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How to get ahead in your career with 7 “zero talent” skills

By Yvette McKenzie | 21 December 2018

Have you heard of zero talent skills? Well, we all have them, and they can be amongst the most valuable skills you have in your personal toolkit.
In today’s commercial workplace landscape, everyone is upskilling all the time. In order to remain relevant in your job, and to find the next, higher-paying gig, it’s essential to constantly look at your skills gaps, and how you can formally plug them with accredited, targeted learning. For example, you might work in digital marketing, and decide that you’d like formal skills in social media; or you might be a business owner who wants accredited leadership skills to take your business to the next level.
But these are not zero talent skills.
Zero talent skills are the skills you have, that you can actively work on, that set you apart as a valuable worker. “The reality is, success isn’t created by talent alone,” says keynote speaker and author, Molly Fletcher.
“Just like we might see immense talent squandered, we also see underdogs unexpectedly overachieve.” However, there are a few behaviours, “…that we can always control; that require zero talent - yet have a huge impact on our success.”
Many of us have had to deal with the frustration of a friend or colleague who is always late. Some of us have also had the misfortune to work somewhere with a “lazy” or “uncommunicative” team member, who is always neglectful, and expects his or her colleagues to pick up the slack. While there is a lot to be said for gaining formal accredited skills that can set you on the path to a promotion, there is also a lot to be said for “soft skills”, or interpersonal skills – the ones that set you apart as a diligent, hardworking person. Here’s what they are.

The zero talent skills you need to work on

  1. Being adaptable to change.
  2. Great listening skills (including knowing when to shut up).
  3. Being on time.
  4. Fostering great working relationships (and nothing more!).
  5. Showing respect – to everyone who deserves it.
  6. Being a team player.
  7. Strategic thinking.
Let’s have a look at the 7 zero talent skills that you can work on to get ahead in your career, and excel faster than your colleagues who think that only formal training will do. Remember that author Peggy Klaus said, “Soft skills get little respect but they will make or break your career”. By that, she simply means that interpersonal skills are often quite underrated. Here’s some to work on.

1. Being adaptable to change.

Scientist Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” While he was probably referring to molluscs, the same rings true for we slightly more advanced beings.
Change is not just a possibility at work, it’s inevitable, and learning how to cope when things change is essential for a long and healthy career. Of course, things often change for the better, and this is when it pays to do strategic thinking and planning, which is mentioned as another crucial zero talent skill.

2. Great listening skills (including knowing when to shut up).

So much about a successful career comes down to having healthy, functional working relationships with people. Of course, every now and then we meet someone who we can’t seem to communicate easily with; but this is just a challenge to work on.

Learn how to really listen to your colleagues; avoid interrupting unnecessarily and give them the respect of listening to their point of view, even if they are “lower down” in the project status than you might be. Fostering the zero talent skill of listening is something that just about everyone needs to work on.

3. Being on time.

“Punctuality and good time management are skills demanded by employers across all industries”, explains the Robert Half recruitment blog. “That’s because being late has the ability to negatively affect whole teams, disrupting meetings and giving yourself and others a reputation for being unprofessional.”
There are rules to being on time. Be a “time realist”, not a “time idealist”. This means, if you think it will take you 20 minutes to get somewhere by car, leave 30 minutes. If you are going for an interview, arrive 5 minutes early, but never too early. If you have planned a meeting, get there first and make sure there are enough chairs and the PowerPoint presentation is working. Common courtesies go such a long way in the office, and can really get you ahead.

4. Fostering great working relationships (and nothing more!).

Author Stephen Covey said, “You cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.”
By all means, be friends with your co-workers, but make sure you know where to draw the line. Maintain professional, working relationships with people and be careful about swearing, making crass jokes, asking personal information or making offhanded comments like, “you look tired,” or “you seem stressed”.

5. Showing respect – to everyone who deserves it.

Neil Carberry, a UK director for employment and skills has said, “Business is clear that developing the right attitudes and attributes in people – such as resilience, respect, enthusiasm and creativity – is just as important as academic or technical skills. In an evermore competitive jobs market it is such qualities that will give our young talent a head start and also allow existing employees to progress to higher skilled, better paid roles.”
As a default, show respect to everyone; especially those workers in a more junior position than you, or people who have just started out. This is a zero talent skill that will come in handy as you rise through the ranks, and one skill that we can all work on daily.

6. Being a team player.

Wikijobs has some clear directions on why being a team player is so essential. “Like leadership, good teamwork involves a combination of other soft skills,” says an expert on the Wikijobs blog. “Working in a team towards a common goal requires the intuition and interpersonal acumen to know when to be a leader, and when to be a listener. Good team players are perceptive, as well as receptive to the needs and responsibilities of others.”
Some of us are better at working solo than in a team, but at some point in our careers, we all have to collaborate and work together. Working on being a team player is a great zero talent skill to enhance.

7. Strategic thinking.

Strategic thinking can be defined as the ability to plan for the future, while also considering challenges and issues that could (and often will) arise. It’s also imperative to think about the people who’ll be affected and the resources needed to manage the problem, and what resources you will need.
“It’s a key leadership skill, and one that will make you a top candidate,” says recruiter firm Robert Half. Strategic thinkers, “…are always learning, always seeking advice from others, and are not afraid to take risks.”

Do you think your have what it takes to be a leader?

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