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The most important skills to develop a career in 2018

by Laura Aitken-Burt March 08, 2018
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​Improving skills is always important to help you develop a career and boost your commercial knowledge. But in today’s changing workplace, knowing the things which are going to give you the extra edge can be difficult. We asked our network what they thought were the most significant things to focus on, and compared this to the same survey from last year to see what the changes were, if any.

The results were interesting as, in fact, they did not differ greatly.







Collaboration/team work






Personal Impact



Problem solving







Communication and problem solving are still by far the most popular choices. This is not that surprising, as our analysis last year highlighted reasons why these skills were so highly valued. We argued that whilst digital skills were not a separate category and surprisingly not ranked as an individual skill to improve in this continuously expanding digital age, aspects of communication and problem solving were considered inherent in digital issues which dominate many boardroom meetings. Take a look at some case studies of how to improve communication and problem-solving in the workplace here.

There was a slight increase in numeracy/analysis skills this year. Perhaps some respondents also saw numeracy/analysis as part of the digital landscape. This is particularly true for the continued increase in social media marketing where analysts are creating 'listening dashboards' to monitor customer discussions online about products. By looking at the data analytics of key content posts as well as more general conversations happening about products elsewhere on the web, businesses can develop more sophisticated responses to their customer's needs. In particular, as AI technologies continue to grow in 2018, we can expect to see businesses becoming even savvier about how to entice and retain their key markets.

There were also a few more additional ideas added that were not on the list in 2017. One of these was commitment. We've been doing some research on both sides of this issue from the employee's point of view on how to get a career that allows them to gain maximum job satisfaction but also from the employer's concern to retain top graduate talent. Perhaps respondents from both the employee and employer side saw how commitment is key to enhance and develop skills over time. Graduates who jump jobs too quickly before mastering the skills for their position do themselves no favours in the long run. Equally, employers should recognise that they need to offer good professional development or mentoring schemes to aid junior colleagues who need guidance to develop their skills. Our research online management found that many employees don't feel like they are working at their full potential due to poor mentoring.

Alongside this, our respondents in this survey also detailed confidence, determination and sector knowledge as important. If employees have confidence to pursue their career ambitions and learn the skills they need, then they will succeed. If employees have the determination to get to the top of the career ladder, then they will put in the extra effort to learn the skills they require. If employees have specific knowledge already applicable to their work field, then additional skills they need to enhance it will naturally develop with guidance from colleagues.

Back in January 2017, the results of the EU referendum and the uncertainty of 'Brexit' loomed large in the minds of our respondents, with a heavy emphasis placed on resilience, agility and planning as additional skills that needed to be learnt. A year on and the political landscape is just as unclear with continued virulent debates about whether we will stay in the EU customs union or not. So these skills will still be key in the year ahead – as one respondent put it; adaptability, a forward-looking attitude and deep listening will ensure business growth in these uncertain times.

Take a look at what else to expect from 2018 here in our article on business and strategic predictions

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