"Hard skills" vary from industry to industry and your mastery of them is what will help you get started in your career. Conversely, "soft skills" are what will ensure your success in any line of work and help you rise through the ranks.
Find out if you've got what it takes to climb the corporate ladder.
1. The Write Stuff
Instant messages and texting via mobile device have become a standard part of business, but the shorthand and lingo used therein will never render formal business writing obsolete. A terrific way to stand out and impress clients and colleagues alike is to craft clear, well-written, and grammatically correct missives. If written communication isn't your strong suit, take a continuing education course at your local college or business school.
2. Lead Meetings That Matter
Are meetings the bane of your existence? You're not alone. However, they remain a necessary evil in corporate America. As you advance in your career, you'll have to call and lead more meetings. Win the admiration and respect of your coworkers by organizing focused and concise meetings. Create a strict agenda. Have hard and fast start and end times. Make each meeting interactive and try to involve every attendee in some way.
3. Excellent Etiquette
Talent cannot be taught, but etiquette can. Open an Emily Post book and find out how to master the art of the business handshake. Learn how to conduct yourself during a business luncheon. Make sure you know how to behave on business trips. And remember to never make an "-ist" of yourself (i.e., a racist, sexist, narcissist, etc.) with an off-handed remark or inappropriate behavior.
4. Negotiation Know-How
You're not afraid to head to the bargaining table. In fact, it's your favorite place. In the words of Kenny Rogers, you know when to hold 'em and you know when to fold 'em -- and you enjoy every minute of it.
Sound like you? If not, learn to love the art of negotiation. Becoming a pro at negotiating means you can always go to bat for yourself and your employer, which usually translates to higher returns for each. Practice negotiating in your everyday life -- with your mechanic, at the store, with friends and family -- to become a natural in no time.
5. Make Powerful Presentations
Presentations may not be part of your current job, but they are sure to be on some level as you move into management.
The best presentations aren't about how impressive your PowerPoint files are; rather, they are about how passionate and persuasive you are. Practice will help you hone your presentation skills so that you're comfortable and able to convey your enthusiasm. If you need extra help, join your local chapter of Toastmasters or take a class in public speaking.