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5 Skills Every Successful Person Needs

Topics: Career Advice
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The value of hard skills is easy to quantify: if you can learn X skill and get Y raise, you have a pretty good sense of how much that class or certification was worth.

Soft skills are trickier. Hiring managers routinely rank them among the skills lacking in new grads and experienced workers alike, but you’d be hard-pressed to put a dollar sign on attention to detail or problem-solving.

There’s a better way to think of the value of these interpersonal skills: it’s less about the immediate value they generate during a job interview process, and more about what they bring to your career as a whole, over time. Learning how to deal with people will help you build stronger professional relationships, and that will ultimately make you more successful in the long run — not to mention, happier in your job.

These are just a few of the skills to develop, for long-term success:

1. Negotiation

Here’s a soft skill that definitely adds to your bottom line: negotiation. The fact is, most people don’t negotiate salary — 57 percent of respondents to PayScale’s survey said they’d never negotiated in their current field. But, negotiation pays off: 75 percent of those who asked received some sort of pay increase.

Starting from scratch? Get your free salary report and then use PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide to formulate a plan.

2. Learning From Mistakes

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything,” said John Wooden, a Hall-of-Fame basketball player and coach.

There’s no such thing as a career free of mistakes. What matters is what you do after you make a mistake. Getting comfortable with imperfection is the first step. Then you can focus on learning how to be accountable and move on.

3. Asking for Help

Most people would probably prefer to think of themselves as being self-sufficient, but no one succeeds without help. Think of every famous celebrity, mogul, entrepreneur, artist, inventor — they all have vast networks of connections and mentors to help them succeed (and recover from failure).

It’s uncomfortable to admit that you don’t know something or that you can’t do everything, but it’s essential to practice doing so. You might be surprised at how willing your friends and colleagues are to help you out, especially if they get to exercise their skills and expertise in the process.

4. Communication Skills

Good communication isn’t just about expressing yourself clearly; it’s also about being able to receive and understand other people’s messages. That means learning how to listen, clarify what you’ve heard and keep an open mind.

5. Storytelling

Whether you’re trying to land a job, get a promotion or just persuade your teammates to back your latest project, storytelling skills can help you make your case.

“Persuasion is the centerpiece of business activity,” says screenwriter Robert McKee in an interview at Harvard Business Review. “Trying to convince people with logic is tough for two reasons. One is they are arguing with you in their heads while you are making your argument. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.”

Want to be a better storyteller? This Fast Company piece offers 10 tips, including: Keep it short, have a clear message and make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Above all, think about the stories you love the best, when you’re reading or watching or listening. Tell the story that would move you to act.

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What other skills would you add to this list? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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