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4 Skills That Will Help You Get Ahead in Any Job

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Joanne Poh

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So you’ve dutifully spent your $500 SkillsFuture credit on courses that claimed they’d help you upgrade your skills and get ahead at work. You take care never to be spotted sloppy at the office, and you take notes when your boss gives instructions so you never miss a thing.

Yet time and again, that bootlicker who’s full of hot air gets promoted before you. If you’re doing good work but still not receiving the recognition you deserve, here are four skills to cultivate.

 

1. Negotiation

No matter how good a worker you are, if you are too scared to negotiate, you’ll always end up getting the short end of the stick.

Singaporeans are a non-confrontational lot. We always try to convince ourselves that things are non-negotiable so we don’t have to put ourselves through the pain of actually sticking our necks out and bargaining for a better deal. So we tell ourselves, “The boss said they pay all employees at this level the same salary,” or that “They will withdraw the offer if I try to ask for more.”

A great many employers will give you the worst deal they think you’ll accept. That means many can well afford to give you a bit more if you ask, whether what you want is a higher salary, additional days of annual leave or a flexi-work schedule.

But if you never learn how to negotiate, these opportunities will pass you by, and the net loss over the course of your career will be huge.

 

2. Communication

Singapore’s education system has always been very science- and math- focused. In addition, while Singapore’s language education policies have resulted in a population that’s competent in at least two languages, most Singaporeans lack true fluency in both English and their ethnic language. It thus comes as no surprise that Singaporeans tend not to be the best communicators.

If you’ve ever wondered why you always find yourself in the situation where you do all the grunt work but then fail to impress when it comes time to present your work to your boss, or why your well-spoken colleague always ends up getting all the plum assignments, it could be because your communication skills are lacking.

 

3. Work ethic

Back at school, everyone looked up to those kids who could spend the entire school term sleeping in class and reading Archie comics under their desks, and still manage to score As.

But that’s not how it works in the real world. No matter how good your results are in the end, you will always lose points for being someone with a questionable work ethic.

Bosses want someone they can count on, someone who’s willing to put in the grunt work and extra hours, and someone who volunteers to take on responsibilities when he doesn’t have to.

Your actual performance at work matters, but unless you’re making millions for the company, don’t think that just because you’ve been acing your assignments your boss is going to turn a blind eye to the fact that you’re late for meetings or occasionally go on “MC” just before a long weekend.

 

4. Initiative

No matter how well you do the work that’s assigned to you, bosses always want to see that you’re willing to do more, even without being asked.

That’s why employers looove employees with initiative. These are the guys who speak up and give useful suggestions, who volunteer to go the extra mile, and who don’t forget the little details, even when the boss hasn’t expressly reminded them.

Taking initiative not only makes you look better in the eyes of your boss, but can also boost your career more directly.

Speaking up to claim credit where it’s due instead of keeping quiet and hoping someone will notice requires initiative. So does scheduling an appointment with your boss to speak with him about your progress at work, or announcing that you’d like to be considered for a promotion this year.

If you don’t take the initiative to move your career forward, most employers are happy to let you languish at your current salary forever.

What other skills are important for all employees to have? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.