The 10 Most Important Job Skills You Can Have

Start working on these now, and you’ll be way ahead of the competition when you begin looking for your dream job (yes, you can find it, even in a recession).

by Andrew RanzingerLast updated: 06/16/2020

‍1. Creativity

Creativity is your ability to bring new ideas to the table—whether that’s for a new product line, a solution to a problem, or just a more efficient way to stack extra supplies in the storage room. 

Multiple surveys show that creativity is consistently ranked as one of the most important skills employers look for.

You might already be a very creative person, or you might think you aren’t creative at all. The reality is we can all learn to be more creative. 

Tip: Become more creative

Start keeping a notebook (physical or just a dedicated Note on your iPhone) where you jot down one new idea every day.

This could be anything—from a product you think would make your life easier to something you wish your favorite YouTuber would make a video about.

2. Persuasion

Creativity is your ability to come up with new ideas. Persuasion is your ability to explain your ideas to other people in a way that makes them get on board. 

To be effective at persuasion, you need to have the courage to share your ideas with other people, which can take some practice.

You also need to frame your ideas in a way that is easy to understand. One of the best ways to do this is to become a better storyteller.

Tip: Become more persuasive

All of our favorite content—whether music, videos, blogs, or IG posts—is built to tell some kind of story. As you consume content, take a moment to ask yourself, “What story is this creator trying to tell?”

As you learn to identify the elements of a good story, you’ll become better at incorporating those elements into the stories you tell.

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is teamwork. It’s your ability to work well with other people. Do you know how to rely on other people, and do they know they can rely on you? 

No matter what job or industry you end up in, employers want people they know can collaborate well.

Tip: Become a better teammate

If you’re already involved in some kind of team activity like an organized sport, you already know something about this.

Take a moment to think about which of your teammates you consider the best teammate. Is there anything you can learn from them?

If you aren’t already involved in a team activity, find something you can get involved in. It doesn’t have to be a sport—pick a club at your school for something you’re interested in. If there isn’t one, start one.

4. Adaptability

Charles Darwin, the father of modern evolutionary theory, is often credited with coming up with the idea of “survival of the fittest.”

Except....that’s not what he said. It’s a common misconception—but what he did say is actually way more interesting. Darwin wrote:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The only constant in life is change. Adaptability is the ability to stay calm and find new ways to achieve your goals and keep moving forward even when your resources and environment shift. 

Tip: Become more adaptable

The next time you get pissed off because something changed or life happened—a friend canceled plans, your classmates dropped the ball on a group project, or you were rejected in some way—ask yourself, “How can I adapt myself or my approach to still achieve my goals?”

The United States Marines have a guiding phrase: Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Make it yours too. There is always an answer.

5. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to recognize, evaluate, and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. 

Emotional intelligence is a lot more than being able to stay calm. It’s your ability to name the emotions you’re feeling, understand why you are feeling them, and articulate that to yourself or other people.

Study after study has shown that people with high EQ are more successful, happier, and make more money than people with just high IQ.

One study found that the correlation is so direct that people make an extra $1,300 per year (on average) for every point increase in their emotional intelligence. 

Tip: Build your EQ

When you interact with other people, practice putting yourself in their shoes and making an educated guess about what emotions they are feeling.

Then, if the situation allows, test your hypothesis. Say, “You seem [insert: happy/sad/upset/frustrated/hesitant].” Make it a matter-of-fact statement, without judgment.

You will get a better idea of how the person is feeling and what you should do—and they will feel more understood.‍

6. Growth mindset

Some people believe they can learn to do just about anything if they are willing to put in the time. Other people believe that “you either have it or you don’t.”

Growth mindset comes down to one thing: Do you believe you can get better at something if you work at it? That’s it. 

It’s undeniable that we all have different innate talents—some people are just naturally better at some things than other people. 

But we all can get better. You’ll probably never be LeBron James, but you could significantly improve your basketball shot if that’s something you want to do.

Tip: Become growth-oriented

Pick at least one skill or hobby that you want to get better at. It could be anything—card tricks, photography, writing, playing an instrument, live streaming your video game play and building an audience on Twitch.

The important thing is that you don’t do it just for fun—you spend focused time and effort developing it.‍

7. Focus

Ever noticed how when there is something you need to do that requires any amount of effort—homework, actual work, exercise, reading, sometimes even showering or making some food—your brain finds an excuse to do anything BUT that? 

Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat—nothing is easier than just switching your brain off and scrolling through the 100th FuckJerry meme of the day.  

Focus is the ability to set aside distractions and get shit done for a certain period of time. Every time I hear the word “focus,” I think about this scene from John Wick:

Be like John Wick, not the spoiled mobster’s son.

Tip: Master your focus

At least once a day, force yourself to have 60 minutes of uninterrupted productivity. This could be reading a self-help book, doing homework, researching your hobby from skill #6—whatever it is, make it happen.

No scrolling, no social media, no texting. Leave your phone in another room if that’s what you have to do.

8. Leadership

If your high school was anything like mine, you’ve probably had to sit through more than a few assemblies or meetings where a speaker, teacher, or coach talked about the importance of “LeAdErShIp.”

And if you’re anything like me, these talks probably made you roll your eyes and reach for your phone. 

But there was one teacher (9th grade English, in case you were wondering) who said something about leadership that always stuck with me: Leadership is influence. That’s it.

You don’t have to be a leader to be a leader. We all know people in positions of power who aren’t real leaders (my high school principal was one).

We also all know people who don’t have a title or position but who other people listen to, respect, and admire.  

If you influence other people (see skill #2 above), you are a leader, period. Use your superpower wisely.

Tip: Be a better leader

Ask yourself one question: “How am I using the influence I have?”

9. Cultural Awareness

You’re weird. So am I.

No, not weird as in awkward. Weird in the way you live, the way you dress, the food you eat, what you do for fun, what you believe, and how you worship (or don’t). 

You might think you’re pretty normal (I know I do), but the reality is most people in most other places do things pretty differently than you do. “Normal” doesn’t exist. 

The world and workplace are getting more diverse every day.

As you finish high school, pick a career, and get your first job, your success will depend in part on your ability to work well with people who have different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and ways of doing things. 

Start learning to do that now.

Tip: Build your cultural awareness

Travel—whether to another country or just another city in a different part of yours— is the best way to build cultural awareness.

But if you can’t travel now, that’s okay—you just have to be intentional.

Read books, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts, and follow pages by creators from other countries, religions, sexual orientations, genders, and professions.

You’ll be surprised by what you learn.

10. Communication Skills

If your ideas are going to get anywhere, you need to be able to put them out into the world effectively. 

There are three main forms of communication—written, verbal, and non-verbal (yes, your body language says a lot, even when you aren’t talking). All of us are better at some forms than others. 

There are also different approaches to communication. Think about that last time you talked to a little kid (like five or younger). What did you do? 

Without even realizing it, your voice probably got higher. You started speaking in very simple sentences.

You probably bent over or maybe even crouched down to get on eye level with the kid. 

Why? Because you instinctively knew that little kids respond better to this approach.

Tip: Build your communication skills

In your life, different forms of communication will be appropriate for different situations. Identify the ones you struggle with the most (for example, public speaking is one type of verbal communication), and think of ways you can work on those.

Remember skill #6, growth mindset—you may never be the best, but you can get better.

Wrapping up

Once you decide what you want to be when you grow up, there are a variety of “hard skills” (job or industry-specific skills) you’ll need to be successful.

Here, we’ve covered 10 “soft skills” (skills that apply to any job) that will make you successful anywhere, and that you should start working on today. 

And don’t let the name fool you. Employers say soft skills are far more important than hard skills when hiring. Why? Because they are a lot harder to teach. 

So start teaching yourself now, and you’ll be ahead of the competition wherever you go.