The good folks over at Webucator contacted me the other day to contribute to their ‘Most Marketable Skill’ campaign of 2014. The cause is close to my heart, and with thirteen years of experience in the working world, I feel knowledgeable enough to share my words of wisdom with graduates who are about to dip a hesitant toe into corporate waters.
I wouldn’t be able to zero in on just one skill, but the following three make it to the top. Note that these don’t just apply to newbies but to seasoned professionals as well, many of whom commit similar mistakes.
Always be ready with prospective solutions
If you have to inform your manager about a problem, always keep at hand a couple of solutions. Also keep in mind which is your preferred solution, because that’s one of the questions your manager will ask you. The other questions she will ask are – the pros and cons of each solution, the dependencies of each, the time taken for each. The only exception to this rule is for issues out of your control, such as you don’t have the required permissions or tools to perform your job.
Never, ever, present your manager with just problems. If you do this consistently, you will be branded as a whiner, and nobody likes whiners.
If you’ve finished the work assigned to you earlier than expected, ask for more work rather than the manager finding out much later.
Instead of looking for something to do, look around and see if you can identify opportunities to improve some part of the work you are doing – either in technical terms or in terms of the process followed. Don’t worry if your proposals are not accepted for whatever reason – your manager will be happy to see you taking the initiative.
Learn how to explain issues briefly
Your lead is juggling multiple tasks at a time. To help them help you, learn to condense the problems you’re facing into crisp bullet points. This skill will hold you in good stead whichever field you work in. While everyone else is unravelling epic tales about their problems, if you can explain yours quickly and to-the-point, you will get a pat on the back. More details can always be shared when your senior demands them of you.
This skill applies to emails as well. When offering a status update in an email, start with a succinct update first and then expand upon the issue at hand. The recipient should be able to glean an idea of the subject without having to read a long story of ambitious proportions.
As you grow on the job, learn to apply the newly-acquired skills regularly. Remember to pick up new ones and don’t get left behind.
What do you think is the most important skill for fresh graduates?