Career Success | ABE UK

Six key skills you must demonstrate for career success

Having a qualification that develops great business skills will get you on the career ladder but, to get to the next level, you need to display the attributes that managers value.   ABE's marketing and communications manager, Linda Wilkin, describes how you can go about this. 

Smiling lady on the phone

A survey amongst US bosses found that 85 per cent thought a good work ethic was an employee's most important attribute.  However, the survey also revealed a disparity between the qualities managers valued and the number of new entry-level employees who displayed these qualities. 

Based on this survey, there are six basic attributes you can easily demonstrate which will enhance your professional reputation.

If you’re starting out, demonstrating these qualities could put you ahead of the game and your career on the fast track to success. 

1. Professionalism

This was wanted by over 60% of managers but they felt only 11% of new recruits had it.  The basics of being professional are very easy if you follow a simple list of dos and don’ts:


  • Make sure your appearance is clean, neat and tidy.   If your office is quite formal then your clothes need to be too.   
  • Be polite and courteous at all times. 
  • Make sure anything you put in writing is well written, clear and free of spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Make your speech more formal than it might be with friends if you’re prone to using slang – as a general rule it’s best not to call your boss or clients 'dude', 'man' or 'mate'.


  • Use text speak for written communication in a work environment
  • Don’t make a personal call unless it's absolutely necessary and ask permission first
  • Don’t text or check your social media during office hours
  • Don’t yawn, complain or give the impression of not working

2. Time management

Amazingly managers felt only 5.6% of new employees had good time management.  Turning up on time, not going home early or taking extended lunch breaks are obvious. 

Good time management also means using the time you have at work wisely.   One mistake it’s easy to make is to spend a lot of time on a project or piece of work that interests you, but may not be of a high priority to your organisation.  So make sure that the things you get done are the things that are most important to your bosses.  If you are not sure, check.

When you’re given a project find out what the deadlines are and, if it’s complex, write and share a project plan with any additional target deadlines you may have given yourself (this will also enhance your reputation for professionalism). 

Make sure you speak up if you can’t meet deadlines.  You’ll get more respect if you identify problems with your workload and ask your boss’s advice about how to manage it, rather than producing a piece of rushed or incomplete work.

Finally, if you are in a position where you do not have enough to do, rather than just pretending to be busy (although this is better than making it obvious you are bored), let your manager know that you could take on additional work if needed.  This also demonstrates that you are a team player with a great work ethic.

3. Interpersonal communication

This refers to your general ability to get along with others whilst getting the job done.  It was rated by 60% of managers as important.  To some extent if you are professional, polite and courteous, you are more than half way there with your interpersonal communication.

However, good listening and social awareness are also important elements of interpersonal communication.  For some, these are natural abilities but others struggle. Here are some tips for developing your interpersonal communication:

  • Develop the art of being totally focused on what people are saying.  Don’t get distracted by planning your reply or interrupting.  Rather than making their own point, a good listener will ask questions until they have established all the facts and then, if in doubt, check their understanding by summarising what they have heard.
  • If you are in a discussion and find you are doing all the talking, ask someone else to give their opinion and then make a point of keeping quiet for a while, allowing others to speak. 
  • If you disagree with someone’s opinion, explain why politely in a way that makes it clear that you respect their point of view. That way, people are encouraged to share their thoughts and you benefit from hearing their perspective.
  • Do not to complain about others even if you find them difficult in some way.  It creates a general negativity and can be very divisive.  You will get far more credit for making allowances and trying to get along with everyone in your working environment.  You will then be seen as someone who creates a positive vibe in the workplace.

4. Critical thinking and problem solving

Again, 60% of managers wanted employees to demonstrate this but felt only 8.6% did. 

Critical thinking and problem solving doesn’t mean you never say there is a problem.  It means you identify potential problems, ideally before they arise, and come up with practical suggestions as to how you resolve a problem, rather than just saying there is one.

If you hold an ABE Diploma you will have this skill, it’s something our alumni consistently praise our qualifications for developing, so applying these skills in the workplace should help to get you ahead.

5. Work ethic

Unsurprisingly this was wanted by 88% of managers with 85% saying it was the most important attribute to employee success.  However, they consider under 15% of new employees start with a good work ethic. 

Coming in on time, working hard, not spending longer than necessary chatting to your colleagues, being willing to do what it takes to get the job done and letting your manager know if you can take on more work will ensure your work ethic is never questioned.  Once your manager knows they can rely on you, they are likely to give you the projects that matter most to the business, which means you can add to your list of accomplishment on your CV and start pushing for that promotion.

6. Teamwork

A quality valued by 70% of managers.  So make sure you impress with your skills as a team player.  As well as demonstrating professionalism and interpersonal skills, you can boost your reputation as a team player by:

  • Praising and crediting your colleagues for their good work. 
  • Offering to help when someone is bearing a heavy work load, even if the job is outside your normal remit. 
  • Not just doing what is necessary to get your job done but what is necessary to get the job done.


Starting in a new organisation is tricky and it can take time for people to get to know what you are capable of, but whatever stage of your career you are at, if you make these six qualities the basis of the way you conduct yourself in a business environment you will have a great foundation for your working life.

About the survey

The survey quoted in this piece was commissioned by Instructure and conducted by Survey Monkey in December 2014 polling more than 750 managers in different US industries to ascertain which factors managers take into consideration when hiring and which attributes they see as important to entry level employees and how the perceive employee competence before formal training.