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5 Skills That Will Advance Your Career


When was the last time you thought about your interpersonal skills? You know, that's your overall attitude toward people. Do you like people? Do you like being around them? Does the sight of another human irritate you? Believe it or not, how you answer these questions and how well you deal with others will be a factor in whether you succeed in academia. So, in an effort to support you as you move forward in your career, and life check out out top five 'life' skills.


Know yourself

If you know that you don't like or want to be around people, you need to reconsider academia because academia is full of people! By knowing yourself and understanding what fuels you will affect how you feel and deal with others. If you find that you prefer a "solitary" career, then make the change into a field that gives you limited human interaction. If you find that you enjoy human interaction and engagement with others, then keep reading.


Be professionally graceful

Are you demanding with high expectations, or are you a 'live-and-let-live' sort of person? Do you forgive people their mistakes or do you hold mistakes against people? Are you generally willing to work for the good of your unit, or are you primarily concerned about your advancement and always ask "what's in it for me"?


Academics that succeed generally have an overall attitude toward people that can be called being 'professionally graceful'. Professionally graceful is being kind, considerate, thoughtful, and having a sense of propriety in the work environment with everyone you encounter. It goes without saying that being professionally graceful many times can be challenging – whether we're talking about academia or in the 'real world'. It's too easy to want to verbally 'hit back,' especially with today's easy accessibility to social media. It's challenging to be professionally graceful when you get criticism on your research, teaching or any other aspect of your professional life. Having said that, your best shot at navigating through academia is if you assume an attitude of professional grace.



Listen first, and then speak

There's an old saying that since God gave us two ears and only one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk. In general, that's a great rule of thumb. It is incredible how much people will tell you if you show a willingness to listen. Great counselors don't tell their clients what to think; they listen and guide the client through their feelings and emotions. As a faculty member, listening and helping to guide others through their feelings and emotions is a critical skill you'll use with students, parents, colleagues, collaborators, and administrators. The best academics are those that listened first. People that don't listen may be following their knowledge, but without listening to others, they often end up being ineffective and close-minded.


Stay calm

Anger rarely solves any problem; it may help get you attention, but often your anger will be remembered as a sign of immaturity. Children have temper tantrums; faculty shouldn't. When faced with a situation where you can be angry - and you will have those situations – choose to step back, take a deep breath, and figure out how to solve the problem calmly. Your calmness can defuse the situation and prevent a small problem from becoming a more significant problem that haunts you for the rest of your career.


Be resilient

The concept of 'resilience' in professional situations has received quite a bit of attention in recent years. It is defined as 'an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change' [1]. The most successful faculty members are those that are resilient, especially to change. Higher education is under pressure from many quarters to change, and there's a very good chance that the higher education situation you will be in will likely change drastically over your career. So your resilience in the face of these changes will significantly determine your emotional and academic success.


Developing an interpersonal skill toolset is incredibly vital for all academics. Your toolset should start with knowing yourself and include an attitude of professional grace, having excellent listening skills, practicing calmness, and developing resilience. While there are multiple other characteristics, you'll discover that overtime you will add (or subtract) from your interpersonal skill set and as you work on those core skills you will develop professional grace and have a more prosperous and enjoyable career and life!

  1. [1] This definition of resilience comes from Merriam-Webster.

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