5 underrated work skills

Amy Hamilton Chadwick
5 underrated work skills

Your CV probably lists how hardworking you are, all your qualifications and your technical abilities in your industry. But there are some skills which rarely make it onto our resumes even though they can be extremely important when it comes to forging a successful career.

Pat Cody, principal advisor at Careers New Zealand, has been involved with surveys of local employers about the kinds of skills they’re seeking. Kiwi bosses don’t just want industry-specific skills, they’re also looking for abilities that established employees often overlook.

Often these are the skills that help you work effectively with all kinds of other people, across platforms and projects – it’s all about collaboration, says Cody.


Be curious and open-minded

Long-standing employees can have the best technical skills in the business, but they also run the risk of becoming “wooden” in their thinking, as Cody puts it.

Do you often find yourself thinking ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ Or believe that what’s always worked the past never needs to be changed? You run the risk of hitting a promotional ceiling and becoming stuck.

“You need to have an openness to new ways of doing things and be open to learning,” he says.

“Coupled with that is being curious – it’s an essential ingredient. It’s okay to have a position about the best way to do things, but you also need to have a curiosity about other ideas.”


Be positive

We all have bad days, and nobody expects you to bottle everything up, but you need to avoid taking your stress out on your work, your clients or your colleagues.

Regularly bringing extra drama and stress into the workplace will make it harder for you to collaborate and innovate successfully.

“The environments we’re operating in now, they’re a little bit more stressful with more urgency and a lot more information bubbling around,” says Cody.

“If you take the joy of working with someone out? If they’re just hard work? It kills innovation.”


Write warm emails

One of the most important areas for improvement among New Zealand workers is written communication, particularly emails – partly, Cody points out, because emails have a tendency to be read in a colder tone than they’re written.

Cultural differences can result in confusion on an email: New Zealanders have an informal way of talking which doesn’t always translate well into the written word for people who are unfamiliar with our style.


Listen and understand

“Communication is multi-dimensional, and it’s not a one-way process,” says Cody.

He says alongside written communication, we sometimes fall down on listening to others.

Think about “hearing someone and understanding why they’re holding that position. If you don’t grapple with that, you’re a radio station, spitting out your own thoughts.

“It’s critical that people feel heard and understood; even if it didn’t go their way they say, ‘Okay at least I was heard’.”


Be tech savvy

When you don’t work directly in a tech sector, it’s tempting to think that your job isn’t about technology. But that’s a dangerously short-sighted approach.

These days everyone’s job is about technology, even if it’s indirectly. Fail to keep up and you’re in danger of being superseded by the next generation – our technological abilities peak at age 15, according to one report

“Disruptive technology: you can’t put it back in its box,” Cody says. “Imagine a person who is reasonably techno-savvy, curious, a learner, and who puts themselves forward – the employability of that person is massive.

“Isn’t work about solving problems? You want to be working with technology rather than being replaced by it.” 

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