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My Employer, My New World Teacher

My Employer, My New World Teacher

Last week Thursday, I challenged you to consider how you can best take advantage of our “New World” of learning opportunities. The possibilities waiting for you are extraordinary.

I asked you to reflect back on when you feel you have learned best, so you can rally together those lessons-learned about when you have been a great student. Think of that self-knowledge as a collection of the great learning behaviors you can turn into great habits; you do them without thinking about them anymore. Arming yourself with those great habits, you can continue to set a stage for your sequential and consequential learning. You can accomplish amazing things.

Now this week, I’d like you to imagine you are in a “New World” workplace, one which is managed with the aloha of a great manager. There, you would find a boss whose intention is to be your learning coach and mentor. How would you recognize that person? In both managing and mentoring you, they [he/she] will create an environment for learning while building a powerful partnership with you in eight different ways.

1. Desire to Learn
Learning will come up as a question the very first time you are interviewed. You’d be asked something like, “What was the last thing you learned about? Why was it important to you? What has your new knowledge done for you? How did you use it? Will you use it again? What do you want to learn about next? Why?”

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How would you answer those questions? Learning to love learning is a must in today’s New World, where personal learning spills into professional results by creating more intellectual capital, and New World bosses “get it.”

2. Intention to Question
The next set of questions they have for you will be something like these: “What have you learned about US so far? Why do you want to be here? What would you still like to know about us? What do you need to know, so that you can begin to make an impact here, helping us to continually improve and grow along with you?”

They want to know how inquisitive you are, and what you’re curious about, and yes, they want to know what you intend to deliver in earning your keep. They want to know how good you are at being the one to ask the questions, both because you have a need to know, and because you aren’t afraid to plainly state what you still must learn if the company is to evolve with you.

Are you comfortable asking those kinds of questions? Are you willing to admit what you don’t know? Are you willing to grow the company along with you?

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3. Talents and non-Talents
Let’s say you get the job. Your new boss will make it their priority to find out what you feel your strengths are, and they will set out to establish a baseline of where you’re starting from with them. Next, they will help you set some personal goals which systematically help you take your strengths from good to great. Third, they will watch how you work. They want to see how you naturally align your values with your habits, and how you instinctively make your weaknesses irrelevant. If you need help with those challenges, they will coach you, and offer you some alternatives.

Do you already know those things about yourself, and how your talents and non-talents affect your learning capacity? How do you learn more about the person you are, and the person you are meant to be?

4. Access to Knowledge
Next, your boss will seek to establish a fairly regular pattern of communication with you, understanding that your access to the knowledge they can provide you with is critically important to your success. They will assure you know about all the channels of information available to you. You will quickly get accustomed to being asked, “What else do you need to know? What’s next? When will you need it? Where have you started to look?” and you will start to develop a habit of always having those answers, those requests, ready for them.

Right now, with the work you are currently doing, and the mission you are currently steeped in delivering, what would your request for New World Knowledge be?

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5. What it Takes to Inspire
When it comes to skills, you will find that your new boss considers your task-related and industry-related skills the easy part, the givens, and the first 3-6 months kind of things. Skills training is certainly important, but it has become grade-school stuff. Beyond that time, skills training is something they will expect you to easily research and set your own next goals and new learning habits for. They themselves will seek to inspire you. They won’t ask you to deliver your best work, they’ll expect it. What they’ll ask you to deliver is inspired work.

So, when are you now inspired? What does it take to have you leaping out of bed in the morning, excited about the day ahead, and hoping that day will never end? Once you have learned a new skill, one that enhances one of your talents, what next action with it lights that fire in your spirit?

6. Relationships, Peers, and Community
Your boss will often talk to you about your professional relationships within the workplace and within your chosen industry, in regard to how you can learn from them, and learn to improve them. Their own relationship with you will be a model you can replicate with others. They understand that in our New World you will love learning collaboratively, and learn what’s most important for your own well-being within your associations with other people. They will take it for granted that what is personal for you is professional, and what is professional for you is personal, understanding the synergy and harmony between the two is a very good thing for you and for everyone concerned.

Whether you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, how do other people factor into your learning habits? How do you learn in the company of others as opposed to when you learn alone, left to your own devices?

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7. Take-Aways and Lessons-Learned
The boss who is today’s best learning coach is never satisfied with purely academic learning, and they don’t want their students to be either. While they’ll acknowledge that any kind of learning will be somehow useful, they mentor their students to make all learning count for something, to have it be adapted in some practical, tangible, and meaningful way. They always have an answer ready for the person who asks, “Why do I have to learn this stuff?” From the litigation-prevention classes HR does, to entertaining clients , business trips and travel to conferences, your boss will ask, “What did you get out of it? What can we use? What was your take-away, and what will be your next action now?” Learning is consequential.

Today’s new student needn’t have their boss ask these questions, for they’ve already asked them of themselves. With each new learning, how good are you at the self-discipline of measuring up your results from the effort? Have you learned to value your time for the precious resource it is?

8. New World Awareness
Let’s see. There’s Web 2.0, Globalization 3.0 and Learning 4.0 … This list would not be complete without these undeniable drivers of possibility, creativity and innovation in this, our “new world.” I do believe the boss of today must be virtually savvy, and must consider your access to electronic communication, collaboration and productivity tools as basic as the timeclock and telephone. Geography must be thought of as opportunity and not boundary, community as both virtual and sensory, and nationality as irrelevant. There are countless examples of jobs today which are still not using web-based tools, but they are jobs, and not the evolving roles of Today’s Learner and tomorrow’s leader.

How electronically and virtually savvy are you, and what kind of “new media” will you be learning to use next? Who is in your learning community, and who will be? Is your boss open to reinventing the nature of work as you both know it?

Are you?


Rosa Say

is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.
Rosa’s most recent learning is with an online collaboration effort called JJLN: the Joyful Jubilant Learning Network. More of her Lifehack.org articles on learning can be found at this index.


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Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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