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August 2, 2022

Career Development

5 Skill Sets That Set Top Employees Apart

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In today's evolving and uncertain job market, ensuring you have the right skill sets is the best way to stand out among the competition. But do you know which skills are most in demand?

It's easy to assume that employers want individuals with highly adept technological or hard skills, but research shows this is not the case. Communication, perseverance, emotional intelligence, and a growth mindset are just some of the underappreciated attributes associated with greater employee growth and promotion. Here are five skill sets that set top employees apart.

1. Soft Skills

Collaboration, critical thinking, perseverance, and communication are all soft skills that help people excel at work. They are not always easy to teach but are easy to identify in those who make the best co-workers, managers, and supervisors.

Alexandra Levit, author of Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future, posits that while most people are hired for their technical abilities, it is their soft skills that give them "career durability." She also notes soft skills allow employees to be resilient and reinvent themselves as jobs and careers change in the future.

According to a report by Monster, the most sought-after soft skills for employers are:

  • Dependability
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Flexibility and problem-solving

While it's always possible to learn new technical skills, demonstrating excellence in these harder-to-train soft skill areas will help you excel naturally.

2. Education

While starting salaries for many jobs have increased, without a college degree, most employees will hit a ceiling they cannot break through.

Employers still place a high value on a college degree, which is the ticket to higher-level and higher-paying jobs. According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities, 82 percent of business executives and 75 percent of hiring managers believe completing a college education is very important or essential.

Despite this, only 40 percent of all adults have a college degree, so earning your degree provides a competitive advantage over other applicants.

In some professions, higher-level degrees, such as a master's or MBA, are required to attain higher levels of employment and pay. For example, in most districts, teachers who earn a master's in education degree receive an automatic salary increase. Many companies also require an MBA for their company leaders and highest-paid positions.

successful businesswoman

3. Emotional Intelligence

While emotional intelligence (EQ) can be difficult to describe, Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, believes EQ is what sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Bradberry notes EQ is that "something" in each of us that is a bit intangible but affects how people manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions. EQ also includes the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and to use this awareness to manage behaviors and relationships.

Bradberry's research suggests EQ is the strongest predictor of job performance. He found that 90 percent of top performers score high in emotional intelligence. In fact, Bradberry claims individuals with a high natural degree of EQ average $29,000 more per year than others. Some psychologists believe EQ is a skill set that can be learned and improved.

4. Growth Mindset

If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it's that change is inevitable. This is bad news for those who see challenges and changes as problems—but great news for those with a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the idea that abilities and traits are not fixed and that individuals can practice and adopt a new way of thinking. It stands to reason, then, that even if you do not currently have a growth mindset, you can develop this skill.

According to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, those who possess a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities and are eager to learn and grow. Employees with a growth mindset also tend to be risk-takers; they are open to feedback and view challenges as opportunities to learn and develop new skills. These employees often make the best leaders, too.

5. Strategic Thinking

Top employees don't wait for something to happen—they make it happen. When it comes to moving up a career ladder, employers want people who are creative and innovative. They seek employees who have new ideas and can develop strategic solutions to problems.

As noted in Harvard Business Review, your ability to develop and execute strategy may take some boldness but will pay off in the end. Making decisions is one of the best ways to demonstrate your strategic thinking skills and ability to take on more responsibility.

Employers are looking for leaders with creative and innovative ideas. Thoughtfully considering ideas for improvement and presenting an execution plan shows employers you have confidence and initiative. It also shows you are committed to the company and have a vested interest in its success, which is likely to get you promoted.

The skills to excel and grow in your career are all within your reach. Developing these skill sets and showing employers you've got what it takes will launch your career to the next level.

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