Important business skills for new graduates
Professional skills will help you kick off and manage a successful career, no matter what industry you’re in.
Whether you’re launching a career as a writer, engineer, teacher, or just about anything else, there are certain business skills that every professional needs to have in order to be successful. The good news is, you probably already have some—and the rest are easily learned.
Bonus points: These business skills can also help you in the future when you’re looking to get a promotion or boost your appeal to potential employers.
Why they’re important: You need to know how and when to be persuasive and get what you want.
Negotiating skills will come in handy in many professional situations, but especially when it’s time to ask for a raise or secure a great job offer.
Becoming a good negotiator early on in your career is important, since “most salary increases are predicated on earlier salaries,” says Robin Pinkley, co-author of Get Paid What You're Worth: The Expert Negotiators' Guide to Salary and Compensation.
Negotiating skills can also help you barter for other job perks and benefits, such as a signing bonus, flexible work schedule, or relocation assistance.
How to develop them: To lay the groundwork for salary negotiations, you need to arm yourself with data. How much, on average, does someone with your education, skills, and years of experience get paid in your industry?
Do your due diligence; ask mentors about salary expectations and research online to determine how much you’re worth. Then, use your findings to support your request.
Time management skills
Why they’re important: Time is money—period. You need to learn how to maximize your productivity.
“The quality of your work is obviously important, but so is volume,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out. “Managers want to see if you get good work, and a lot of it, done.” Developing time management skills will also prevent you from wasting energy on low-value tasks.
How to develop them: To help you determine where to funnel your focus, get clear expectations from your manager of deadlines and how success will be measured. Once have that information, you can focus on prioritizing your workload and checking off tasks from your to-do list.
Public speaking skills
Why they’re important: Public speaking skills are crucial to establishing yourself as a competent, likeable, and approachable individual.
“Whether you’re in front of a large audience or in front of a small team, your ability to communicate your message and your vision clearly is critical,” says Cliff Kennedy, a public speaking coach and founder of San Francisco-based Kennedy Speech Communications.
You need to be a presence, not just a drone that executes work.
How to develop them: Use presentations at team meetings to sharpen your public speaking skills. Tend to get pre-presentation jitters? Remember: “you’re the one in control of what you say, how you say it, and how your audience receives the information,” says Kennedy. Make sure you ask your boss for feedback so that you can improve for future presentations.
To get practice outside the office consider joining Toastmasters, a national organization that offers public speaking workshops.
Why they’re important: To be a valuable employee who can compete with the very best (both for your own career’s benefit and the benefit of your company), you must keep your pulse on changes in your industry, says business coach Rachel Ritlop.
How to develop them: Ritlop recommends a number of ways to stay informed, including the following:
- Participate in industry groups and forums on social media
- Follow thought leaders on social media
- Set up Google Alerts for news about competitors
- Listen to industry podcasts
- Sign up for industry newsletters
- Subscribe to trade publications
- Join professional associations
- Attend industry conferences
Teamwork and people skills
Why they’re important: Everyone loves a team player who’s ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice. Be that person.
Similarly, you need to get along well with co-workers so that you can collaborate on projects. Therefore, it makes sense that 83% of employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said teamwork is a top priority when assessing entry-level job candidates.
How to develop them: Learn to be a good listener who seeks to diffuse tension and stress at work by focusing on end results, not emotions. And don’t wait for co-workers to ask for help—offer it willingly.
Don’t view relationships with co-workers as transactional, says Ritlop. Take a genuine interest in your peers by getting to know them outside of work—either over lunch or happy hour.
Also, contribute to your team by sharing knowledge that you learn at conferences, networking events, or just interesting tidbits you pick up while reading industry news. Says Ritlop: “All good work relationships are reciprocal.”