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What You Need to Learn Now for Success in the Future

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Technology won’t be standing still in the next five years. Your organization won’t be standing still – and neither should you. The future presents new challenges for both management and administrative professionals. While technology mastery is the foundation of your effectiveness, it isn’t enough to place you at the top of your profession. 

In a fast moving and competitive world we must all evolve. Success at all levels of the organization will be based not on technical skills but on cognitive and collaborative competence.  Admins, as well as executives and managers, must develop the ability to be resilient, connected, focused, creative, flexible and innovative. The following six skills will help get you there; ensure that it’s a part of your professional development to learn to:

Welcome change.
Rapid technological, geographical, and economic changes have lead to an astounding amount of new, shared knowledge and significantly changed the way we view the world and do business.  Change has become a way of life. However, the human brain naturally resists change, perceiving it as a threat. In fact, while change creates many challenges, it also opens the door to new opportunities.

The most successful people in every industry have embraced and sought change. Consciously create a positive attitude about change, and look for opportunities. How can you apply your current skills and strengths to the changing workplace? How can you apply new technology to improving performance or results? What new needs does the change create that you might have a part in?

Develop cultural intelligence.
The workplace is more diverse than ever, but not as diverse as it will become. At the same time, businesses and institutions are increasingly global.  We all reflect our particular culture from where we grew up and where we live to our spiritual beliefs and even how we view time. In order for people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and beliefs to work effectively together and to actually benefit from diverse perspectives, we must cultivate a better understanding of others’ cultural norms, styles of communication, values and beliefs. We must also develop the ability to then adapt to others by modifying our behavior and communication.

Balance interpersonal and analytical skills.
While the abilities to communicate effectively and interact harmoniously with co-workers are called “soft skills,” they are a better predictor of professional success than any other set of skills. None of us can succeed alone; forming strong working relationships is a path to success in any field. The reverse is also true: the inability to work well with others leads to career collapse.

At the same time, organizations in every field have come to value employees at all levels who think analytically, make sound decisions and solve problems. The need for those employees and the spread of decision-making authority across organizations will only increase in the current business environment.

Cope with stress.
For most people, the workplace is their major source of stress. That stress at work has increased as organizations have become leaner and the flood of new technology has increased. An inability to cope with stress effectively harms productivity and morale and can lead to depression and anxiety.  While there are many resources and proven techniques to help manage stress., it is incumbent on you to recognize the symptoms of stress in yourself, assess the causes and take action to manage the pressure of your responsibilities.  Everything from exercise to breathing to meditation can help. Protect yourself and stay healthy!

Exert digital influence.
Most of us understand how to use online tools and social media to expand our professional network. We are less adept at using our networks to gather information, solve problems and build our influence.  Organizations have begun seeking employees with strong online connections and a track record of wielding influence through them.  

Build your online reputation by offering interesting content, being visible and motivating others to circulate and act on your ideas.  Put your expertise out there: establish links with experts, offer relevant information and referrals to others, and be visible in expert groups. Good networkers connect people and organizations with common interests; they use their contacts as a source of feedback and ideas.

Manage focus (and distraction) deliberately.
No wonder we’re distracted. Just in the past decade the world has gone from a total of 12 billion e-mails a day to 247 billion, from 400,000 text messages to 4.5 billion, from an individual average of 2.7 hours a week online to 18 hours. Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, has shown that at work we switch tasks an average of once every three minutes. Once our focus on a task has been interrupted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to it.

There are a number of tools and apps to help us disconnect from technology and focus on our work.  But other research shows that distractions and letting our minds wander can be beneficial—that our brains are built that way. A break to surf the web or stare out the window can provide a “cognitive refresher,” relieving stress and boosting creativity. The key to better performance is to create the conditions we need to concentrate and also create positive interruptions or downtime.

Add value.
In business, a value-added product has features added to a basic product; features for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra.  A value-added employee will think about how they can add value to the organization—and then execute. Employees that add value don’t just react; they are proactive and have a handle on priorities.  How can you contribute to the short- and long-term objectives your team has? What resources do you need to develop to support new initiatives? How can you streamline a system or procedure or add new elements to improve the services or work product you provide? What is not being done that you can do?

American Society of Administrative Professionals

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