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What traits make a successful professional?  And what are the key behaviors, actions and thinking processes necessary to build a career that is rewarding and meaningful and meets your needs and wants over the long arch of your professional life?

These are issues that executive and career coaches and leadership trainers like me grapple with each and every day.  They are deep questions that defy simple answers or superficial “tactics.”  But deep as they are, there are some basic fundamentals that every professional needs to master in order to succeed in and enjoy his/her professional life.  From my experience as a corporate trainer in Fortune 100 companies and beyond, the vast majority of professionals today have not received the training, information, understanding or knowledge they need to ensure they’ll remain on a positive track and build a career that will be fruitful, productive and successful as the years go on.

What do professionals really need to know?

All working individuals and professionals need significant competency and skill in all of the following eight areas in order to be successful, and most are sorely lacking in several if not most of them. (My anecdotal research shows that most are lacking in at least three of these skills at the same time):

1)  Communication Skill

In order to be successful in your job and career, you must communicate powerfully and effectively with confidence and clarity.  There’s been much written about introverts as leaders and managers, and how they can use their innate skills and gifts to succeed as leaders.  Your personality type and level of introversion/extroversion aside, if you can’t communicate your ideas in an empowered, clear and engaging way, you simply won’t perform or progress as well as your counterparts who can communicate with ease and strength.

2)   Building Relationships

So many professionals don’t get this one basic point until it’s too late – you cannot do what you want in your career, and advance successfully, if you’re an island.  And you certainly can’t achieve what you long for if you’ve alienated all your colleagues, peers and managers.  One terrible boss I had taught me something very smart many years ago.  As horrible as he was at leading and managing, he did know one core principle – no matter how talented and gifted you are at your job, if you don’t have supportive relationships at work, you won’t succeed. Another way to say this is that if you hate who you work with and for, they’ll end up hating you back.  (Click here to download my LinkedIn primer, to help you build relationships online using LinkedIn).

3)   Decision-Making

Professionals must make scores of decisions every day – from whom they sit with at lunch, to what raise to ask for, to new assignments they’ll accept.  Do you understand HOW to make a decision so that it 1) aligns with what you really want, 2) adds to your skill base and experience, and 3) creates new opportunities for you that will be beneficial? Further, do you know how to make business decisions that will generate the outcomes that are most desired for the enterprise? Most individuals have never learned how to evaluate with discernment what’s in front of them, or how to calculate the risks and benefits of each decision they face.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel competent and confident in these 8 skill areas?  If not, do you know what to do to get the training and experience you need?


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