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Essential Skills for Success: A Guide
skills to be successful

Essential Skills for Success: A Guide

Hone your skills!

Everybody wants different things in their lives—and defines success in different ways. You might want to become a CEO, a doctor, a teacher, a dentist, a mechanic, or an accountant. You might strive to become the best at whatever position you have, or to rise to the top in whatever field you’re in.

Other people want to write a bestseller, start a band, or simply to pay the bills. But a near universal, overarching goal is to find professional success. This is as true in today’s digital age as it was in years past.

So, whether you hope to get a new job or promotion, start a business, go to graduate school, branch out into a new career, or nail the presentation you’ve been working on for the past few months, the underlying aim is to achieve your own personal version of success.

Ultimately, whatever your goals are, it’s key to make a plan to accomplish them, solve any problems that arise, embrace new challenges, think outside the box, and do your best. These are basic elements of skills for success.

Other types of skills for personal or professional success

  • technical skills
  • negotiation skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • leadership skills
  • problem solving skills
  • writing skills
  • social skills
  • self-advocacy skills
  • and many others

These success skills are a key part of the strategies that you can work on to help you reach every dream, SMART goal, or personal aim you set. Learn more about which skills to build up in order to set yourself up for success.

Skills for success

Some people make finding success look easy. Others may flail when they try to accomplish something. Or they feel too overwhelmed, uncertain, or defeated to even envision a path to career success—let alone trying to take on new challenges, a new job, or career path.

So, it’s understandable to think that a propensity for success is a talent rather than something to develop. However, what makes all the difference is hard work, looking for creative solutions, and finding the resources and support necessary to hone your abilities. And just starting and putting your success skills to the test. Essentially, if you develop specific skills for success, including soft and hard skills, you will be on your way to career success.

Soft skills vs. hard skills

Some skills can be defined as soft skills. Others are called hard skills. Both soft and hard skills are essential to workplace success.

Hard skills are those that are measurable and practical. Each job will have different hard skills and talents required to successfully do the position. For example, a hard skill may include your productivity, such as how many clients can you help in the course of one day or how many reports do you complete each week.

For an accountant, the needed hard skills may include the ability to run reports and understand and manage financial information. For a teacher, hard skills will be to know the curriculum and how to teach it.

skills to be successful
(Jon Feingersh Photography Inc / Getty)

A surgeon will need to know how to do the various operations and procedures applicable to their specialty. Other examples of hard skills include speaking a foriegn language, knowing how to use a computer program, typing speed, and having a certain degree or training.

Soft skills are more universal skills applicable to doing well in just about any job. These include how well you can express your ideas, having good people skills, and how well you cope with stress. While soft skills are less tangible, they are no less important than hard skills. In fact, while they are not as straightforward to measure, having effective soft skills is often the difference between finding success and not.

The importance of soft skills

Soft skills are basic life skills that tend to make better employees, teammates, leaders, and managers. These key success skills apply across the board for a variety of careers and help to build teamwork, collaboration, communication, trust, loyalty, personal relationships, and work ethic. Some other important components of these soft skills for success are flexibility, time management, self-advocacy, and leadership.

Essential skills to be successful

The truth is that while there are many routes to success, there are key success skills that will help you get wherever you want to go. And while these skills may come more naturally to some people than others, you can work on improving and focusing on these abilities to make yourself more competitive and successful in today’s world.

What skills do you need to be successful?

There are tons of different skills that can make the difference between workplace mediocrity and career success. Plus, different people may need to focus on developing different success skills depending on the type of career they have or want to pursue. Also, you may be really great at some areas already, while skills are lagging and need additional support.

Many of these key success skills are general work-related and interpersonal skills, such as writing, communication, technical, computer, business, speaking, problem solving, and negotiation.

There are also specific hard skills that are more pertinent to each type of job. For instance, a person who works in marketing or public relations, will need to have excellent communication and writing skills. And a person who works with the public will want to pay extra attention to honing their interpersonal skills. Other less work-specific soft skills such as self-care, intuition, flexibility, compassion, and listening skills can also make a big impact on finding success.

Let’s look at specific success skills and why they are important.

Work ethic

It should go without saying, but work ethic is a key skill for success. Essentially, work ethic is working hard, maintaining motivation, having integrity, going above and beyond, and valuing hard work in and of itself. People with a good work ethic tend to be the first to arrive, the last to leave, always pitch in, and put in quality effort.

Time Management

essential skills for success

People with excellent time management skills tend to be successful. Using your time wisely allows you to get more done—and experience less stress because you’re not always worried about running out of time. Using planners, lists, reminders, apps on your phone, and other organizational tools can help you improve time management.


Being organized helps you to stay on top of all your work, streamline your efforts, and know exactly where everything is and what you need to be doing. Organization is a skill that most employers look for in new employees and value when considering workers for promotions, particularly in management and leadership roles.

Computer and Technical

In today’s world, knowing your way around a computer is paramount for career success. Each job will have different software, applications, and other types of technology that are needed for that career. Some jobs require you to use technical skills that you may either need to come into the job knowing or you can receive on-the-job training. However, generally knowing how to use computers, and sometimes social media, are basic success skills that most employers value.


skills for success

Interpersonal skills include social skills that help you relate positively to other people. These the basis of many soft skills tend to set good employees apart and go hand-in-hand with career success. These key success skills encompass communication, body language, collaboration, negotiation, reading people, listening, flexibility, creativity, and making conversation.


The ability to confront challenges with creativity, calm, and tenacity is an important skill for success. No matter how effective your planning, organization, time management skills are, sometimes you will encounter setbacks. The person who is adept at solving problems, thriving under pressure, and coming up with creative solutions is headed for success.

Teamwork and independence

Whether your job is primarily done collaboratively or on your own, you will need to balance teamwork and independence working skills. Sometimes, you will need to utilize more autonomy and other times working in a group is more elemental to your career. However, both teamwork and the ability to work well on your own are key success skills.


The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills for success in any field. Communication skills include oral and written communication. Body language, listening, and being intuitive are also elements of good communication, in addition to the ability to convey what you mean on paper, digitally, or in conversation.

Creative thinking

Being a person who thinks outside the box is also a key skill for success. Creative thinking and coming up with innovative ideas is important for learning, flexibility, developing new approaches to problems and solutions, getting noticed, and leadership. Additionally, creative thinkers are adept at taking on new challenges and coming up with creative ways to do things.


what skills do you need to be successful

Knowing your value and trusting your own self-worth and ability to contribute are also vital to your potential for success at your job, in business generally, and in your life overall. Your own confidence tells others to be confident in you as well. Even when you are learning at a new job or taking on a new career path, it's helpful to be confident that with time, patience, hard work, and the right resources and support that you succeed. Essentially, a strong belief in yourself and in your ability to succeed is key to your future success.


Sometimes, the difference between success and failure is letting go of our fears and simply trying. So, trying takes one success skill that we all need—bravery. It’s hard to put yourself out there, apply for a new job, take on a management role, or shift your focus to a new role or position. Getting out of your own way and not overthinking things is key. Being brave lets you go after these new challenges, stretch yourself, and go after your professional dreams.


Being a leader is key to success. Leadership skills mean listening to management and employees, inspiring confidence and loyalty, taking on new concepts and challenges, looking for creative solutions and ideas, taking risks, making hard decisions, showing charisma, and motivating others to put in their best work. Leaders take responsibility, delegate work, and have the confidence to promote teamwork and manage others effectively.


A person who is always learning is likely to succeed. Learning might mean acquiring new skills and information or simply deepening the knowledge you have. Lifelong learners are always growing, training, adjusting, and adapting. They value developing new skills and tools. They are nimble and focused on creating solutions and new ideas.


skills a person can have

As important as making sure the work done is to one’s professional success, self-care is also key. Getting the rest, relaxation, nutrition, sleep, exercise, and time away from work you need to feel recharged helps to fuel your success on the job. Self-care can be anything that helps you attain a positive work-life balance, such as yoga, taking periodic vacations, pursuing your hobbies, and making time for family and friends.

Key Takeaways

We all seek to find success in our professional endeavors. One effective way to get the success we’re after is to hone your skills. This effort comes more naturally to some people than to others but we can all make big improvements if we put in the work. The great thing is that these skills are accessible to all and even small efforts to focus on bettering these abilities will pay off in greater success.

Even better, when you work on improving one area, such as your leadership or communication skills, you’re likely to get more motivated—and adept—at honing other success skills, too, as many of these skills are interrelated and build on each other. So, start with one area to enhance and then work on the next and before you know if, you’ll have mastered them all!

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