Essential Skills and Traits for Professional Growth (with Types)

Updated 13 September 2023

Employers usually look for a set of universal skills and traits within their candidates that make them versatile enough to adapt to any professional scenario. Some attributes may benefit the individual, while others benefit the entire organisation, improving efficiency and effectiveness. Knowing about the distinction between traits and skills, along with their classification, can help you develop particular abilities and attributes suitable for your profession. In this article, we define skills and traits, explain ways to develop them and review different types of traits and skills on which you can work.

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What Are Skills And Traits?

Skills and traits are unique terms that refer to tasks that individuals do well and features relating to character, respectively. People learn skills throughout their lives through individual experiences. The more experience they have in a particular area, the higher their skill level becomes. Traits are characteristics that people may inherit or naturally possess.

Skills are things you can learn with practice and may also forget due to the lack of practice, but traits typically last a lifetime. Traits are your natural abilities. They are a part of who you are, what you do and why you do it. Common examples of traits are being strong-willed, diligent, responsible and cooperative, among others. Skills are things you do well, either naturally or by learning, such as being detail-oriented, having good writing abilities and being a clear communicator.

Related: Different High Income Skills

3 Types Of Skills For Career Development

There are mainly three classifications of skills. It may take a combination of all these types of skills to get a job, keep a job and succeed in a job. These skills are:

1. Functional skills

Functional skills are abilities you can learn through experience and training. These skills help in the practical, hands-on aspects of any job. Some common examples of functional skills are reading, writing, making decisions, managing data, repairing machines, doing calculations, developing policies, calculating taxes, organising meetings, public speaking and researching.

Individuals might have a knack for certain functional skills, which helps them excel at jobs that expressly involve that skill. For example, individuals who are good at math are likely to excel in the careers of an accountant, cashier or math teacher. They still require functional skills like money management, spreadsheet making and teaching, but their natural math skills can make it relatively easy to learn those other functional skills.

Related: Hard Skills: Definition And Examples

2. Self-management skills

Self-management skills are the behaviours you have developed in learning to cope with your environment and the people and conditions in it. These are internal skills that reflect in your conduct with others in the workplace and in the way you manage your own emotions. Examples of self-management skills include being energetic, determined, responsible, resourceful and adaptable.

People with adequate self-management skills may be more successful at work as they can effectively manage stress and regulate emotions, which are essential for staying productive. They can control their actions effectively, follow through on the work they are supposed to do and be more successful in their goal-setting efforts. These skills can give a person adequate control over their career and make them a reliable employee.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions And Examples

3. Special knowledge skills

Special knowledge skills involve mastering a specific type of information related to a particular type of work, profession, occupation, education or leisure activity. This is a complex set of vocational skills stemming from specialised knowledge, which results from a course of education or training. Examples of special knowledge skills can include accounting, engineering, catering, hotel management or real-estate brokering.

Unlike functional and self-management skills, special knowledge skills are not transferable. This means you can apply these skills only in certain types of professions. For example, the skills you learn at medical college are only relevant in the profession of a doctor.

Related: Difference Between Knowledge And Skills (With Tips And FAQs)

4 Traits For Professional Growth

Here are some common traits individuals may possess:

1. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, diligent or aware. It implies a desire to take obligations to others seriously and do a task well. Standard features of this dimension include goal-directed behaviours, good impulse control and high levels of thoughtfulness. Conscientious people are well-organised, detail-oriented, efficient, controlled and masters of time management. They can be great team players and diligent employees.

One of the most prominent examples of conscientiousness in the workplace is avoiding procrastination and preferring to complete assignments ahead of time. These are typically the people who follow rules and regulations strictly and never fail to meet a deadline. They may also be conscientious towards other people by showing respect and being polite.

Related: Organisational Skills: Definition And Examples

2. Agreeableness

Agreeableness is a character dimension that defines a person's ability to put others' needs before their own. This personality dimension includes attributes such as friendliness, trust, kindness, affection, sympathy, cooperation, politeness and other pro-social behaviours. Agreeable people find pleasure in helping others and are more likely to be empathetic. They are generally well-liked, prefer cooperation over conflict and can maintain relationships with ease.

Wanting to please others is one of the most common examples of agreeableness. People who have greater agreeableness are more cooperative while those low in this trait are more competitive. People with agreeable personalities can compromise on their own needs to keep others happy.

Related: Traits Of A Powerful Personality And How To Build Them

3. Openness

Openness is a personality trait that determines a person's willingness to embrace new ideas and experiences. Openness involves active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, intellectual curiosity and challenging authority. Open-minded people often approach new things with curiosity, seek out novelty and pursue creative endeavours. People who are high in this trait may be more courageous and inventive. An example of openness is someone who always tries something new, meets new people and displays very liberal ideas about society. As people who are highly creative, they are often valuable to any organisation.

Related: What Are Creativity Skills? (With Examples And Benefits)

4. Extraversion

Excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness characterise extraversion or extroversion. Highly extroverted individuals gain energy in social situations, while introverted people are more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings. An example of extraversion is when someone enjoys being around people more than being alone and likes being the centre of attention.

This is not a positive or negative trait in itself, but rather a determiner of which kinds of roles would fit a person better. A highly extroverted person is likely to thrive in an outgoing profession like a sales representative. A highly introverted person may excel in a profession with limited human interaction like a writer.

Ways To Develop Skills

The more you practice using a certain skill, the more proficient you become in that skill. Individuals can learn new skills as long as they have the physical or mental capacity to do so. Skills may advance over a period of time. For example, if a person with poor communication skills works in a customer-facing position that requires them to talk to people every day, their communication skills are likely to improve, especially if they really commit to the role and wholeheartedly try to learn the skill of communication. With adequate effort, you can learn any skill.

Related: Importance Of Soft Skills In The Workplace

Ways To Develop Traits

Because traits are a person's inherent qualities, you can hone and enhance them, but may not learn them anew. Traits remain stable over time and influence an individual's behaviour. Individuals either have or do not have specific traits. Similar to skills, the more an individual expresses their best traits, the greater they become.

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