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Skills advice

01 October 2021

Skills Advice from 20 Top Professionals

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If you’ve started doing research into your future career, chances are you’ve heard about employability skills. 

Writing, communication, teamwork, time management… there are a whole range of hard and soft skills that are considered essential to each industry. 

But which skills specifically will help you land your dream job? 

We asked 20 of our top professionals which skills you need to work in their field. 

Here’s what they said.

What skills do you need to be a successful...

Architect 

Karl Mok, Architect and Founder of TA!LAB Spatial Design Studio

 

“You have to have a good sense of time and project management, while being confident in your presentation and interpersonal skills.

You also have to have patience, as some projects may well take over a decade to complete! 

But these are all skills you can pick up and start training at any point.”

Artist 

Katy Edelsten, Artist, Illustrator and Advertising Creative at Wieden + Kennedy

 

“When it comes to advertising, you need to be able to take something like a brand and dissect why people care about it. 

First you have to figure out an interesting way to talk about it and turn it into a script. Then you have to talk to the people you work with to figure out how you want to bring it to life. Should it be animated or live-action? Do you want to build a set or make it into an event?

I think the real skills are things like working with people, presenting and having faith in your own ideas. 

Passion is the core.”

You need to show you’ve got the communication skills, that you’re ready to develop and ready to learn.

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Barrister

Rhys Rosser, Barrister at 2 Bedford Row Criminal Barristers Chambers

 

“Confidence and the ability to communicate with a variety of different individuals.”

Dentist 

Charlotte Leigh, General Dental Practitioner, Brecknock Dental Surgery

 

“I think communication is the most important thing. 

They can teach you that to an extent at university but, for the most part, I think it’s innate. 

You have to be able to empathise, to calm someone down if they’re anxious, or to deal with patients whose anxiety comes out as aggression. 

You have to be able to relate to all kinds of people, too. First, you could be treating a 5-year-old, then, ten minutes later, a 95-year-old. 

One moment, you might be explaining to a millennial that getting their scientific evidence from Instagram might not be the best idea. The next, you could be running five minutes late and dealing with a middle-aged businessman for whom time is money.

The technical skills are what you go to dental school to learn. Nobody expects you to be able to do a filling when they interview you. 

You need to show you’ve got the communication skills, that you’re ready to develop and ready to learn. 

Show your thirst for knowledge. So much of dentistry is about professional development: you need to take those courses, you need to want to better yourself. Otherwise, you’ll get bored.

So, a drive for knowledge, a passion for helping people and communication.” 

Doctor

Dr Manik Kohli, Speciality Registrar in Sexual Health and HIV Medicine

 

“Problem-solving, lateral thinking and being able to communicate well: those things are all really integral when it comes to being a good doctor.

But for me, I think the most important thing is empathy.

Sometimes you have days where you’re tired, stressed or have lots going on. In those moments it can be easy to lose empathy for the person in front of you. You’re a human being - things can go wrong for you!

Empathy can be the thing that you drop quite quickly whilst maintaining all the other stuff that comes with being a doctor. So I think it's really important to have a good basis to begin with.”

You need a ridiculous amount of passion. If you’re truly interested in what you do then everything else can be learnt.

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Engineer 

Bhavik Bhatt, Thermofluids Engineer at Rolls-Royce 

 

“Problem-solving, teamwork and delivery (or commitment to delivery). Those are the three most important things to complement your maths and physics. 

A fourth one I would add is the ability to articulate your thoughts clearly. You can’t say you fully understand something until you explain it well to someone else. 

The problem-solving is quite self-explanatory; as an engineer, your job is to solve problems. 

Teamwork is very important. I work in the aviation industry and I do have an aeronautical background. But I can’t do what I do without mechanical, electrical and material engineers. So you have to collaborate with all kinds of engineers with different skill sets. If you can’t work in a team, you’re not going to get anything done. 

And delivery: once you start a project, make sure you know how to commit to it and finish it.”

Entrepreneur 

Leona Mondsee, CEO and Co-Founder of Reitly Investment Comparison Platform 

 

“Passion. 

You need a ridiculous amount of passion. If you’re truly interested in what you do then everything else can be learnt. Everything else can be solved.”

Fashion Designer 

Karen Peacock, Designer and Co-Founder of Womenswear Brand Albaray 

 

“Creativity – artistic with a strong visualisation ability.  

Good communication skills, determination and a passion for what you do.”

It’s the ability to be proactive, to read a lot, to be curious about what you’re involved in.

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Filmmaker 

Ben Hunter, Award-Winning Writer, Director and Filmmaker

 

“The ability to network. 

I could always be doing more in terms of expanding my network and nurturing the network I already have. 

The industry is all about people, so the more you know, and the more you help them out, the more likely that favour will be returned at some point. 

I like to think about networking as what can you do for the other person first and foremost, rather than always expecting them to deliver what you want of them. It’s a long game but it definitely pays off.”

International Development Expert 

Perseverence Ganga, Programme Policy Officer, UN World Food Programme

 

“The technical skills can range from nutrition, finance, politics, human resources and engineering to ICT, procurement and logistics. 

But you also need to have strong soft skills like flexibility, resilience, approachability, humility, compassion and a strong sense of cultural sensitivity.”

Investment Banker 

Erika Terrones-Shibuya, Associate, Asia Equities Sales at Goldman Sachs

 

“Though there is no fixed skill set necessary for the industry, there are definitely certain characteristics that will help you excel. 

These include excellent time management, being able to synthesise complex issues quickly and being able to think on the spot.”

Journalist

Michael Skapinker, Contributing Editor, Financial Times 

 

“Curiosity, a love of words and a desire to be constantly improving.”

Diplomacy is a contact sport: it’s about working with people and building trust with others who may at first seem like they have little in common with you.

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Management Consultant 

Mary Agbesanwa, Strategy and Operations Management Consultant at PwC UK

 

“I would say two things: being inquisitive and being adaptable.

Being inquisitive is super important because you’re absorbing a lot of information - new companies, new industries - and you’re expected to help change management programs. 

It’s the ability to be proactive, to read a lot, to be curious about what you’re involved in.

In terms of adaptability to change, whether it’s changing projects or managing clients through some transformation, you need to embrace change. You need to see the potential opportunities rather than the friction and fears people have.”

Marketing Manager 

Emma Lord, Associate Director of Marketing, InvestIN Education

 

“Communication is key. 

Also the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, namely, the customer. You need to pitch your product in a way that your target audience doesn’t even question whether they need it or not. 

In terms of hard skills, it entirely depends on what specialty you want to go into. If you’re interested in videography or design, there are obvious technical skills you need. If you’re leaning towards PPC, paid social and programmatic campaigns, you’ll need to understand the intricacies of digital advertising. 

You also need to be adaptable and resilient to change. The world of marketing is constantly moving, innovating and discovering new ways to entice customers. External factors will also cause your campaigns to pivot and strategies to change. 

You need to be able to ride the change, make quick decisions and not get caught up in what might have been.”

Music Producer/Tour Manager 

David Davies, Tour Manager, Senior Producer and Founder of Double D Live

 

“You need the confidence to constantly be pitching yourself and trying to get opportunities. 

Also resilience, to deal with the setbacks. 

And in terms of other skills it depends what you want to do, really. If you want to work in tech you obviously need to be a skilled technician, if you want to do tour production and management like me, you need a lot of soft skills.

You need to be able to get on with people. You spend all your time on buses and in planes: hours and hours with the same people.”

Political Leader 

Ben Simpson, Political and Security Officer at the British Embassy in Tripoli, Libya 

 

“I find that it’s important to have a good mix of strong interpersonal and analytical skills. 

Diplomacy is a contact sport: it’s about working with people and building trust with others who may at first seem like they have little in common with you. 

If you are to influence other countries, you need to be able to understand and work with people. 

At the same time, you must have the skills to be able to analyse complex political problems, and give compelling and well-reasoned advice to ministers about policy.”

Psychologist 

Dr Vicky McKechnie, Clinical Psychologist at an Acute Hospital in London

 

“We have quite intensive training, during which we learn all sorts of things, including how to understand and formulate someone’s difficulties using psychological theory, delivering evidence-based psychological therapies, and research skills.

One really important skill for a clinical psychologist is being able to hold multiple ideas and perspectives at one time.

There are other skills that are perhaps harder to teach but are really important. A key one that comes to mind is empathy.”

Software Engineer 

Victoria Sloan, Front-End Software Engineer at Teamwork

 

“Initially, when you are starting out, a can-do attitude and willingness to learn.

Following on from that it’s important to develop your problem solving skills, creativity and analytical ability.

Communication skills also go a long way, as it really is much more than just the code. It’s about people - how users are interacting with the software you’re developing.”

You need the confidence to constantly be pitching yourself and trying to get opportunities. Also resilience, to deal with the setbacks.

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Solicitor 

Kathryn Finch, Solicitor and General Counsel of Quartz Counselling, Psychotherapy and Training Limited

 

“I won’t lie, there are a lot. 

But they’re complementary.  

Being a solicitor really comes down to being able to absorb and understand a lot of information, stay organised and communicate complex ideas clearly to people without your training. You also need to be able to write well. 

It’s a lot to get used to and obviously everyone has different particular strengths, but it’s nothing that can’t be learned.”

Vet

Dr Michael Lazaris, RSPCA Veterinary Surgeon 

 

“Great communication skills, the ability to be a team player, being able to cope with stressful situations, determination, empathy and problem solving would be at the top of your list.”

Writer

Lauren James, Twice Carnegie-Nominated Author of Young Adult fiction

 

“Well, as well as writing novels, a big part of my job involves marketing them on social media. That can involve anything from doing a photoshoot with one of my books to coming up with social media content (like doing an interview like this, or creating a quiz to match readers to characters’ personalities, or writing an essay on writing).

I also have to be able to record and edit videos of myself, format HTML for my website, create promotional graphics, maintain social media accounts, etc, etc… Basically, as well as being an author you need to be a marketer and publicist.”

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