into new fields. Depending on the industry you work in, this could mean many different things. Despite this, there are a few hard and soft skills that are valued in almost every field.

The hard skills currently in demand focus heavily on technology. The digital tools that companies use are constantly evolving and require expertise that changes with them. The soft skills that companies prize are more traditional and have always been valuable in the workplace. These competencies improve the workplace and allow collaboration across large workforces.

Statistical Insight

People in the US are increasingly starting small businesses to make use of their unique skills. In 2021, a record-setting 5.4 million Americans filed business applications, more than the previous record of 4.4 million in 2020.

Top 10 career development skills for career success

Here are some of the top 10 hard and soft skills that employers are looking for in the current job environment:

1. Leadership

If you’re looking to earn a promotion or get to the next rung on your professional ladder, leadership is an indispensable skill. Most mid-level and senior jobs entail some kind of management, which requires both technical skills and the ability to lead others. 

If you’ve spent a couple of years in your current position, you likely have many of the hard skills required to move up. You probably understand your company’s operations well and know what it takes to bring in revenue. For many professionals, the missing ingredient is leadership.

Leadership is not just management. It’s the ability to inspire the people around you and harness them into a productive team. It requires integrity, trust, dedication, and the ability to put yourself last when necessary. If you’re trying to build this skill, look for any and all opportunities to direct projects, build teams, or take on more responsibility.

2. Written communication

Although most of us don’t touch paper very often, much of the business world runs on written communications, including emails, instant messages, social media posts, and advertisements.

Learning to write well is an essential skill that could allow you to embrace a wide variety of new roles. This could anything from drafting press releases to writing copy. Start by adding a writing aid to your browser and continue your education by investing in a writing course.

3. Basic coding

Coding, or writing with programming languages is one of the most vital skills in the modern work environment. Software dominates every part of the market and coders are the ones who make all of this possible. While software developers, data scientists, and others require extensive coding skills, most professionals can seriously enhance their resumes with just a bit of coding experience.

If you’re interested in developing this valuable skill, there are a wide variety of online courses that teach it from the beginner to the advanced level. Coding is even more reliant on practice than other skills. Once you learn the basics, make sure to write and troubleshoot code as often as possible to stay on your game.

4. Audio and video editing and production

You can’t go anywhere on the internet these days without encountering beautifully-produced video and audio presentations. These technologies are more available than ever thanks to smartphones and easy-to-use production software. If you’re interested in media, social media, marketing, customer service, or product development, take some time to learn the basics of video and audio production.

5. Self-management

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have moved towards distributed workspaces. In this arrangement, many or most of a company’s employees work remotely or split their time between home and the office. Improvements in technology have made this arrangement very productive, with employees communicating via messaging platforms, email, and video conferencing tools.

This new arrangement requires a new set of skills for employees who work remotely. One of the most important is self-management, or the ability to work effectively on your own. This includes self-motivation, time management, communication, and good organizational skills. If you plan to pursue a remote position, make sure that you have the skills to work without supervision.

6. Data literacy and analytics

Data is at the heart of business operations in the 21st century. It gives companies unparalleled insights into customer behavior and the effectiveness of different strategies. Many businesses are investing heavily in extensive database architectures and the skilled workers needed to manage them.

While data science is an incredibly deep subject, you don’t have to be a full-blown expert to benefit from it. You can start by familiarizing yourself with some of the most common data analytics software tools that companies in your field use. You can also learn how to extract valuable insights from data sets and how to access and manipulate data using common database configurations.

7. Collaboration and communication

No matter where you work, you’ll have coworkers. In most cases, your colleagues will be the best part of your job, so it’s important to get along with them well. Collaboration and effective communication are two of the most important skills for everyone who works with others. They’ve been essential for a long time and they’re not going out of style any time soon.

Collaboration refers to your ability to work constructively with others. It includes problem-solving, empathy, integrity, critical thinking, and conflict resolution. Communication is also an essential part of teamwork, and it’s not all about talking. Be sure to practice active listening to make those around you feel valued and respected.

8. Project management

Project management is an in-demand skill for team leaders that allows them to direct every part of an initiative independently. It involves a range of specialized skills, including budgeting, time management, leadership, delegation, documentation, reporting, resource management, and accountability.

If you plan to secure a senior position at your company, odds are that you’ll be asked to take on projects independently. Project management skills will allow you to lead a team effectively while meeting the unique needs of your company.

9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

These days, many companies live and die based on their online visibility. If a product can’t make it to the top of the search engine results, odds are that its sales will suffer. This has led to a new area of expertise known as search engine optimization or SEO.

The goal of SEO is to harness trends and algorithms so that a company’s advertisements and web pages appear quickly when certain keywords are entered. Learning SEO skills is essential for marketers, copywriters, and website developers, and may also allow you to move into a specialized SEO management role.

10. Social media expertise

Most companies now maintain an active social media presence. This allows them to contact potential customers directly, using the phones they carry at nearly all times. Because of this social media skills are more in demand than ever. If you work in marketing, or even if you’re an independent business owner, working on your social media chops is a great way to advance your brand.

Key takeaways

  1. Career development skills are competencies that allow professionals to achieve success in the workplace.

  2. In the modern economy, technology skills are incredibly valuable and can make you more competitive.

  3. Soft skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking are as valuable as ever.

  4. Some of the most important career development skills include leadership, coding, audio and video production, data and analytics literacy, collaboration, project management, SEO, and social media marketing.

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