Top Skills To Learn That Will Help You Professionally

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success and two key focuses are Career Discussions and General Education. While we get trained in our individual disciplines in school, there are other skills that dictate who excels in a particular field in the work world. It’s not always clear when starting our careers what those skills are. The following contributed post is entitled, Top Skills To Learn That Will Help You Professionally.

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So, with many college students embarking on their final year, some of you may have already decided that a career in business is the way for you. Whether it be a career in marketing or sales, there are so many options for you to consider. Now, while college can teach you a lot about say marketing, they don’t seem to really teach you much about the personal skills needed to make it in the world of business.

No matter what it is what you do for a living, you probably want to do it as well as you can. This is true for most people, and yet it can be surprisingly hard to know what kind of skills are involved in achieving and getting ahead in any type of business. In this article, we are going to take a look at some examples of the kinds of skills which are likely to be helpful for anyone who considers themselves to be a true professional and wants to get ahead as best as they can in their chosen career path. If you can master all of these, you will almost certainly be able to improve your career to no end, so it is definitely worth looking into at your earliest convenience.

Negotiation skills

Negotiation is a fine art to master. The official definition is “discussion aimed at meeting an agreement.” But there’s so much more to it than that. Negotiation is all about you coming out on top, while still letting the other person think they’ve grabbed themselves a bargain. This process happens day in, day out in business. Quite a lot of companies now even require their employees to have ongoing negotiations skill training courses to make sure techniques are continually being improved. With deals on the line with most companies, it might be worth doing a little research into the art of negotiation.

Communication

Communication skills are probably one of the most essential skills to have. Whether it be communicating with your colleagues to form working friendships, or with customers to establish a rapport. It’s not all just about face to face communication either. When starting a new job, your employer will be keen to know how your email and telephone skills are. Having a conversation with someone that’s not face to face can be hard, as people can’t always tell the tone you’re trying to take, or the facial cues you’re using to show emotion. Wording an email in a way that comes across informative, yet not condescending is a skill some of you may have already mastered due to being at college. But if you feel you wouldn’t be the best at this, you can always take a look at online guides to help you.

Time management

Time management is one you all would have had to master during college. But in the world of business, it’s slightly more serious. If you’re a little late submitting a smaller assignment, it’s not too much bother. But as you know, when it comes to the big graded assignments, if you submit them late, you may run the risk of losing marks or failing the whole unit. The same sort of applies in business, except if you don’t meet deadlines, it could mean deals lost, customers angry, and more importantly, an irate boss. It’s important to realize that in business, it wouldn’t just be you affected as it would with college, there is often a chain of people affected by lack of time management.

Bookkeeping

Being able to look after your finances is always going to be important for your career and your personal life, and especially if you are high up in any kind of business, even if your job role does not technically have anything to do with the finances of the company. Having a solid understanding of bookkeeping is always going to be hugely valuable, and you might be amazed at just how often it is likely to crop up, so you should consider taking an online course in bookkeeping if you want to learn this particular skill. With that kind of understanding of finances under your belt, it will benefit your life in a considerable number of ways, especially professionally.

Public speaking

It is often said to be the most common fear in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Everyone gets nervous when it comes to public speaking, albeit some more than others, but if you manage to master it, then it could make an enormous difference to how well you do in your professional life. If you’re looking to enter a role in politics or law such as a fraud attorney firm, speaking in front of others is part of the job. Everyone who works professionally knows that there are many occasions when you are called on to speak up publically in the office and so on, and if you are able to do so confidently without worrying about it you should find that it improves your business and your career greatly. Remember this, and consider taking a course to make it easier on yourself. You will find the confidence boost it gives you is incredible too.

Creativity

If you can be creative, it means that you can find dynamic and unique solutions to any given problem. This is something which is going to be useful for many people in many professions, and yet a lot of people find their creativity stifled by the professional settings which could benefit from it. If you are struggling to release your own creativity at work, start small and try to build up as time goes on. You will find that it makes it easier to do so and that you can build your creativity as you go along. This will, in turn, improve your professional life hugely, so it is definitely worthwhile doing.

These are just some of the primary skills that the waiting business world with need from you. Some you may already think you do pretty well, but it’s always worth doing a bit of research to find some of the best techniques and interpersonal skills to make sure you thrive in your new careers.

Making The Most Out Of Your Entrepreneur Skills

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur requires a different set of skills than being an employee. Before becoming an entrepreneur it’s helpful to know what those skills are, and even are starting your business activities, it’s important pay attention to those skills and intentionally grow them. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Making The Most Out Of Your Entrepreneur Skills.

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Life as an entrepreneur is never going to be dull, wouldn’t you agree? Your mind is constantly buzzing with fresh ideas, new approaches to things or even the next step on your business journey. However, there are always you can improve things so that you are living your best entrepreneur life. You may be wondering how you go about doing that? After all, the main impression of any entrepreneur is you either have the gift, or your don’t. However, there are ways you can improve your life as an entrepreneur, making things easier on yourself and even advancing your business in some way.

Many people choose the life of an entrepreneur. They enjoy the thrill they get from creating something out of nothing. They are money magnets, always wheeling and dealing and able to turn their hand at anything. Some people envy them. However, one thing that people don’t think is that the life of an entrepreneur is hard. These things come easily don’t they? But that is where they are wrong. It takes work, dedication, and a lot of hours slugging away to make things a success. The thing that does come easy is the passion. But if you are hoping to make things a little easier on yourself as an entrepreneur then read on to find out more. I have shared with you what I think could help you make more of the entrepreneur skills that you have.

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Improve your general business knowledge and skills

Perhaps you feel that you may have more that you can learn regarding business practices. It might mean that you choose to do things a little different, perhaps having a different approach or process to implement into your own business empire. You could take on a business management course, or even be very specific such as focusing on areas like marketing. Courses such as that can really enhance your skills and make you more confident in new trends and different ways of doing things. Other ways you can improve your knowledge is through networking. Heading to seminars and being around people in a similar industry or share similar interests can really help your business and you.

Be open minded to where technology can help you out

There is so much great technology out there these days, that you definitely need to be open minded to know exactly when and where it can help you out. Let’s start with the basics and the advancement of smartphones and tablets. Now as an entrepreneur you can be on the move and still working wherever you are. You might also want to think about the smoothness of transactions between technology and your servers and this is when server movers could be beneficial to your business. Other advancements in technology has to be in terms of how quick and easy you can reach people nowadays. Thanks to the digital platforms of a website and social media, you can be up and in business i a matter of hours. Having the right strategies in place to ensure that your business is seen, from a decent social media marketing plan to ensuring the content you use is optimised for search engines, can both be extremely beneficial to help you build a successful business life.

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Change your attitude towards business

Your attitude could be your biggest hindrance. It can be your biggest asset or your worst flaw. A bad attitude is never received well. People don’t respond to negativity, and they certainly don’t respond to frustration and disrespectful attitudes. However, an attitude can be your biggest saviour in business, especially if you are prepared to put in the hard work and graft that is required of you. Sometimes you need to be able to ensure that you as a person come off in the best possible light. No matter what you do, first impressions still count for a lot. It is just these days you are able to make a first impression without needing to be face to face with someone. Think about what you say, how you act, and how you portray yourself online to ensure that you do all that you can to have the right attitude.

Have a more positive outlook on life

Positivity breeds positivity and having this sort of outlook on life can really help you as an entrepreneur. Naturally, you should be a fairly positive person anyway, many entrepreneurs are, but it can dwindle from time to time if things aren’t going your way. Many famous entrepreneurs believe in the power of positivity and things like the law of attraction so it might be worth acquainting yourself with some positive affirmations. Ding this daily and having the right affirmations and outlook on life can actually make you a much more productive person in other aspects of your life. It is about being proactive and having the tenacity to go out and get the things that you want out of life.

Look at the nitty-gritty of your business model

Finally, look at the nitty-gritty of your business model and see if there are any improvements to make. Things like a change in social media strategy, a different marketing campaign to sink your teeth into, or even something like a change within ranks in your business model such as offering other team members different roles, so you get a fresh set of eyes on different departments. You may also want to think about the benefits of outsourcing. It can be so tempting to want to do everything yourself, but this can often mean that you don’t complete tasks, or perform them with mediocrity. There is always something you can do, and your business is always there to be improved. Which helps you to grow and succeed in other ways. Doing this regularly can often ensure that you don’t miss out on potential opportunities.

I hope that this helps you to make then most of your entrepreneur skills and to make the most out of what you have available to you for yourself and for your business.

The transferrable skills from a doctoral degree in the basic sciences

I originally published this piece in The Edvocate in the summer of 2015 under a slightly different title. When I set out to earn my Ph.D. in Pharmacology, I wasn’t clear on what I was supposed to be getting from my doctoral research besides the degree itself, and hopefully a job at the end of it all. It turned out that in addition to the expertise gained in my thesis project, there were several other important skills that the University of Michigan’s Department of Pharmacology sought to instill in me and my classmates.

These skills – some of which took time and effort to learn are actually very critical in any of the “Biomedical” sciences that I’ve recently written about: Pharmacology, Toxicology, ADME/Drug Metabolism and Inhalation Toxicology, and others. They’re further critical in any of the ‘Basic’ research sciences.  All Ph.D.s are not the same, nor are all Ph.D. programs the same and you may have learned some or all of these skills in yours. The following piece discusses the transferrable skills scientists in the Basic research sciences receive during their training which are very valuable in: Academia, and both the Public and Private sectors.

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July 8, 2015 marked the ten year anniversary of the earning of my Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy degree) in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan. It was a tremendous accomplishment educationally and scientifically for a kid from Buffalo’s eastside. Coming from my community, it had far reaching effects and implications socially that I didn’t understand at the time.

On June 2, 2015, the University of Michigan’s Department of Pharmacology hosted its annual Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Career Day. The event was designed to expose the department’s current students, to the multiple career options available to them following their doctoral and masters level trainings. As a key component of the day, select alumni (myself included) were invited back and asked to discuss their careers and share their experiences.

Going back to Ann Arbor is always like going home. Six of my most of the most meaningful years were spent there learning about science and life. My graduate advisor for example taught me lasting lessons not only about pharmacological research, but also how to be a professional and how to survive in this world. In a lot of ways, he was like a second father.

While I experienced tremendous growth during graduate school earning my degree, some of the most meaningful lessons about my doctoral degree itself took place after leaving Ann Arbor. College towns like Ann Arbor are unique in that the University is a major part of the town’s culture, and as such there is an unusually high concentration of highly educated individuals there. Needless to say every place isn’t like that, and you don’t realize it until you leave.

Once I left, I discovered that my degree touched people in many different ways. I actually wrote a ten part series for the Examiner titled “Pursing a Ph.D”. One part of the series was dedicated to the social implications of the degree, specifically some of my biological father’s words of wisdom.

“I wouldn’t tell people that you’re a doctor when you first meet them. They’re going to expect you to have certain things and look a certain way.” Upon moving to Albany, NY for my Postdoctoral fellowship, my father gave me this stern recommendation. I didn’t understand why he was encouraging me to keep my great accomplishment a secret, but to make a long story short, he was afraid of other people’s expectations, and there was some validity to his fears.

Our society associates the title of doctor with wealth, no matter what kind of doctor the person is. The late Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of the Millionaire Next Door series discussed in his books that being a high-income professional, and the accumulation of wealth don’t directly correlate. Wealth building involves: sound money management skills, financial literacy, and in some cases delayed gratification – components that not all doctors have.

“I wasn’t aware of Dr. Dunbar’s level of education when I met him so I was unable to address him by his proper title,” said a teacher at a Career Day at a local elementary school in late May. I casually revealed to the class that I earned a Ph.D. but didn’t introduce myself as “Dr. Dunbar”. As best I could, I tried to humbly explain to her class of sixth graders that success, in this case earning a doctorate, is a door that swings both ways.

That is, some people will instinctually be happy for you, celebrate your success and look at you with reverence, while others will unfortunately feel threatened and insecure about it and behave as such. This can be relatives, friends, significant others, coworkers, etc. There are numerous stories I could tell about this both good and bad, but there isn’t enough room in this piece.

In any case let’s circle back to the University of Michigan’s Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Career Day. What does having a doctorate in the basic sciences actually mean, and what does it actually empower one to do particularly in the sciences? As the lone government Regulatory Scientist at the Career Day, I interestingly drew the first time slot for the morning speakers.

I had no idea what my peers were going to talk about, but surprisingly most of our talks shared similar core themes. Each of us in our own way, communicated that in addition to becoming experts of our thesis projects, in my case the “Ubiquitination and Proteasomal Degradation of Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase”, there were a host of other skills that we had all learned that were applicable to our current careers and other areas, particularly the Public and Private sectors. Among them were:

• Critical thinking/Problem solving skills
• The ability to multi-task, organize and coordinate multiple projects at one time
• The ability to write clearly
• The ability to speak and present clearly
• The ability to work on teams
• The ability to adapt and understand new systems

My classmates had all gone on to do some very impressive things. Each of us worked on research projects in the areas of: Cardiovascular Pharmacology, Receptor Pharmacology, and Drug Metabolism, just to name a few. However after graduation, not everyone had taken the traditional path of becoming tenure-track academic researchers.

Some had gone on to: work in the pharmaceutical industry, start their own companies, become consultants, become academic professors or administrators (at small teaching colleges), or science advocates. Our varying careers spoke in part to our department’s openness to prepare its students for the potential for other careers, in addition to the versatility of the skills that we had acquired. See my Pharmacology blog post to get a feel for just how vast the field is.

In summary, earning any doctorate whether it be in the sciences or the humanities is a tremendous accomplishment. That being said, it’s what one does with the skills they’ve acquired during their thesis research that makes them great, not the degree itself. In the sciences, in addition to mastery of one’s area of expertise there a core set of skills learned. And it is these skills that make that person exceptional no matter which field they go into.

I’m going to end this differently than the original piece by saying that with a simple Google search, the publications I proudly generated during my research days I believe are all still available online for those curious individuals. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:

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If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Are we losing our soft skills due to technology?

One of the principles of my blog is “Critical/Objective Thought” meaning that I usually try to see things from all angles as opposed to just one.  I might lose some readers here, but yes I do switch between CNN and Fox News when trying to understand what’s happening politically and in current events.  Recently Tucker Carlson interviewed Mike Rowe of the show “Dirty Jobs”.  I support Rowe and his messages about all jobs being necessary and important (even the dirty ones), and that our society has over glamorized college and the pursuit of white-collar jobs at the expense of trades, and blue-collar jobs.

Towards the end of their discussion, Carlson and Rowe talked about the growing use of Emojis which have become a very, very popular form of digital communication using symbols as opposed to complete or even truncated words (great vs gr8 for example).  Rowe said something very interesting which is that the use of these Emojis (and social media) may be eroding the “Soft Skills” in our society – particularly for individuals seeking employment which involves talking with potential employers during face to face interviews, and where understanding the nuances and complexities of both verbal and nonverbal communication is highly advantageous.  He further said that he would encourage individuals looking for jobs these days (some for the first time) to develop their Soft Skills.

According to Investopedia, “Soft Skills” are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people.  Just off the top of my head, Soft Skills involve being able to speak clearly, listen and also understand the nuances of verbal and non-verbal communication – making eye contact with other individuals, and being able to give more than one word answers for example.  It can also involve being able to read someone’s mood by the answers they give and don’t give, or simply their body language.  Again these are important on job interviews.

But a job interview is just getting your foot in the door.  What about staying at that position?  Once hired, soft skills can make all of the difference in the world in terms of excelling in that particular position and helping an organization thrive – particularly when achieving the mission involves working on teams.  In any organization there are personalities to work with and juggle which can affect the mission.  Some personalities work well together while others clash.  There are rare individuals who get along with everyone.  Personality clashes and petty bickering can cause production to grind to a screeching halt to the detriment of that organization.  Soft kills are critical in navigating interpersonal issues and conflict resolution.

Emotional Intelligence” can fall under soft skills.  According to Psychology Today, Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.  The other are explanations for it, but I tend to think of it in terms of forming alliances, and not burning bridges.  This involves awareness of self and of others – understanding what drives your colleagues, understanding current and past rivalries between colleagues, understanding who is on the fast track towards promotion, and also being more emotionally proactive and less reactive in adverse circumstances, particularly in groups – meetings for example.  A good example of Emotional Intelligence is being happy for a newly promoted colleague as opposed to being outwardly bitter – or at least not openly showing your disappointment and letting it affect your performance.

Where does one learn soft skills?  We actually learn our soft skills from a multitude of places.  Here I will defer to Dr. Ralph G. Perrino’s essay titled, “The Socialization Process and Its Impact on Children and Learning”.  In his essay Dr. Perrino, a veteran educator, describes the most profound external forces on the development of children and teens all of which have lingering effects well into adulthood:

  • The family from which one’s “Ascribed” status is derived;
  • Attendances at a public school or an exclusive, elite private school;
  • The composition of peer groups;
  • Exposure to mass culture and media;
  • Involvement in voluntary groups and;
  • Religious affiliation/spirituality.

Soft skills can further be learned and improved through reading and formal trainings.  One of my favorite trainings offered through my job is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  Soft skills can also be learned through in depth discussions with mentors – particularly those in leadership positions with years and years of experience leading others.  Lastly, Soft skills can be learned just by observing others.

I’ll close by going back to Mike Rowe’s question.  Is technology negatively impacting our soft skills?  I would say that it can.  In some instances, communication over email and or text-messaging can be easily misunderstood which is particularly detrimental when there are conflicts to be worked out.  Digitally you can’t look into someone’s eyes, see their body language, or gauge the dynamics of a group in real time.  These are all things for “Millenials” and subsequent generations to be aware of.  With the new technologies that captains of industry such as Elon Musk are working on, and with the coming of Artificial Intelligence, this is something to be very cognizant of for students, educators, employees and employers alike.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

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If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.