Get Ahead In The Workplace With These Skills!

There’s more to getting ahead in the workplace than meeting quotas and showing up on time. “These days, just doing your job isn’t enough — you have to constantly expand your role, learn new skills, and grow your network if you want to stay relevant,” writes Dan Schawbel, career and workplace expert.

No matter what your position in the company, you can get ahead in the workplace by working on these three skills:

1. Learn a new language.

get ahead in the workplace: language Photo: Shutterstock

“’I feel pretty stupid that I don’t know any foreign languages,” Bill Gates once said. So get one up on one of the world’s richest men by learning another language.

Besides that, you’ll also improve your professional life. As businesses and companies expand internationally, it becomes more and more important that you can communicate with more people, especially the ones you’re dealing with for work.

“Facility in a foreign language, other than our default Filipino language, is an advantage in a global market that is linguistically and culturally diverse,” Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva says.

Research from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and LECG Europe found that studying a foreign language correlates to about a 2% increase in annual income. (If you’re looking for an additional pay bump, learning German correlates to a 4% increase. Das ist sehr toll!)

And you don’t have to become a fluent speaker overnight for this skill to become useful. Learning even just the basics of another language will give you the “soft skills” that recruiters love so much: meeting and greeting, or having a few drinks with clients.

While many businesspeople will speak English in formal meetings, “if you can speak to people in their language during breaks, then they will see you in a very different light. I think they appreciate it if somebody has bothered to learn the language and come off their high horse of thinking that English is the best language … it helps with building relationships,” Irene Missen of language specialist recruitment agency Euro London tells the Guardian. “It is so important for client retention.”

Foreign cultural institutions such as Alliance Française, Goethe Institut, and Instituto Cervantes offer resources such as libraries, cultural events, and language courses to all those wishing to learn their respective languages (French, German, and Spanish, just in case you were wondering).

And for those who are more technical-vocationally inclined, the TESDA Language Skills Institute offers language and culture courses in English, Japanese, Korea, Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish.

Many free online language learning resources are also available, such as Duolingo.

2. Improve your writing.

get ahead in the workplace: writing

Photo: Shutterstock

In this digital age of txtspeak and Twitter, you might think that good writing doesn’t matter. You’d be wrong! Good writing skills are an important asset for any position, at any company. You might not think that your profession requires good writing skills, but even the way you write short emails can have a huge impact on how you come across to your co-workers and bosses. Mistakes like typos and grammatical errors can hold you back in the workplace.

A MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers found that 97% of executives consider strong writing skills “absolutely essential or very important,” according to USA Today.

If you have good writing skills, you’ll be seen as a better employee. “I find in my business dealings that people really stand out if they are articulate, if they can actually write sentences and get them presented properly,” says Paul Danos, Dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, in an interview with Forbes. “Business leadership is a lot about communications.”

If you’re worried because you think it’s hard to be a good writer, relax — it’s not about whether you can write florid Shakespearan lines. It’s about whether you can organize and communicate your ideas clearly to your colleagues. “Being able to get your point across means the difference between success and failure,” says Mike Panigel, senior vice president human resources at global company Siemens, in an interview with USA Today.

Here are some quick tips on improving your workplace writing:

  • Write with your reader in mind. Your boss might not be the kind of person who will look kindly upon your “What’s up, bro?” subject line. Tailor your voice to your reader.
  • Proofread. When you write things that are full of errors, it shows a lack of care for your work, which reflects badly on you. “People who care about their writing demonstrate credibility, professionalism, and accuracy in their work,” states a report by Grammarly, a company which specializes in communication.
  • Blog. Blogging gives you a chance to work on your writing skills and sets you apart from your co-workers or other applicants — as long as you don’t blog about anything against company values. “Candidates with blogs have a much better chance of getting noticed and hired,” Raj Sabhlok writes for Forbes.

3. Be an expert in something.

get ahead in the workplace: expert

Photo: Shutterstock

A Time study found that 65% of managers say it’s either important or very important to become a subject matter expert when it comes to advancing at work. So if you’ve got an aptitude for something, turn your expertise to an invaluable resource at work! It can be as simple as being your department’s resident Photoshop expert, or something as complex as becoming an expert in workplace conflict resolution.

If you want to become valuable in the workplace, focus on one area of expertise, instead of trying to do too much. Ever hear the expression “jack of all trades, master of none”? It applies to this too.

Look for an area in your business that meshes well with your skills and interests, become an expert at it, and soon enough even more senior people will be coming to you for advice. Volunteer for projects that can give you an opportunity to showcase your expertise. By becoming an expert in something, you make yourself a more important part of your workplace, and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

“Becoming a subject matter expert is the best way to build your career … because you become someone that people truly come to know, like, and trust,” adds Schawbel.


These three skills can make you an outstanding employee and help you in your climb up the corporate ladder. Taking a little bit of time in expanding your knowledge and honing your skills can win you recognition in the workplace, earn you promotions, and pay you back in the long run.

Looking for more career advice? Check out our careers tag.

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