Job Skills Everyone Should Have

I was talking to Greg yesterday about a discussion he was having with Chris about job skills every employee should have.

Okay, so I don’t remember exactly which ones they came up with, but I know what my thoughts are, so here’s a list of skills I think everyone should have when it comes to the workplace:

Disagree and Commit (or, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it”): You will very rarely be on a project involving more than one person and come to consensus on how the project will go. There will be times when the project leaders ask for your opinion, you provide it, and you’re overruled. Once the decision is made on a direction to go, once all parties have been heard and it’s been decided, you don’t have to like the decision, you just have to follow it. Fighting it every step of the way and continuing to bring decisions back to the table when they’ve already been made is entirely counterproductive. (My personal corollary to this one is that I retain the right to complain about it all I want, but I’ll still go with the flow. Maybe that’s still a tiny bit counterproductive, but it’s the only way I’ll be okay with doing something I disagree with.)

Commitment Follow-through: If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t tell people in the meeting that you’re on top of something when you’re not. If you aren’t going to be able to meet the commitment you made, at least notify people early on so a contingency plan can be arrived at. If people are counting on you to get stuff done and you’ve committed to it, do your best to get it done.

Ownership and Personal Pride: When you’re working on a project, give it your all. Take ownership of the thing (yeah, “ownership” is one of those buzzwords) and have a little pride about it. The way your end of the project turns out reflects on how people see your quality of work. Have a little pride and do a good job. “Good enough” is not always good enough.

Writing 101: Everyone should know how to write with, at a minimum, reasonable grammar and correct punctuation. I’ll give a little on the spelling, but you should know at least how to spell simple words. Learn the difference between “its” and “it’s.” Know when to use “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” Figure out how to use apostrophes and commas. Knowing how to write (say, at an eighth grade level?) will help you to better convey your ideas and to be better understood.

Phone Etiquette: Not the “greetings and salutations” portion of phone etiquette, but other stuff, like “when it’s okay to use the speakerphone” or “how to leave a voicemail message.” For example, just because you have a speakerphone doesn’t mean you should call everyone on it. It’s still okay to use the handset (or headset). (Oh, and it is never okay to get your voicemail over the speakerphone, particularly if you’re in a cubicle environment.)

Under-promise and Over-deliver: You’ll come to find that when you’re working on a project, if you say it’ll take 5 days and it takes 10, that’s not so good. That’s what makes a project go over schedule and over budget. Plan for contingencies and worst-case scenarios. Provide time and budget estimates for both, but expect to take the longer amount of time. If you come in ahead of schedule and under budget, that’s a pleasant surprise; if you come in late and over budget, you’ll be disappointing folks at the least. I’m not recommending you sandbag and double every time estimate, but the concept of under-promise and over-deliver is a good one to maintain.

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