10 Important professional skills to develop (including tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 October 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People working in all sectors, industries and companies use their professional skills to get promoted, build workplace relationships and grow as professionals. These skills are transferable from one workplace to another. They can help you impress interviewers, get new jobs or set yourself up for advancement in your current workplace. In this article, we define 10 of the best professional skills to enhance your career, plus top tips on how to develop them.

What are professional skills?

Professional skills are the traits and attributes which help you succeed in your career. Professional skills or soft skills are transferable in that they are not specific to any one job. They help you succeed in any role whereas technical and specialised skills are specific to one job, industry or profession. Soft skills, such as communication and time management, can also help professionals work with the people around them and help them manage tasks.

Related: What are hard skills and how do they differ from soft skills?

10 professional skills to develop

Here is a list of the top 10 professional skills or skill categories you'll find useful in every job:

1. Leadership skills

Leadership skills are important for any employee, whether or not you work in a supervisory position. Whatever your role, employers like to see that you're able to help others with their work, motivate people to do their best and effectively collaborate with your colleagues. For managers or supervisors, leadership may also involve knowing when and how to delegate tasks and adjusting your management style according to the personality and working style of each employee. Good managers also lead by setting a good example of the work they'd like to see from their team.

Example: 9 leadership skills to develop

2. Teamwork skills

Almost all jobs involve some degree of collaboration or working alongside other people. You might work as part of a team on a project, or even collaborate with people across different teams or departments. It's important for professionals to be able to work effectively as part of a team, which means completing your own tasks while remaining aware of your colleague's abilities and needs.

Being an effective team member may occasionally mean picking up the slack when another member of your team has a problem or making suggestions to help your teammates complete their work more effectively. It also means being tolerant of other people's working styles, which may be different to yours and figuring out how you can best apply your collective strengths and abilities to the task at hand.

Related: Teamwork skills: definition, types and tips for improvement

3. Organisation skills

Organisational skills are crucial no matter where you work, as they enable you to complete all tasks efficiently and on time. These professional skills include figuring out the best way to manage your time so that you complete everything by a specified deadline. A good organiser might make checklists or detailed plans to make sure they are on top of everything. Some people also choose to use time management or project management software to help them work within time limits.

It's also important that you're able to prioritise tasks and complete them in an appropriate order, starting with the most important. Depending on your role, you may also have to make decisions on the best way to distribute resources, which is another vital organisation skill.

Related: Seven tips to improve your organising and planning skills

4. Communication skills

Everyone communicates as part of their job. This could include greeting and assisting customers in service-oriented roles, delivering presentations for management positions or even simply communicating regularly with your colleagues about ongoing tasks. Communication skills include the ability to adapt your delivery or tone of voice to the task at hand. For example, if you're an IT manager, you might speak differently if you're addressing a supplier who understands the technology you use to the way you'd speak when delivering a company-wide presentation on that technology.

Listening is also an important part of communication. Many roles involve listening attentively to the concerns or problems experienced by customers, employees or stakeholders and responding appropriately. Good listening skills show your employer, colleagues and customers that you respect them and want to help.

Related: 6 fun communication games to improve communication skills

5. Problem-solving skills

All workplaces have some level of unpredictability and managers want to know they can rely on their team to react appropriately when things go wrong. Having good problem-solving skills means that you're able to assess the situation calmly and work with your colleagues to think of possible solutions. Good problem-solvers can also confidently discuss the pros and cons of possible solutions until they find the best one.

The type of problem you have to solve may depend on your role, but almost all roles require you to be analytical in the way you think about problems and assess what caused them. It's also important that you remain calm, even when the situation is stressful.

Related: Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

6. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to how we express our feelings, relate to other people and interpret their actions or behaviours. People with emotional intelligence are good at understanding how others feel based on their actions, speech, body language or behaviours. They can then react appropriately.

Professionals with good emotional intelligence are also self-aware, which means they are aware of their own behaviours, habits and weaknesses. By cultivating this awareness, you can learn to recognise when you are becoming stressed, tired or emotional and take action to improve the situation.

Related: 12 emotional intelligence examples (plus ways to show it at work)

7. Adaptability

Employers are always looking for team members who are flexible and able to adapt their work and behaviours to the situation at hand. Adaptable employees have no problem changing their working style or taking on new roles or responsibilities when challenges or changes to the work environment make this necessary.

People who are adaptable are also adept at listening to and understanding others' perspectives and discussing alternative solutions to a problem. Typically, they can change their opinions if they receive additional information that supports this change.

8. Negotiation and persuasion

It's important for professionals of all types to be able to negotiate with another party and persuade them to come around to their point of view. This can happen in many contexts. For example, a salesperson may use their skills in persuasion to convince clients to make a purchase. Any professional might use those skills to convince a manager to change to a more efficient or effective workflow.

These skills involve the ability to listen to the other person's perspective and come up with valid compromises that allow both parties to get what they want and feel positive about it.

Related: Negotiation skills: definition and examples

9. Ability to work under pressure

While most employers hope to make their workplace a calm and pleasant place for their employees, almost all businesses experience periods when their workload is higher than usual or their team is under additional stress. It's important to show any potential employers that you are able to work well under pressure, keeping calm and working methodically to do the job in the most efficient way possible.

Employers understand everyone gets stressed from time to time, but knowing that you'll be able to remain calm and continue working even in high-stress situations can give them confidence in your ability, making this an important professional skill to develop.

Related: How to stay calm under pressure (and why it's important)

10. Confidence

One of the most important transferable skills you can develop as a professional is a sense of confidence in your own abilities. Professionals who are confident believe in their ability to do their job and project positive feelings about their work to those around them. Having confidence in your work not only helps you to perform better, but it can also help convince your managers or supervisors of your capabilities and may lead to opportunities for advancement in the future.

Related: What is self-confidence and why is it important to have?

Tips for developing your professional skills

Most people pick up professional skills soon after they start working and continue developing them throughout their careers. You can also choose to develop the skills that could help you flourish as a professional. Here is a list of top tips for developing your professional skills:

  • Observe other professionals: By noticing how team members, superiors and other professionals behave in their work environment and interact with others, you can learn from them by trying to emulate positive behaviours.

  • Attend conferences and events: Conferences, workshops and other events can give you the opportunity to develop your professional skills outside of the workplace. Focus on communicating effectively with others and actively listening to what they have to say.

  • Ask questions: People who ask questions during interactions instead of just talking about their own opinions are much more likely to develop soft skills such as communication, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

  • Be receptive to feedback: By seeking and listening to feedback on your work from your colleagues and superiors, you can quickly find out the areas in which you are doing well and where you could improve. This way, you can ensure you are constantly improving your professional skills throughout your career.

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