January is always a great time to both reflect on the previous year and start thinking what you want your career to look like in the year ahead.
One of the best ways to succeed is to look at the skills that you can improve. While every job requires a different set of abilities, particularly when it comes to hard, technical skills, the last two years have highlighted certain soft skills that may need more attention.
The new remote world has changed the way many of us work, which means not only are soft skills such as communication and creativity more important, but the way in which we exhibit or demonstrate these skills is changing too.
It’s always important to look at how your communication skills could be improved, not matter what stage you’re at in your career.
How can you get across your message best in an email? How can you best explain what you need from your team? How best can you convey the information in a presentation?
These are all skills that can be constantly worked on and improved, but more than ever, they need to be re-examined for a remote or hybrid work setting. Evaluate your own methods of communication and look at ways for them to be improved.
Being able to take initiative has always been an important skill, but remote working has made it even more essential.
When you’re working on your own, either in your own home office or as part of the deskless workforce, you need to be able to work autonomously without the safety net of having your manager sitting a few desks away.
Being able to show how you can work autonomously or take initiative will go down well with your current employer and making conscious efforts to improve these abilities will help you prove that you have this skill when going for future jobs.
Automation in the workplace continues to rise, taking many of the monotonous jobs away from us and freeing up more time for creativity and innovative thinking.
But it can be hard to kick the habit of getting bogged down with several little tasks and actually giving yourself space and time to think. When you have a to-do list full of daily tasks it’s far too easy to erode away the hours and leave no room for creativity.
But it’s a muscle that needs to be flexed and honed regularly in order to get its full potential, and as soft, human skills such as innovative thinking become more important in the future of work, it’s important to give it the time it needs.
Start by simply blocking off a set amount of time in the week that is non-negotiable and immovable to allow your brain to think freely.
As with the other soft skills on this list, time management has never not been an important skill for workers to have. However, without the visibility crutch that was the physical office, managers now have to trust their employees more than ever and no that they’re able to manage their time well.
This doesn’t just apply to the work getting done either. There have been plenty of reports and surveys over the last two years that have shown a challenge to remote working is centred around overworking, burnout and the blurred lines between their home life and their work life.
If this is something you have struggled with during the pandemic, make this the year you improve your time management skills for your own work-life balance and mental health. Put your lunch break on your to-do list. Set alarms for breaks or when it’s time to log off. Remember, there are only so many hours in the day.
Learn something new
While the other skills can be of great benefit to any work situation, it’s also important to take a look at the more specific skills you can improve in your career.
For software engineers and developers, it might be about learning a new coding language. For business intelligence professionals it might be getting to grips with data visualisation tools. In a large pharma company, you might be in the manufacturing area and want to learn more about quality control.
Every business, sector and role is different but take some time this year to hone in on a brand new tangible skill you’d like to learn or an area of the business you’d like to explore and make that your mission. That way, by the end of the year, not only will you have improved many of your soft skills, but you’ll have added something new to your CV.
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