Top Skills Professionals Need for Workplace Success

Professional woman in cafe
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What does it mean to be a professional? What skills do professionals need to have? A professional is someone with some specialized knowledge, and often some academic preparation (such as high school or college or technical classes). Teachers, contractors, IT workers, and employees from countless other industries are considered professionals.

Beyond the abilities and knowledge needed for each specific profession, professionals in almost every discipline need a particular set of qualities, skills, and behaviors.

These are primarily soft skills—intangible skills that help you interact and get along well with others.

Because professional skills are required for nearly every job, they are rarely included in job listings, so it is hard to know what professional skills you need to have. However, there are skills that employers expect job applicants and employees to have when they work in professional roles.

How to Use Skills Lists

You can use these skills lists throughout your job search process. Firstly, you can use these skill words in your resume. In the description of your work history, you might want to use some of these keywords.

Secondly, you can use these in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated those skills at work.

Along with mentioning some of the professional skill words during your interview, you also want to demonstrate your professionalism in the way you dress, speak, and act.

 For example, you want to speak clearly and dress professionally for all your interviews, and demonstrate an ability to get along with others. The more you can show that you have these skills, the more effective you will be in your interview.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job listing carefully, and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top 7 Professional Skills

1. Communication: Communication skills, in general, are important for any professional. This includes written, verbal, and nonverbal communication. However, one particularly important communication skill in today’s world is email. Almost every profession requires some email correspondence. Professionals need to be able to write clearly written, concise emails. They need to be able to write in the appropriate format and tone for colleagues and employers alike. Other communication skills include:

  • Advocating for yourself and your causes
  • Asking for help or advice
  • Brainstorming
  • Building buy-in to an idea
  • Business writing
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Facilitating
  • Handling office politics
  • Handshaking
  • Interviewing
  • Managing a positive relationship with an employer
  • Listening
  • Networking
  • Persuasion
  • Resume writing
  • Small talk

2. Public Speaking: Almost every job requires some public speaking. While you might not be giving long presentations regularly, you will likely need to speak up during meetings, provide information to your colleagues, and/or speak to a group in some small way. Professionals need to be capable of speaking to others clearly, and presenting information effectively. The following skills are important for anyone who has to present in public:

  • Articulation
  • Confidence
  • Creating presentation slides
  • Poise
  • Projection
  • Receiving criticism and feedback
  • Social skills

3. Teamwork: All professionals have to work on some sort of a group, whether they are working on team projects, or working to help a company achieve its mission. As a professional, you need the interpersonal skills to get along with others. You need to be able to share responsibility with others, communicate effectively, and achieve a common goal. There are other teamwork skills professionals need:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Relationship building
  • Team building
  • Team management

4. Time Management: As a professional, you need to complete a variety of tasks. You need the organizational skills to budget your time so that you complete each task by a given deadlines, without feeling overwhelmed. Timeliness might seem simple, but it is one of the most important qualities in a professional.

Employees who show up on time (or, better yet, early), are often perceived to be more hardworking by their employers (even if this is not the case). You can therefore boost your professional reputation by showing up to work and meetings a few minutes early. 

  • Attention to detail
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Project management
  • Punctuality
  • Self-starting 

5. Leadership: Regardless of the role you play at an organization, leadership skills are important. Whether you're working on a team or in a management position, being able to lead is an essential skills for a professional. Some of the skills that show your leadership abilities include:

  • Accountability
  • Budgeting
  • Calm under pressure
  • Coaching
  • Coordinating resources
  • Decision making
  • Goal setting
  • Growth mindset
  • Information gathering
  • Influence
  • Management
  • Mentoring
  • Meeting management
  • Planning
  • Politeness
  • Positivity
  • Prioritization

6. Flexibility: Most jobs require a degree of flexibility, and the ability to be willing to change. It's important to be able to understand different perspectives, and adjust your workflow and contributions to the company as change arises. There are skills that will enable you to show employers that they have the flexibility required for success on the job.

  • Able to change your mind
  • Analysis
  • Anger management
  • Patience
  • Perceptiveness
  • Problem solving

7. Personal Skills: Interpersonal skills are the soft skills that enable employees to work well with other workers, managers, clients, customers, vendors, and other people they interact with in the workplace. These skills and professional attributes are also important for successful professional networking, and for managing your own career growth.

More Skills to Use When You're Job Searching

In addition to the professional skills that are needed in the workplace, there are job-specific skills and different types of skill that can help you get hired or promoted. These hard skills include the knowledge and expertise required to do a job.