I wrote an article yesterday on some new career research showing that it makes good sense to apply for a job you’re interested in even if you don’t have every single qualification asked for. And one of the observations made by an individual interviewed for the post was that hiring managers often focus on other intangibles like “willingness to learn and positive attitude” beyond the obvious technical stuff required.
Which is an observation I 100% agree with. It also made me think about the kind of attributes that over the course of a long management career I came to look for in employees, and that I came to believe were good predictors of long-term career success.
So let’s consider these four qualities. The first two I’ve already alluded to but I believe are worth discussing more, and the second two are lower-profile attributes that always serve employees well.
Positive attitude. I have little doubt this would be many managers’ top choice. It makes a person easy to work with, which on a day-in-day-out basis is a significant asset. It also bodes well for other areas like collaboration and team dynamics, always important from a management standpoint. There’s no rocket science here: Career success is less about short-term brilliance than about solid long-term performance.
Willingness to learn. Having an open mind and being willing to absorb new data and learn new skills are critical to employee success over the long term. Given the pace of change in today’s business world, the ability and agility to adapt quickly matters; mental and psychological flexibility are key. Gone are the days when employees can simply succeed in a role by mastering a single set of tasks and repeating them over and over for years.
While the two previous qualities are apt to be top of (managerial) mind, the next two are more subtle but still valuable.
Curiosity. Curiosity is a driving force behind creativity and innovation, two highly desirable ways of looking at the world that are often in short supply in the (frequently) conservative world of business. And also of value in an environment where companies are constantly on the lookout to improve processes (i.e. do things better and faster). Curiosity is a mindset that doesn’t easily accept the status quo; it focuses on what can be done, not what can’t.
Resilience. In business, as in life, things won’t always go your way. You likely won’t get every job you desire, or every promotion, or every bonus… unless you’re exceptionally fortunate. So like most of us mortals you’ll probably have to deal with occasional career disappointments. Which is why resilience – the ability to bounce back quickly from difficulties – is of substantive career value. And it’s also a quality that seems to be in short supply among many younger folks today (as this Psychology Today articledescribes). It’s easy to be a front-runner. From a management standpoint, a resilient employee is a valued asset who can be counted on – most importantly – even when times are hard.