7 Skills of the Successful Careerist — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

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Looking back over my own long career, and the careers of family, friends and Career Opportunities listeners and readers, I have struck upon 7 Skills that can help to insure a successful career for any careerist, regardless of their work industry, their position in a company or their goals as a careerist. These fundamental skills form a solid foundation for any career and, in many ways, also enhance life outside of your career. In this introduction I will give an overview of of the skills and then explore each one further in its own, upcoming, Career Opportunities column.


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The 7 Skills of the Successful Careerist include:


Organization is the ability to control your life and your work as much as possible, knowing that unforeseen events will always crop up. It means tracking the work you need to do, the progress of that work and the flow of work through your life. While tools like ToDo lists, GTD and Agile processes, and calendars can help you organize, organization is an overall mindset the underpins nearly everything else you do. If you are disorganized, work and life can quickly become much more difficult than they need be.


Communication, in all its forms — face-to-face, online, written, spoken — is critical to everyone, regardless of your position or type of work. Poor communication skills will hamper any career. In some cases, poor communication limits your impact and ability to grow in your career. In other cases, it may prevent you from having a successful career at all. Do people frequently misunderstand your words, your actions or your intentions? Surely, some people will have their own communication issues, but if miscommunication is a frequent and common thread in your career, you need to look to your own communication skills, or lack thereof, as the possible source any career issues you might face.


The ability to logically think through any problems you face — both large and small — can unlock great success in your career. Too many people start flailing wildly when faced with problems, having no rhyme or reason to the way they approach the problem. This is odd when you consider that all of us have been exposed to an excellent tool for troubleshooting during our school years — the scientific method.

  • Develop a question
  • Research the questions
  • Construct a hypothesis
  • Test your hypothesis with an experiement
  • Analyze the results
  • Repeat

Applying the scientific method we all learned to problems large and small, can make you seem a troubleshooting genius. Especially to those who have ignored it or forgotten how to use it.


“The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another” — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Too few of us, in the heat of our career, remember what it was like to be new, to be scared, to be ignorant, to be young, to be striving, to be a entry level employee. It is almost as if we lock away our past fears and memories so we are no longer trouble by them. Unfortunately, this can lead us to be callous, petty and often, downright mean, to our fellow coworkers and careerists. Lack of empathy can also hamper relations with your customers, your clients and those you depend on for your career. Developing a sense of empathy with those around you isn’t some “soft skill” that only serves the “creatives” in your business. Rather, it is a deeply important skill and trait that can open doors to people hearts and minds and allow you, your message, your product, your work to resonate more deeply with them.


It has been said that one of the most important traits of any person is to “know what you don’t know.” We are all ignorant on so many things, but when we forget that we are ignorant we can make deep and painful mistakes in our careers and lives. Self-Knowledge means not only understanding our own ignorance, but also taking the time to explore our actions, motivations, wanted, needs and desires so that we can better manage them and use them to achieve great things. If we don’t contemplate our own lives and work, we can find ourselves taking actions that actually harm our careers and lead us away from what we truly want. We are surrounded by a myriad of outside forces pushing us in one direction or another. If we don’t deeply think about what we want, though. we risk living someone else’s life instead of the one we truly desire.


If you are not moneywise — at least in the most basic ways — your life and career will be difficult. You don’t need to be a financial wizard or spend all your waking hours thinking about money, but you must know how to develop a budget, how to prevent overextending your credit, how to make the best purchasing decisions and, most importantly, how to be frugal, especially early in your career. Poor money decisions have a way of haunting you for years, if not the rest of your life. Make as few poor decisions as possible early on, and you will ease your path as you grow older. Sure, we all make poor money decisions on occasion, but we should seek to make as few as possible to prevent them damaging our long-term success.

Flexibility to Change

The world has always been filled with change. From the beginnings of civilization to today’s hyperspeed, Internet-driven culture and it has been proven that those most likely to succeed, in life and career, are those that can be flexible in the face of change. This doesn’t mean following every new fad that arises or flitting from one idea to another, but rather bending with the winds of change and finding ways to turn changes to your advantage. Sure, there will be changes we do not like. We may not wish to participate in this change or another, but neither can we ignore change as it comes rushing upon us. We need to recognize that change is omnipresent from moment to moment, day to day, year to year and our lives and careers will need to adapt to that change. To ignore change is to limit yourself, work and your career.

Look for more on these 7 Skills of the Successful Careerists in upcoming Career Opportunities columns.


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