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Published on March 12, 2019

The Ultimate Work Skills List to Help You Change Careers

The Ultimate Work Skills List to Help You Change Careers

Career changes are tough. As adults, there are many factors that impact our decisions – family, finances, life partner, or the labor market. As you analyze and plan, it’s easy to fall victim to your own preconceived notions and jaded assumptions.

You may even talk yourself out of the change and stay where you are as you get stuck in your loop of thoughts and worries. Instead, I urge you to understand the emotions attached to change and apply this work skills list to help manage the emotions that come with your next career transition.

Get ready to peel back the layers, do some inner work, and exercise your mental tenacity to embrace your desired career change.

Recognize the Emotions of Change

While individual reactions to change will vary, there are some common emotions that you’ll likely experience as you embark on a career change.[1]

1. Fear of the Unknown

Humans are creatures of habit, and like feeling safe and comfortable. Uncertain thoughts and emotions can flood our minds as we embrace change:

  • What if I fail?
  • I’ll need to go back to school.
  • It’s too late to make a change now.

2. Frustration and Anxiety

The thought of changing careers may have you stuck in worryville and it’s common for self-doubt to creep into your mind.

The mere thought of how a career change may impact your life can bring about behaviours that stall you from taking tiny steps toward any changes:

  • I can’t take a pay cut.
  • My family depends on me.
  • I’ll need to start from scratch.
  • I’ve worked hard for my promotions, benefits and pension.

3. Know Your Emotional Triggers

While we desire changes in our lives, we’re sometimes met with resistance within ourselves.[2] It will take time to address and overcome the stories and assumptions that we’ve told ourselves since our experiences have likely clouded our perceptions and judgements.

The good news? This is a great opportunity to shift your mindset and challenge your own beliefs. As you embrace your next career change, tiny or big, track your thought patterns:

  • What are you telling yourself and why? During uncertain times our inner critic and negative thoughts can easily enter our brain. You have a chance to replace your self-doubt with new ones, or at least learn to tame them.
  • Check your assumptions. Challenge preconceived notions about yourself. Are they really true and how can you confirm them?
  • Question preconceived notions of what others are thinking about you. What’s the importance of their thoughts? Why does it matter to you so much? Are you seeking their approval?

Looking inward and being honest with yourself can help you move forward with career changes that you desire.

Work Skills to Change Careers and Thrive at Your Next Job

In my 15 plus year working career, I’ve experienced four major career changes so far. And each time, I learn something new that I wish I would have known to make each career transition a little easier.

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1. Fill up on Patience

Our world of work is changing so fast. You’ll need to be able to naturally go with the ebbs and flows of your career. Equip yourself with these skills to embrace your next opportunity and challenge:

Sleep.[3] Recharging your brain sufficiently with at least 7 hours of sleep can help you to manage emotional challenges and you’ll be less likely to overreact when you get annoyed or frustrated. Sleep needs to be your first priority, not an afterthought, so that you can optimize your health and tackle your goals.[4]

Slow down. We sometimes have a tendency to rush through our day without much thought. When you feel rushed or impatient, take mindful breaths and pause. Be deliberate about your next action.

2. Grow with Rejection by Leveraging Your Strengths

You’ll likely talk about your career change with those close to you, and eventually with others as you gather more information to help you make informed decisions about the changes you want to make.

While some will be supportive, you’ll be faced with some naysayers who will dismiss your ideas or worse – not respond. This may add to your self-doubt.

Have courage. This is the best time to focus on your strengths and what’s important to you.

Give yourself time. When feelings become uncomfortable, it’s easy to ignore them and rush into something else, but they will always be there until you address those emotions. Pause and reflect on what happened. You’ll likely find a few ‘ah-ha’ moments to help you become more resilient.

Exercise compassion. You may feel angry, in denial, shame, loneliness or embarrassment.[5] However, this is the best time to be kind to yourself and reset. Do something you enjoy, like going for a run or getting lost in a bookstore. Even helping a loved one during this time can help you be grateful for what you do have and see a different perspective.

3. Exercise Self-Approval and Notice Your Confidence Level

You, and only you, need to live with your career choices and ultimately your life choices.

As human beings, we want to feel connected, be accepted by others, and belong to a group. So it’s natural for us to want to seek approval from others about our decisions.

Your professional presence can easily be observed by others. Reflect on your confidence level:

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Are you constantly seeking praise from your manager? Or is there a possibility that you’ve been overconfident and dismissed someone’s feedback or critique of your work?

There’s a fine line between being confident, assertive, aggressive, or arrogant. Note how these behaviors have shown up and impacted your career.

4. Be Open to Experiment

Changing careers is a time of discovery. As adults, it’s easy to make snap assumptions based on our experiences. Take a beginners mindset to learning about the changes you want to make. This will help you be more open to trial and error during the process.

Step away from scrolling the Internet and actually talk to people working in the industry that you’re interested in through informational interviews. Some information may peak your interest to speak to more people or you may have gained insights that will make you shift in an entirely different direction. The information you gather will help you make informed and confident decisions about your next move.

5. Listen Deeply and Hone Your Observation Skills

This includes observations about yourself and your environment.

Pay attention to what you’re doing to gain self-awareness and take time to be attuned to your surroundings. This includes noticing your workplace culture, your colleagues work styles, your team dynamics, and various communication channels used.

Learn more about observation skills in this article:

How Observational Learning Can Have a Huge Impact on Productivity

6. Think Critically, Be a Self-Starter, and Take Initiative

“The only thing that is constant is change” — Heraclitus

Be adaptable and open to learn new skills.

Jobs are evolving, and we need to be open to learn creative ways to get work done. The more you learn the more informed you’ll be. You can then create new ideas or try different combinations to achieve results.

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With industries changing and businesses needing to adapt to thrive in competitive markets, people need to show and articulate their value and contributions to support business needs.

This may mean having the foresight in your area of expertise to help companies make informed decisions. For example, the ability to discern large amounts of information using research skills and presenting them to key influencers in plain language.

All of these skills sets will help you achieve your ultimate goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions to clarify. This will show that you’re listening and paying attention to your work.

To keep your skills fresh and your brain sharp, keep learning:

15 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Learning for a Sharper Brain

7. Ability to Influence Without Authority

Whether you report to one person, work in a matrix organization or as an entrepreneur, you’ll need to interact with others. You’ll need to be able to negotiate, convince and sometimes sell others’ on why your services, products, or recommendations would be of benefit.

You won’t always be in a position of power. So having the ability to influence people is a key work skill to have.

The next time you go out to dinner with friends or family test out your abilities to influence. Try to convince everyone to choose the restaurant you prefer. What happens?

Take a look at this article and improve your communication skills:

How to Be Influential and Gain Respect at Work

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8. Build Quality Relationships and Manage Office Politics

As you transition to a new career and begin working in a new role, having and continuing to build quality relationships is essential to support all aspects of your career growth and productivity.

Knowing when and how to have difficult conversations in a productive manner is an essential skill to achieve both personal and professional goals. Conflict between people are inevitable so the ability to resolve emotional responses is a key life skill to have.

These conflict management skills will be useful for you:

Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work

Summing It Up

This ultimate work skills list will help you to change careers and thrive in your next role.

It’s important to recognize your emotions associated with change. Otherwise, we’ll continue to carry forward the same mindset to our next career and it will rear its ugliness again if left uncoached.

Always keep the ultimate work skills list in your pocket:

  • Build your patience muscle
  • Manage and grow with each rejection
  • Exercise self-approval and notice your confidence level
  • Listen deeply and hone your observation skills
  • Be open to experiment
  • Think critically, be a self-starter, and take initiative
  • Ability to influence without authority
  • Build quality relationships and manage office politics

Committing yourself to these work skills will help you ease the jitters of your career change and continue to build the career skills necessary in any professional environment in our changing world of work.

What career changes are you working on, tiny or big? Notice your emotions and thoughts as you address this change. From the work skills list, choose one that resonates with you the most and apply one aspect of that skill to your career change and your new career. What do you notice?

There’s no right or wrong way to approach your career change. Do what feels natural to you. Be creative and open to experiment.

More Resources About Essential Work Skills

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] University of Exeter: The Change Curve
[2] Steven Pressfield’s book: Do the Work: Overcoming Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way
[3] Febritius and Hagermann’s Book: The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier
[4] National Sleep Foundation: How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus
[5] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Emotional Responses to Interpersonal Rejection

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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