8 Essential Skills for Career Success Not Taught in Schools

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By Jacob Maslow

We’ve gathered insights from CEOs and founders to help you identify the skills crucial for career success that aren’t taught in schools. From understanding the importance of emotional intelligence as an overlooked skill to mastering the art of negotiation to defend your professional interests, here are the top eight skills these leaders believe are essential for success.

  • Emotional Intelligence: An Overlooked Skill
  • Learning from Failure: A Path to Success
  • Networking: A Key to Career Progression
  • Interpersonal Communication: Vital for Workplace Success
  • Adaptability: A Must-Have in the Digital Age
  • Self-Advocacy: Essential for Career Advancement
  • Grit: The Determination for Career Success
  • Negotiation: Defending Your Professional Interests

1. Emotional Intelligence: An Overlooked Skill

From a college admission expert’s perspective, one pivotal skill often overlooked in formal education is Emotional Intelligence (EQ). While schools focus on academic excellence, they frequently sideline the importance of emotional awareness and regulation.

EQ is the capacity to understand and manage our emotions, empathize with others’ feelings, and navigate social complexities. It’s fundamental in the workplace, fostering better collaboration, improving leadership, and enhancing conflict resolution. Despite its significance, EQ isn’t traditionally taught in schools, making it an area many must self-educate in to succeed professionally.

Eric Eng, Admission Expert, Founder, CEO, AdmissionSight

2. Learning from Failure: A Path to Success

Learning from failure is essential for achieving long-term success in one’s career, yet it’s a lesson rarely taught in traditional education. In the real world, setbacks are unavoidable, and the ability to learn from them, adapt, and persevere distinguishes truly successful people.

Understanding that failure is not the end but a path to personal growth fosters resilience, creativity, and innovation. It teaches us to adjust our strategies, improve our skills, and tackle challenges with a fresh perspective. Learning from failure isn’t just about bouncing back; it’s about making progress after failure, equipped with valuable experience and a mindset ready for success.

Adebayo Samson, Founder, Academicful

3. Networking: A Key to Career Progression

Networking! This skill isn’t taught in school, but it’s essential to career success. The better we become at networking and building professional networks, the faster we can find new roles or roles that better fit us.

By doing so, it positively impacts our career path and trajectory. We can call on our network because we don’t have to rely on job boards. This is a key skill that can be utilized whether in a job search or not, and we should learn it early on to boost career success.

Valerie Martinelli, MPA, CEO, Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC

4. Interpersonal Communication: Vital for Workplace Success

Effective interpersonal communication is an essential skill for career success that is seldom taught in institutions. While academic institutions emphasize subject matter knowledge, soft skills such as active listening, empathy, conflict resolution, and collaboration are equally important in the workplace.

In our office, practical communication skills are essential. To provide quality care, our entire team must explain complex procedures, address patient concerns, and work cohesively. These skills aid in establishing rapport with patients and fostering a positive work environment.

Valuable skills that contribute to professional success, such as navigating diverse personalities, resolving conflicts diplomatically, and communicating ideas clearly, are typically acquired through practical experience and self-development rather than formal education.

Dr. Jennifer Silver, CEO, Owner and Dentist, MACLEOD TRAIL DENTAL

5. Adaptability: A Must-Have in the Digital Age

The ability to adapt to rapidly changing digital trends, algorithms, and technologies is an absolute must-have in navigating the fast-paced world of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. We constantly adapt our strategies to keep up with the evolving landscape of crypto tax laws and regulations.

This ability to adapt and learn on the fly isn’t typically taught in a traditional classroom setting. Still, it’s a skill that can make a significant difference in today’s digital age. So, my advice to anyone looking to succeed in their career is to cultivate this skill of adaptability. It will help you stay relevant in your field. It will open up new opportunities for growth and innovation.

David Kemmerer, Co-Founder and CEO, CoinLedger

6. Self-Advocacy: Essential for Career Advancement

Knowing how to advocate for yourself—whether negotiating your salary, requesting a promotion, or pitching improvements to enhance your job performance—is essential for career success that isn’t taught in schools.

Doing your job well is not enough for career success. After college, I spent several frustrating years seeing coworkers who didn’t work as hard receive better pay and titles until I realized I needed to promote myself as they did.

My career started to take off after I applied what I learned from attending an assertive training seminar and a class about being a good first-time manager. It has led to working for a digital media company in the insurance industry, where I have been promoted several times in my three years with them.

Michelle Robbins, Licensed Insurance Agent, Clearsurance.com

7. Grit: The Determination for Career Success

Grit is an essential skill for career success that schools can’t teach. Career success is impossible without grit, determination, and strength of character that enables you to learn valuable lessons from failure.

Schools don’t (and can’t) teach grit because their goal is to get each student through to a diploma or degree to maximize their funding or profit. So, they design many of their courses with that goal, often ensuring there’s a way to pass without truly learning the concepts they teach. Individuals within the system may prioritize character development, but ultimately, the dollars win.

Eva Chan, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Senior Content Specialist, Resume Genius

8. Negotiation: Defending Your Professional Interests

Negotiation skills are essential for career success but aren’t taught in schools. While schools may address communication skills, they often do not provide the practical training necessary to excel in negotiation, and it’s a shame!

In the professional world, negotiations are essential to defend your interests and not let yourself be pushed around. Without negotiation skills, asking for a better salary, discussing contracts, and resolving conflicts becomes a nightmare.

Nathan Brunner, CEO, Salarship

Tips and Additional Guidance for Harnessing Essential Skills for Career Success

Wow, what an enriching list of essential skills for career success, each of which comes straight from the experts! But knowing is only half the battle. How do you put these skills into practice? Let’s dive into that.

1.  Emotional Intelligence: Building Blocks for a Balanced Career

Tips for Improving Emotional Intelligence

  • Start by practicing mindfulness. Being aware of your emotions helps you manage them better.
  • Read people’s body language and respond appropriately.
  • Seek feedback from trusted colleagues on your emotional intelligence and be open to growth.

Further Reading

  • “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
  • Online courses in emotional intelligence

2.  Learning from Failure: Making it a Stepping Stone

Ways to Learn from Failure

  • Document what went wrong and how you can avoid it next time.
  • Share your experience with mentors or trusted colleagues to gain additional insights.
  • Forgive yourself. Seriously, it’s crucial for moving forward.

Further Reading

  • “Black Box Thinking” by Matthew Syed
  • TED Talks on failure and resilience

3.   Networking: Your Hidden Career Elevator

Networking Strategies

  • Attend industry-specific events.
  • Engage on professional platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Nurture relationships; don’t just collect contacts.

Further Reading

  • “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi
  • Webinars on effective networking techniques

4.  Interpersonal Communication: The Underpinning of Career Success

Communication Skill Builders

  • Work on active listening.
  • Practice empathy; try to understand before being understood.
  • Master the art of small talk; it can lead to big opportunities.

Further Reading

  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
  • Online courses on effective communication

5.  Adaptability: The New Must-Have Skill

Tips to Stay Adaptable

  • Stay updated with industry trends.
  • Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Develop problem-solving skills.

Further Reading

  • “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson
  • Articles and case studies on change management

6.  Self-Advocacy: The Art of Standing Up for Yourself

How to Advocate for Yourself

  • Know your worth and have the data to back it up.
  • Build a personal brand within your organization.
  • Regularly update your resume and LinkedIn, even when you’re not job hunting.

Further Reading

  • “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown
  • Workshops on personal branding

7.  Grit: It’s More than Just Willpower

Cultivating Grit

  • Set long-term goals and create a roadmap.
  • Embrace challenges as growth opportunities.
  • Be persistent but also know when to pivot.

Further Reading

  • “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
  • Podcasts on developing mental toughness

8.  Negotiation: More Than Just Numbers

Negotiation Tactics

  • Do your homework; know what you’re worth in your industry.
  • Practice active listening during negotiations.
  • Have a “BATNA” (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

Further Reading

  • “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury
  • Online courses focusing on negotiation skills

There you have it—ways to improve the eight essential skills for career success not taught in schools. Now, what are you waiting for? Go out there and put these expert tips to good use!

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