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What are the top 10 critical thinking skills you should master to advance your career?

What are the top 10 critical thinking skills you should master to advance your career?

Artwork by: Katya Vakulenko

  • What are critical thinking skills?
  • Top 10 critical thinking skills
  • 1. Research
  • 2. Analysis
  • 3. Interpretation
  • 4. Inference
  • 5. Identification / Observation
  • 6. Curiosity
  • 7. Evaluation
  • 8. Communication
  • 9. Open-mindedness
  • 10. Problem-solving
  • Seven steps of critical thinking
  • How to improve critical thinking skills
  • 1. Ask insightful questions
  • 2. Be aware of your biases
  • 3. Read and research
  • 4. Continually enhance your critical thinking skills
  • Key takeaways

Looking to advance your career? Critical thinking skills will help. Follow our guide for what you need to know about mastering critical thinking.

Employers value critical thinking skills because they demonstrate an employee’s ability to think clearly, rationally, and objectively. The ability to apply these skills and tackle information overload in our fast-paced, digital world will help you stand out. 

In this article, we explore:

  • What are critical thinking skills?

  • Top 10 critical thinking skills

  • Six steps to critical thinking

  • How to improve critical thinking skills

What are critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking skills can be defined as the ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information in a rational and systematic way. Once you have processed this information, you are then able to be objective in terms of identifying assumptions, evaluating arguments, and making logical conclusions.

Employers rate critical thinking skills highly when filling many different types of  job openings. If you can apply these skills to eliminate problems, improve performance, and achieve organizational goals, then you are on course for developing a successful career.

Top 10 critical thinking skills

So, what are the most important critical thinking skills to master in your career? Here are the Top 10 with some practical examples:

1. Research

Gathering information via research helps you to expand your knowledge, fill information gaps, and form an educated opinion. 

Research skills are valued by employers in the majority of industries because they often directly contribute to improved performance and business growth. Furthermore, these skills can help you advance in your career if your research delivers objective insight and inspires ideas.

2. Analysis

Having great analytical skills allows you to look at the bigger picture, review the facts, identify any common threads or patterns, then form logical decisions. This includes the ability to collect unbiased data, question the accuracy of data, and be objective.

Analytical skills are important in a wide range of disciplines, such as data science, law, medicine, accounting, and project management, but they’re also valued across industries and career levels. For example, you may apply your analytical skills to optimize an existing process and reduce costs, as well as boost productivity.

3. Interpretation

Interpretation skills are crucial in the workplace because they enable you to accurately comprehend and communicate information. Strong interpretation skills help you to avoid information overload, separate fact from opinion, and make informed decisions. 

If you work in the marketing or advertising field, a key part of your role involves analyzing market data. This could include developing effective marketing or advertising campaign strategies based on your interpretation of consumer survey responses.

4. Inference

Inference allows you to draw a logical conclusion based on evidence and reasoning. For example, an emergency medical professional who determines a diagnosis would infer based on the patient’s symptoms. Inference involves analyzing events, facts, ideas, objects, and feelings, then connecting them with existing technical or industry-specific knowledge.

5. Identification / Observation

Identifying a problem and uncovering what is influencing it is a core critical thinking skill. Problematic situations in the workplace may be glaringly obvious at times, but others can require a bit of digging to discover. Observation and identification skills can also stop problems before they begin.

In practice, someone who works in  finance may observe some anomalies in financial transaction patterns. There could be an innocent explanation, but the anomalies may expose a security issue or fraudulent activity that needs immediate attention.

6. Curiosity

Being curious might make you feel a little uncomfortable, but it can help you stand out in your career. Don’t shy away from asking questions and satisfying your curiosity by securing more knowledge.  

Employers value an employee who is willing to learn more, focused on continual improvement, and committed to keeping up with industry trends. Adopting a curious mindset will enable you to enhance your skill set whether you are a new job seeker or a seasoned professional. 

7. Evaluation

The ability to evaluate or judge whether information you have gathered is relevant is critical. 

Imagine being asked  to research a competitor to determine why the competitor is outperforming your company. Conducting online research is likely to give you an overwhelming amount of information and points of view, but you will need strong evaluation skills to pinpoint pertinent details that can help your company gain a competitive edge.

8. Communication

Consistently honing your communication skills is vital in the context of critical thinking because you may be faced with challenging discussions involving diverse viewpoints. Here, the ability to practice active listening, while remaining calm and unemotional, is key to working through issues and arriving at solutions based on facts and logic.

9. Open-mindedness

Open-mindedness allows you to approach new ideas and situations without biases, enabling you to see things you may not have noticed with a closed mindset.

If you are looking to improve your open-mindedness, focus on being curious, challenging assumptions, reading widely, and engaging in diverse experiences. These approaches can lead to enhanced problem-solving, creativity, empathy, understanding, decision-making, and personal growth.

10. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is a key component in the critical thinking process. Once you have identified, analyzed, and evaluated a problem, you then need to implement the best solution and ensure the solution stays on track to achieve your goal. 

Enhancing your industry-specific knowledge is one way to optimize problem-solving skills in the workplace. Update and maintain your job and industry knowledge, look for training opportunities, and learn from interactions with more experienced colleagues. In the future, you may be recognized and valued as the go-to problem solver.  

Seven steps of critical thinking

Critical thinking skills can be built over time with some practice and patience. Here are the seven key steps of the critical thinking process:

  1. Identify the problem or issue.

  2. Create inferences for why the problem arose and how it can be resolved.

  3. Gather information and data via research from a variety of trusted sources. 

  4. Analyze and evaluate the relevance and significance of the information gathered.

  5. Apply the facts you have gathered to select the best possible solution.

  6. Present your solution to key stakeholders and be willing to collaborate if more than one solution is proposed.

  7. Execute the solution and perform follow-up activities, including corrective actions, to ensure smooth implementation.

  • Have a goal of what you want to achieve from the critical thinking process. Be open to possibilities and remain objective, but it’s also important to not lose sight of the ultimate goal in this process.
  • Forget the benefit of foresight. While you can’t predict the future, you can think about how your decision will impact the people or company involved, then factor this into your decision-making process.

How to improve critical thinking skills

Mastering critical thinking skills will help you become a stronger performer in the workplace and advance your career. Here are some ways to improve your critical thinking style and steer your career in the right direction:

1. Ask insightful questions

Asking questions is a key way to improve your critical thinking skills. When you are presented with information, be curious, and ask open-ended questions that can help you expand your understanding of an issue and increase your industry or workplace knowledge. 

2. Be aware of your biases

Everyone has biases, so it’s important to acknowledge this and question your biases as part of critical thinking. Focus on thinking objectively about your likes, dislikes, beliefs, and preferences, and contemplate how these impact your thinking.

3. Read and research

Consistently read reputable and up-to-date sources to gather information from established news sites, industry organizations, and educational institutions. 

4. Continually enhance your critical thinking skills

Check out courses on critical thinking skills and learn more about cognitive biases via online platforms. This will enable you to become a critical thinking pro and help you develop valuable workplace skills.

Key takeaways

  1. Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly, rationally, and objectively, a vital skill employers are looking for when filling job openings.

  2. Focus on developing your critical thinking skills in the areas of research, analysis, interpretation, inference, identification, evaluation, and problem-solving.

  3. Being curious, open minded, and an effective communicator are important critical thinking attributes.

  4. Enhance your critical thinking skills by asking prevalent questions, being aware of your biases, reading industry-specific publications, and acquiring additional training.

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