The Top Five Traits You Need for Work (and Tips to Acquire Them)

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Hard skills can be learned in a teaching environment whether that’s high school, college, or, most likely, in the workplace. When you think of hard skills, think more technical skills—industry know how, technology familiarity, etc. On the other hand, traits—or soft skills—are qualities that are learned over time based largely on experience, observance and relationships. Honestly, some people are born with personalities that include these traits, whereas other people are not. What are some examples of these traits? Well, here are the top five traits that employers seek in today’s world of work.

1. Communication

The ability to efficiently communicate verbally with others is something that is basically a requirement in today’s workplace. If you’re not clear, thorough and professional with co-workers, clients and vendors, then it only slows down work. Not only are in-person verbal communication skills essential, but you must also be able to communicate non-verbally. Proper grammar and spelling is something that does not go unnoticed when sending emails and messages to others. Effective communication may even require you to be empathetic or sympathetic during sensitive situations. You should always consider who you’re talking to—and what the circumstances are—before you talk or write.

2. Flexibility

Flexibility means you’re ready for any sudden change or task that comes your way. Regardless of your job description, expectations and circumstances constantly change on a day-to-day basis. Those that can easily adapt the quickest are the ones who excel in a work environment. Flexible employees are able to take on jobs and tasks that may not be directly associated with their expertise, making adjustments to complete whatever they must. These people also tend to learn from their mistakes—instead of dwell on them—and confidently move forward.

3. Collaboration

When someone is a team player they demonstrate a positive attitude. They learn from others. They listen to various viewpoints. They trust their colleagues. And they work well on a team by capitalizing on their strengths and improving their weaknesses. Teamwork is essential in a professional environment because individuals must collaborate to achieve the company’s goals. Rarely does an employee in one department take on an entire project without the help of others. Lastly, collaboration in the workplace can lead to greater respect and even friendship outside of the workplace. It’s a win-win.

4. Leadership

Employers are always looking for leadership qualities in their future employees. No, not every new hire needs to be a future leader, but it’s a worthwhile trait to possess. Leaders are typically honest, transparent and excel at giving constructive feedback. They’re also terrific at developing plans and delegating work in order to achieve objectives and reach goals. One last thing, if you become a leader, you won’t do it without understanding the strengths and weaknesses of every employee, and helping them show off their strengths and improve their weaknesses.

5. Creativity

Coming up with various plans of attack and different solutions are what set apart standard employees and extraordinary employees. Those who can think outside the box are ones who have a broad range of ideas and thoughts. Without creative thinking, any company’s progress is stifled. Every day, employees are faced with a different challenge. With these challenges comes a very distinct approach and plan, but only after an individual or team has creatively and thoughtfully devised it. Because it’s impossible to keep your creative juices flowing all the time, it’s important to lean on others for creative ideas and grant credit when and where credit is due.

Regardless of your job and employer, possessing the above traits will make you a more appealing job candidate and better employee. That’s undeniable. What’s difficult, is actually acquiring these skills. If they’re not built into your personality, here are the best ways to acquire them:

  • Throw yourself into difficult work or non-work experiences—experiences where you’re out of your comfort zone and forced to communicate, collaborate, lead, etc. Practice makes perfect, right?
  • Observe and mimic how people who do naturally have these skills effectively display said skills, whether it’s in one-on-one conversations, large meetings or even speaking engagements.
  • Build relationships with patient people—role models or sponsors—who are willing to coach and guide you. You may have to do this informally, in the form of a friendship, but it’s worth seeing if your current or future employer offers a formal mentor-mentee program.

Even if you acquire and/or improve these traits by a modest percent, you’ll become a better worker and potentially have better opportunities. Not to mention, you’ll grow in confidence along the way. Go ahead; get started today!


Chase is a student at Georgia Southern University, studying public relations. He has a creative mind and it is evident in his writing. You can find Chase at the beach, surfing or on the golf course in his free time.

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