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Build Your Career Get Ahead

Career Success Depends On Your Willingness to Learn

Career Success Depends On Your Willingness to Learn
Credit: Garagestock/Shutterstock

Being motivated to learn new skills is the attribute executives say is most critical for employees looking to get ahead, new research finds.

Specifically, 30 percent of executives said having a willingness to keep learning is the characteristic they consider most necessary for an employee to succeed, according to the study from the staffing firm Accountemps.

"Successful people never stop learning," Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps, said in a statement. "The world is changing quickly and constantly, and it's vital to stay informed of the latest trends and sought-after skills in your industry."

Executives are also placing greater importance on the ability to communicate and get along with others in the workplace. In the research, 27 percent of those surveyed said having strong interpersonal skills is critical to an employees' success, up from just 15 percent who said the same in 2002. [See Related Story: The Job Skills You Need to Make More Money]

"The ability to convey complex information clearly and succinctly can lead to advancement opportunities," Driscoll said.

Being able to adapt easily to change and welcoming increased responsibility were the other top traits the surveyed executives said are necessary for professional advancement.

Least important to executives was a willingness to burn the midnight oil. Just 7 percent of those surveyed said working long hours is a necessary success strategy.

"Putting in extra time at work doesn't necessarily lead to positive outcomes," Driscoll said.

To help employees looking to get ahead, Accountemps offers five career-advancement tips:

  1. Get involved: Joining industry associations is a good way to learn new skills and keep up to date on the trends affecting your profession.
  2. Volunteer: Volunteering for a nonprofit organization can help you hone your skills. In addition, these types of experiences provide opportunities for you to grow and learn.
  3. Keep learning: Earning an advanced degree or certification is a good way to demonstrate to employers your willingness to continue learning new skills. It also helps cement your expertise within your field.
  4. Hone your communication skills: When communicating in the workplace, it is important to observe body language, make eye contact and listen fully to what the other person is saying. When speaking to important audiences, it can also be helpful to rehearse what you're going to say. Those who need work on their public speaking should consider joining a professional organization like Toastmasters.
  5. Think long term: You always want to be thinking about the big picture. This type of mind-set can help you make more strategic decisions and put you in a better position to get ahead.

The study was based on surveys of more than 2,200 chief financial officers from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.