It takes more than ability to make it in your career and life. Most of us in today's world can get the education and training to provide us with the ability to become a doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, and any of hundreds of other professions. Yet this alone will not give us what we need to advance in our career. What else is needed? Plenty!
Let's start with something an author wrote more than half a century ago:
"There are few, if any, jobs in which ability alone is sufficient. Needed, also, are loyalty, sincerity, enthusiasm and team play." Reaching Out in Management, 1953 - William B. Given, Jr.
We have developed an even greater understanding of what Given meant in his book in more recent times. He pointed to the necessity of creating more than the basic ability required to get a job. Today's understanding of what is needed is far more comprehensive, hence the enormous professional development industry that now exists.
Before continuing, let's get on the same page as to the meaning of ability. Its definition is:
"ability – noun: 1. possession of the means or skill to do something. 2. talent, skill, or proficiency in a particular area." The Oxford Dictionary
So yes, we can develop the ability to do a particular job and stay there for a time if that is all you want to achieve. To move beyond that job requires you to develop new abilities.
There is a good reason anyone in a profession should learn more than the basics required to perform their job. This is true even if they have no plans to advance in their career, as it will at least increase their job security.
For those who actively work on their abilities, advancement is very likely. Over the years, I have seen many people start at an entry-level position and advance into top management. It is not unusual to find someone who started as an accountant, engineer, or in the proverbial mailroom to become CEO of a large corporation. What did they have that took them there? It certainly wasn't the ability they received through their initial education and training!
It takes more than one ability or talent to advance in your career. Since every organization consists of people, understanding relationships, how people work, what makes them tick, and how to get along with them is crucial to success. You can be the most talented person in the world in the narrow ability that got you the job, but if you do not possess the ability to deal well with people, you will not go far. This was recognized long ago by an American business magnate:
"The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun." John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)
What qualities, attributes, or skills set people apart and take them to the top regardless of their ability to do their work? Here are a few things that can help, most of which involve interpersonal and people skills, as well as self-awareness:
- A high degree of emotional intelligence
- Strong communication, persuasion, and negotiation skills
- Dependability and the ability to get things done
- Empathy, patience, and the ability to develop trust
- A genuine interest in and care for others with strong listening skills
- Solid leadership abilities, character, and integrity
- A positive outlook and attitude
While this is not a complete list, it clearly shows it takes far more than a basic ability or talent to succeed. Without continuing personal development, you severely hinder advancement in your career.
Work to enhance every positive ability you can. Did you know there are hundreds of words that contain the word "ability"? Here is a list of some abilities everyone can work on in their lives:
What other abilities can you think of to add to the list?
After completing your education and training, the most significant thing you can do for your career is to improve your abilities continually. By regularly working on and improving your people skills, leadership abilities, and character, you will stand a far greater chance to rise above others in your profession.
There will always be more to do and learn when it comes to developing your abilities. Improving yourself is a lifelong quest that will hopefully never end, even beyond your career. There are few other ways to enhance your career and your life as powerfully as by continually working on yourself! If you are already involved in personal development, great. If you are not, what are you waiting for!