Donkey’s years ago, when I worked as an advertising account manager I particularly enjoyed the people aspect of my job. This led me to do stuff that wasn’t even directly part of my job, like helping out my colleagues with their own accounts and even with personal issues. I noticed people and their needs. I also noticed people’s skills, what they were good at and not.
I didn’t know it then, but I was using my undercover skills and attributes – those skills that lie behind our top-level skills, such as communication, being organised and building relationships. Today, I use them to help graduates get good jobs. It took a while – but I got there in the end!
That’s what I want to talk about in this, part 2 of my blog on ‘The undercover skills that can turn you into a ninja employee’. What are some of the undercover skills that can help you carve out the extraordinary career you dream of? Let’s take a look.
Six sets of undercover skills that could make you a ninja employee
1. Courage and honesty – with these you will not be afraid to say what you think. We may not always like people who give us their honest opinion and don’t simply go along with what everyone else is saying, but we will always respect them. When you say what everyone else is thinking but not saying work colleagues will look at you like a great sounding board or a gauge for what’s really happening. Employers will know they can trust you.
2. Candidness and diplomacy – yes, it’s great to say what’s on your mind but one must also have the wisdom to know how and when to voice it. You need to be forthright in what you want to say but also employ tact and discretion so that you don’t destroy precious relationships. Otherwise you’re just an elephant in a china shop.
3. Intuition – is the skill of being perceptive. It comes from being aware, noticing things. People who listen more than they speak, who think before they act and who have a good sense of their own emotional state are usually good at feeling things out and following that inkling. We sometimes balk at this skill because it seems a little airy-fairy to say, “I have a hunch”, but it nevertheless is a skill that the business world is increasingly growing to notice and respect.
4. Insightfulness – similar to intuition, you notice things before they become a problem. The insightful employee with anticipate the needs of customers, clients and colleagues and help them to avoid unnecessary issues and challenges. David Calabrese, vice president and chief pharmacy officer at the Illinois-based pharmaceutical benefit management company Catamaran, is said to have named his executive assistant ‘Radar’, from the character in the popular 1970’s TV series MASH, because, he said, “she was always one step ahead of me”.
5. Spirit and confidence – if you get tongue-tied and starry-eyed in the face of higher ranking managers, executives or even the rich and famous, then you won’t hold down a job for long working for high profile individuals, whether they’re in the public eye or not. You need confidence and spirit to remain authentic and level headed, or to ask questions others think are dumb, so ditch the shaky knees if you’re heading for extraordinary.
6. Approachability – the quickest way to shut down the spirit and confidence of other people is to be unapproachable. It really is a skill of great worth. People will open up to you, seek you out and even buy products and services from you when you’re obliging, respectful and open. This is a skill that every public-facing employee – that wants to do well – must have.
Bringing your undercover skills to the fore
This list is not exhaustive – there are a myriad of other skills and attributes, like vision, courage, wisdom, authenticity, compassion, composure, humility and joy, that could equally fit in here. Some of them may mean the same thing. Identify those you have. Get used to seeing them in yourself, to using them and talking about them. And, most of all, start using them to mark out an above normal and extraordinary graduate career for yourself.