January 2, 2016

The new year usually brings a reinvigorated sense of opportunity as well as motivation for self-improvement. Use this feeling to create a plan for adding skills to their repertoire or refining the ones you already have. But most importantly, actually follow through!

Here are three soft skills and three hard (technical) skills for professionals to consider developing along with ideas on how to begin the process:

Soft Skills

1) Written Communication

As professionals, we have all acquired this core skill in varying degrees. Yet, what if your writing was not only better at describing, explaining or persuading but you could accomplish these tasks faster and without error?


  • For fluidity, practice no stress writing such as a daily journal.
  • For the fundamentals, consider enrolling in an online or on-campus course.
  • For growth, read from the best writers.

2) Presenting 

Speech and presentation giving is a task that many dread if not try to avoid entirely and it is consistently rated as a top fear among people. However, it doesn’t have to be and chances are your job will periodically require this task. And remember, what happens to a great idea that cannot be conveyed well?


  • Join your local Toastmasters: a non-profit organization devoted to public speaking.
  • Know your tools (e.g. Powerpoint, Keynote).

3) Complex Problem Solving 

This is the process of identifying a problem, critically reviewing relevant information and then, developing and implementing a solution. Your job centers on this task. And although you continually build on the skills directly related to solving your job’s specific problems, problem solving is a general skill in of itself that can be learned and improved upon.


Hard (Technical) Skills

1) Computer Literacy

It is unavoidable –  you must be proficient with computer systems. Computers are ubiquitous in business and a powerful tool at your disposal. Whether you have only just enough knowledge to get by or you are a power user, developing this skill further will allow for greater productivity.


  • Explore your computer.
  • Google your questions.
  • Purchase a guide book and walk through it with your own computer.
  • Take a course on-campus or try an online course such as study.com’s Business 109: Intro to Computing. You can also find more advanced intro courses that are programming oriented from the following organizations:

2) Basic Web Development and Management

Websites and web applications are an integral part of almost every business in the world. Because of this, the demand for this skill only continues to grow and many individuals are required to interact with these technologies at least to some degree. Even if you do not have any interaction, this skill promotes employability and allows you to find creative web based solutions when combined with other forms of expertise.


3) Microsoft Office Professional Software Suite (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access) 

Microsoft office remains the most popular business productivity software. Though it is used by countless people on a daily basis, there are few who are proficient with everything in the Office Professional suite. The ability to fully use this software can dramatically improve your workflow, task completion rate and project quality. Additionally, Microsoft is creating new product offerings for business that are being deployed on a mass scale. Keeping up with these developments can not only raise your employability but give you an edge in many professional settings.




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