What does it mean to be a professional? What skills do professionals need to have? A professional is someone who possesses specialized knowledge, often in addition to having completed some focused academic preparation (such as high school or college or technical classes) for their career. Teachers, lawyers, engineers, physicians, contractors, IT workers, and employees from countless other industries are considered professionals.
Beyond the abilities and knowledge needed for each specific profession, professionals in almost every discipline need a particular set of qualities, skills, and behaviors.
These are primarily soft skills—intangible skills that help you interact and get along well with others. In some cases, employers may seek applicants with hybrid skills, which are a combination of soft skills and the hard skills required to do the job.
Because professional skills are required for nearly every job, they are rarely included in job listings. So, let’s review the top skills that all employers expect job applicants and employees to have when they work in professional roles.
Top 7 Professional Skills
Communication skills, in general, are important for any professional. It includes written, verbal, and nonverbal communication. However, one particularly important communication skill in today’s world is email. Almost every profession requires some email correspondence. Professionals need to be able to craft clearly written, concise emails, using the appropriate format and tone for colleagues and employers alike.
Other communication skills include:
- Advocating for yourself and your causes
- Asking for help or advice
- Building buy-in to an idea
- Business writing
- Dealing with difficult people
- Handling office politics
- Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
- Managing a positive relationship with an employer
- Resume writing
- Small talk
- Social skills
- Verbal communication
- Written communication
2. Public Speaking
Almost every job requires some public speaking. While you might not be giving long presentations regularly, you will likely need to speak up during meetings, provide information to your colleagues, and/or speak to a group in some small way. Professionals need to be capable of speaking to others clearly and presenting information effectively.
The following skills are important for anyone who has to present in public:
- Creating presentation slides
- Receiving criticism and feedback
- Social skills
All professionals have to work in some sort of a group, whether they are working on team projects or trying to help a company achieve its mission. As a professional, you must possess the interpersonal skills required to get along with others.
You need to be able to share responsibility with others, communicate effectively, and achieve a common goal.
There are other teamwork skills professionals need:
- Conflict management
- Conflict resolution
- Relationship building
- Team building
- Team management
4. Time Management
As a professional, you will be tasked with completing a variety of tasks. You’ll have to draw upon organizational skills to budget your time so that you complete each task by a given deadline without feeling overwhelmed.
Timeliness might seem simple, but it is one of the most important qualities in a professional.
Employees who show up on time (or, better yet, early), are often perceived to be more hardworking by their employers (even if this is not the case). You can therefore boost your professional reputation by showing up to work and meetings a few minutes early.
- Attention to detail
- Intrinsic motivation
- Meeting deadlines
- Project management
Regardless of the role you play at an organization, leadership skills are important. Whether you're working on a team or in a management position, being able to lead is an essential skill for a professional.
Some of the skills that show your leadership abilities include:
- Calm under pressure
- Coordinating resources
- Decision making
- Goal setting
- Growth mindset
- Information gathering
- Meeting management
Most jobs require a degree of flexibility, and the ability to be willing to change. It's important to be able to understand different perspectives, and to adjust your workflow and contributions to the company as change arises.
Here are some of the skills that will enable you to show employers that you have the flexibility required for success on the job:
- Able to change your mind
- Anger management
- Problem solving
7. Personal Skills
Interpersonal skills are the soft skills that enable employees to work well with other workers, managers, clients, customers, vendors, and other people they interact within the workplace. These skills and professional attributes are also important for successful professional networking, and for managing your own career growth.
- Career management
- Career planning
- Creative thinking
- Critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Enforcing boundaries (personal, professional)
- Stress management
In addition to the professional skills that are needed in the workplace, there are job-specific skills and different types of skill that can help you get hired or promoted.
These hard skills include the knowledge and expertise required to do a job. Review some of the best skills to include on your resume, incorporate them into your job search materials, and mention them during job interviews.
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
You can use these skills lists throughout your job search process:
Use Skill Words in Your Resume
The most important place to incorporate mention of these skill words is in your resume. You should try to use some of these keywords both in the resume’s qualifications summary and in your descriptions of your work history.
Highlight Your Skills in Your Cover Letter
Secondly, you can use these in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, providing specific examples of times when you demonstrated them at work.
Demonstrate Your Skills During Interviews
Along with mentioning some of the professional skill words during your interview, you also want to demonstrate your professionalism in the way you dress, speak, and act. For example, you should speak clearly and dress professionally for all your interviews, in addition to demonstrating an ability to get along with others.
The more you can show that you have these skills, the more effective you will be in your interview.
Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job listing carefully, and focus on the skills listed by the employer.