7 Life Skills for Career Success (And How To Improve Them)

Updated April 4, 2023

Mastering essential life skills can help you handle common workplace challenges and may even prepare you for advancement in your field. There are specific life skills that employers look for in candidates, and it's important to continue to develop them throughout your career. Understanding what they are and strategies for improving them can help you prepare for the job you want and further your ongoing professional development.

In this article, we define what life skills are and discuss how you can develop them to improve your performance and position in the workplace.

What are life skills?

Life skills are the competencies individuals use to manage the activities and challenges of everyday life effectively. Learning and developing these skills can improve personal and professional relationships and allow people to handle new circumstances and career changes. Life skills may help individuals process emotions, have positive interactions with others, improve their self-esteem and understand how and when to ask for guidance.

Necessary life skills can vary according to a person's age, career, community and culture, but there are several that may benefit candidates in a wide variety of career paths. Students may develop a variety of important life skills while in school, although it's important for adults to continue to improve these competencies throughout their careers as well.

Related: What Are Skills? (With Tips on How to Improve Them)

What are the basic life skills you need in the workplace?

There are several life skills that are essential both in and out of the workplace, including:

1. Communication

The ability to communicate effectively is critical in a variety of personal and professional relationships. Strong communication skills can help you share ideas and information effectively, accept feedback from your colleagues and seek guidance from managers or organizational leaders. They also allow you to ensure you're understanding your colleagues or clients and addressing their concerns and priorities effectively. Here are some communication skills you may want to develop:

  • Active listening

  • Interpersonal communication

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Public speaking

  • Presentation skills

  • Verbal communication

  • Interpersonal communication

  • Written communication

Read more: Top 10 Communication Skills for Career Success

2. Resiliency

Throughout your personal and professional development, you may encounter challenges or failures. This means resiliency is a valuable life skill, regardless of your industry or role. Learning to see failure as an opportunity to grow can help you continue to improve, regardless of your training or years of experience. If you're trying new things and taking risks, it's likely that you may encounter new and difficult situations.

Rather than seeing a challenge as a problem, being resilient can help you develop the proper approach and overcome issues in your personal and professional life. Using failure as a chance to learn more about yourself and your capabilities can help you stay motivated and positive even when handling challenges.

Read more: Resilience Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Decision-making

Decision-making is a life skill that is essential both in and out of the workplace. Employers typically want candidates who know how to analyze situations, compare different options and make the best possible decisions based on the information they have. This requires a level of confidence to make firm decisions and avoid second-guessing yourself. Decision-making skills can include:

  • Creative thinking

  • Focus, prioritization

  • Time management

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem-solving

  • Brainstorming

  • Conducting research

  • Alternative identification and evaluation

Read more: Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Cooperation

Being able to cooperate with others and work as part of a team is essential if you want to advance in your career. Improving cooperation skills may require you to strengthen your conflict management skills, communication and leadership skills, empathy and/or teamwork. It can also help you in your personal life as you may encounter challenges or conflicts that require collaboration and teamwork to overcome.

Related: Collaborate vs. Cooperate: Definitions and Differences

5. Ability to accept constructive feedback

Feedback and constructive criticism from supervisors and coworkers are crucial parts of learning and improving job performance. This means it's important to be able to receive feedback thoughtfully and apply it to your work and behaviors. Accepting feedback typically requires self-awareness, the desire to learn and grow and the ability to be humble while focusing on your professional growth.

Related: Growing Your Career: Learning From Negative Feedback

6. Time management

Time management skills are essential for staying self-disciplined and meeting goals and deadlines. This skill also helps you balance work and personal goals so that you have more time for friends, family and outside interests. Effective time management may help you better organize and prioritize your tasks, supporting you in meeting all deadlines and avoiding feelings of stress.

Read more: 9 Key Time Management Skills and How To Improve Them

7. Technology

Knowing how to use basic technology is an essential skill in many industries, and it's important to feel comfortable using the equipment and software that's standard in your office. Improving your technology skills, including social media and online research tools, can help you handle a variety of personal and professional tasks. It's also essential to stay up-to-date on the emerging technologies in your industry and profession, to ensure you're well-informed about market trends and can complete your job duties with ease.

Related: 12 Essential Technology Skills (And How To Improve Them)

How can you improve life skills?

Here are a few ways you can improve your life skills and boost your workplace performance and relationships:

Develop your interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills, also called people skills, include communication skills, how you function as part of a team and your negotiating skills. When you communicate with others, practice active listening and then rephrase what the person has told you before responding with your thoughts. This can ensure you understand the other person correctly and show you listened to their input or opinions. This can show that you respect the speaker and their feedback. Active listening can improve many interpersonal skills and improve your performance as a team member.

Related: 14 Ways To Improve Your Interpersonal Skills at Work

Practice self-awareness

Pay attention to others' postures, gestures and facial expressions for clues about how you're being perceived. Ask for feedback on your work performance to identify areas where you can improve. Become more self-aware, and never stop looking for ways to develop your performance at work.

Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.

Related: 7 Strategies To Improve Self-Awareness in Leadership

Keep learning

Even after years of experience and training, it's important to remain committed to learning. Learning prepares you for new challenges, keeps your mind sharp and allows you to continue to improve your skills. When you surround yourself with talented people who work hard and want to grow, you're able to learn from them and stay inspired to reach your full potential.

Related: 6 Learning Strategies To Apply in the Workplace

Hire a coach

If there are specific skills you want to master, consider hiring a coach. They're able to provide you with dedicated, focused attention that may improve your skill level for significant impacts, both personally and professionally. Your dedication to improvement can be signal your dedication to your professional growth and success to your employer.

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