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From the Trenches

10 Business Skills You Didn’t Learn in College, But Should Have

Yvonne Lyons | September 22, 2017
10 Things That Don't Take Talent

Ten things that require zero talent. You’ve probably seen some version of this on the internet, right? Work ethic, attitude, passion, being on time — they are all on the list. And there are other articles (because it’s the internet, and there is always a yang for someone’s yin) that complain that all of those 10 things actually DO take talent.

Maybe the issue is one of word choice (of course I’d go there, I’m a content person). It’s not talent that people are talking about. All the things on that list take some kind of learned skill, but they don’t require degrees or training. You either decide you are committing yourself to their importance, or you don’t care that much. These things aren’t specific to your specialty in marketing, design, technology, or whatever you do, but might very well be the things that will make your marketing career (or really ANY career) more so than how fast you can figure out why your marketing automation platform is emailing everyone on your database without being told to do that.

Here are 10 (possibly improved) things that don’t require marketing experience or a college degree, but are business skills that can certainly jump you several rungs up the corporate ladder.

  1. Go above and beyond. This is the biggie. It’s really no different from having a great work ethic, being motivated, doing extra. HR professionals have long had a mantra: “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” If you are in marketing (and many other fields, too), you have to work when the work needs to be done. Marketers are in client service, no matter if you work for an agency or on the client side. You are working for some kind of client, and those folks have marketing needs that don’t necessarily appear between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are marketing emergencies. They are not like 911 emergencies, but to the people you serve, they are emergencies and you have to be willing to rise to the occasion, address them, and do it at 110 percent.
  2. Think for yourself. I don’t care if you are 22 or 42, thinking for yourself can get you the keys to the kingdom. No one is asking you to know all the answers, but you will be winning if you search for the answers on your own. Don’t just go along with your neighbor’s idea. Look for solutions and then choose a direction or make a decision. Propose a strategy — for a conundrum, to reach the marketing goal, for the next quarter’s content calendar. Whatever it is, put thought into it and stop leaning on your co-workers or your boss to think for you.
  3. Come prepared. Come prepared for your day, with the assignment, to the meeting, with the content finished, or the strategy mapped out. Preparedness shows. Winging it also shows.
  4. Be positive. I think this has several sides. There is having a positive outlook or attitude in the workplace overall. Some say it makes teams more productive; it definitely makes your work environment friendlier. The other side is how you approach work issues. Do you see solutions or problems? Present the strategy to untangle the knot instead of showing everyone in your company where the knot is.
  5. Have ownership mentality. Not an owner? It doesn’t matter. Truly. You only need the mentality of an owner to win in business. Pretend like you own the place, not by telling everyone what to do, but by working and speaking like everything you do has an effect on your business. Because it does.
  6. Know your body language. Interested in what that guy is saying in the front of the room after minute 48 of the speech? Maybe not, but act like it. Set an example for your colleagues, or your direct reports, or just people in general. Not thrilled about that assignment you just got handed? Don’t approach it with crossed arms and a sour puss. We all see you, and maybe you think that’s satisfying right now, but we’ll remember the next time a juicy assignment falls out of the sky. It’ll go to your neighbor in the next cubicle.
  7. Learn on your own. Yup. Take personal time, not just work hours, but your OWN time, to get better at what you do. Become knowledgeable about your field. Read everything you can and bring that information back to your co-workers. Join a professional association in your field and attend their events. All that knowledge you gain makes you a better marketer and also helps your company (and you care about the latter because of No. 5).
  8. Speak up. I don’t mean volume here. Because you are thinking for yourself (No. 2), you should be coming up with ideas, processes, and solutions that can help reach your company’s goals. Speak up — bring those ideas to the table. Even if only one out of 10 gets used, being someone who is thinking about improvement is better than being someone who never speaks.
  9. Pay attention to the details. The devil is in the details. That’s what they say, and they are not wrong. The details can make — or cost you — a lot: One digit, one deadline, or one misspelling can mean more than just that one character. Some people are great with details, for others they are a constant struggle. But the details are important no matter what field you’re in, so if they are not your friends, find a way to train yourself to get along with them. Because these little guys are what make or break companies and careers.
  10. Be a leader (not a sheep). Use this mentality in all aspects of your world. In your personal life, at work (see No. 1), or helping old ladies across the street. Just doing what everyone else does will not make your content stand out, or your strategy unique, or your marketing successful. You have to do MORE. Be inventive, collaborate with your team, roll out something that others aren’t doing. Blaze the trail, marketer.

If you commit to my top 10, you’ll become a better employee and a better marketer — and  your rise to the top will be meteoric. No training or degrees required. Have other traits that would be in your top 10? Leave them in the comments. Think you already have these skills nailed? We are always looking for new talent. Check out our careers page to learn more.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding and communications. You can find Yvonne on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or read her other posts.