What Skills Are Necessary for All Careers?

Job-hunters wait to enter a job fair on March 21, 2012, in New York City.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora, the best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on TwitterFacebook, and Google Plus.

Answer by Richard Walker, entrepreneur, CEO, author of It’s My Life! I Can Change If I Want To:

Let’s face it: Who is happy with his or her first choice of careers? Few people start with something and stick it out forever. Even successful athletes start other careers, and you should too. The challenge is to use your first career to build up skills that are needed in all industries, organizations, and situations. The top three skills we all need to be successful in life and in our careers are communication, leadership, and confidence.

Communication is the foundation of all relationships. Every relationship is based on how we communicate. We are constantly teaching others how to communicate with us by what we say and don’t say; by what we do and don’t do; and by how we stand, walk, and hold ourselves. This one skill will be with you throughout your life, and it grants you the ability to get what you want, help others get what they want, and to navigate the toughest of issues.

Every facet of our lives depends on relationships. Every career is built upon relationships. Your success at work, at home, and in life is based on your ability to communicate in those relationships. Therefore, it is paramount that you focus on constantly improving your ability to communicate well.

The core of great communication is based on all of these facets (and more):

  • Listening skills (learn to listen two to three times more than you speak)
  • Language skills (know your grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure)
  • Presentation skills (learn public speaking and how to tell stories)
  • Writing skills (learn the art of persuasive writing—read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” for a great example)
  • Nonverbal skills (learn to control your posture, gestures, presence)
  • Emotion-based skills (learn the empathetic response, display your passion)

Leadership for yourself is leadership for others. The perception that leadership requires charisma, being at the front, or having a position of power is only one way to see leadership in action. The best form of leadership is the quiet, internal, self-leadership that great leaders have developed well before they take the spotlight.

Think of it this way: If you don’t live up to your own standards, nobody else is going to do it for you. Without a gun to your head, nobody can force you to do or think anything. It is your responsibility to take good, positive actions. It is your responsibility to think positive, empowering thoughts. It is your responsibility to be your best and that requires leadership of yourself.

Leadership is the ability to inspire others to do things that they may not have done otherwise. Develop and use the skill to inspire yourself first and you’ll find it much easier to be a leader for others in any situation. In other words, lead by example. Be your best example for the world.

Confidence is knowledge of yourself. The most attractive quality in any person of any circumstance is his or her own self-confidence. A confident person displays her strength through her actions, not her words. A confident person doesn’t say to you, “I’m confident”—he just proves it.

Confidence is a skill like any other, and you can learn it. Start by recognizing what confidence is. Confidence is knowledge of yourself; confidence is the knowledge you have about how you will act in any given circumstance. Got a flat tire? You can be confident in that moment by recognizing your ability to solve the problem (call AAA, fix the tire, call a friend). When you lack confidence, it’s usually because the solution is unknown to you and you fear the outcome. Find at least one solution, and you’ll start feeling more confident. Find more solutions, and feel more and more confident.

To build confidence is to challenge yourself to both fail and succeed in many circumstances. The more you learn about your abilities, the more confidence you will naturally have. Approach every situation with a mindset to learn about yourself and you’ll continually add to your level of confidence.

Put these skills together and go after your dreams. Imagine being one of those eloquent speakers, writers, and overall excellent communicators. Couple that with an inner drive to lead yourself to be your best. Add in your unwavering confidence to overcome issues regardless of what comes your way. What do you become? You become unstoppable in the pursuit of your passions, dreams, and goals. Develop these skills and not only can you switch to any career and succeed, you’ll also find rich, rewarding experiences in all facets of your life.

More questions on Quora: