The top 14 soft skills successful people use to get ahead at work

Succeeding at work requires hard work and talent. 

But it also requires a lot of soft skills that help you get along with colleagues, resolve conflicts, cooperate more effectively and gain recognition and advancement. 

These soft skills are often ranked underneath the hard skills, but the truth is that they’re just as important, and often even more important than your actual job skills. 

When you work on a team, remotely or in-person, the following soft skills will help you get ahead. 

Let’s dive in: 

1) Clear communication 

Those who communicate tend to rise up through the ranks more than anybody else. 

No matter how individualistic your career is, the ability to communicate with others in a concise and clear way is crucial. 

Effective verbal and written communication is crucial for conveying ideas, building relationships, and resolving conflicts. 

When you become great at writing brief and clear emails and speaking in a way that makes sense and makes duties clear, you give yourself a big leg up at work. 

2) High emotional intelligence

No matter what field you work in, high emotional intelligence (EQ) is a huge asset. 

The ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions, as well as understand and empathize with others, is deeply valuable. 

High EQ fosters strong interpersonal connections and leads to much more respect from your colleagues. 

When those you work with feel seen, even your superiors, it creates an atmosphere of mutual support and progression instead of competition and rivalry. 

3) Flexibility to change  

Being flexible and open to change is a can’t-miss soft skill. 

Even if your job is fairly consistent and doesn’t change a lot, some evolution always takes place. 

Individuals who can thrive in dynamic work environments and navigate unforeseen challenges always end up ahead of those who can’t accept change. 

Become flexible about industry changes and workplace shifts and you’ll keep moving ahead even when others are stagnant. 

4) Problem-solving acumen 

Everybody likes a problem-solver, and it’s no different at work. 

This isn’t just the capacity to literally solve a problem through skills and knowledge, but also the soft skill of having a can-do, optimistic attitude

The ability to identify issues, analyze options, and be open to pursuing solutions is a key trait that will get you ahead at work and in every other area of life. 

5) Teamwork and cooperative solution-seeking

Collaborating with colleagues and becoming adept at spotting the skills and weaknesses of others is another soft skill that’s extremely valuable. 

This takes a lot of discernment and perceptive talent: 

Noticing what others are good at doing and working with them in a way that leads to a positive and supportive work culture. 

Everybody loves a team player. 

Speaking of which…

6) Networking and collaboration

Some tasks are best for a solo entrepreneur or endeavor, others take teamwork. 

Depending on your profession and field, however, there is often room for collaboration and networking. 

Even if that means B2B networking and working out others who are in your industry, touching base with them is an excellent way to start moving ahead. 

Building and maintaining professional relationships, cultivating a strong professional network, and leveraging connections all help move the ball forward on your career and its opportunities.

7) Effective time management skills

Being able to manage your time is another skill that’s highly prized at any workplace. 

When you are able to prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and efficiently allocate resources, it makes you a major asset to any job. 

Whether you work with others or alone, your ability to manage your time and schedule effectively will move you rapidly up the ranks. 

8) Ability to inspire and motivate colleagues

Inspiring and motivating others is another soft skill that’s incredibly valuable. 

Whatever field you work in, being able to cheer your colleagues on and create a sense of solidarity is deeply valuable. 

This goes far beyond showing you’re committed or respect your colleagues. 

It’s a real energy and enthusiasm that you bring to the table and that lifts everyone up. 

9) Creativity and thinking outside the box

7 ways to unlock your creative potential even if you think you have none 2 The top 14 soft skills successful people use to get ahead at work

Thinking outside the box and generating innovative ideas is another soft skill that will move you ahead in any workplace. 

In many cases, something is done the same old way just because that’s how it’s always been: not necessarily because it’s the best way to do things. 

When you approach challenges with fresh perspectives and are open to driving positive growth, organizations will eventually see your value and respond accordingly. 

Just make sure not to move too fast and to listen to other voices, too. New ideas take time.

10) Proactive approach to conflict

The ability to address disagreements constructively is another soft skill that’s incredibly valuable. 

Conflict is often the result of unmet needs, whether conscious or not.

Becoming aware of that can be the first step to proactive conflict resolution instead of gettings stuck in confrontation and escalation. 

As non-violent communication (NVC) founder Marshall Rosenberg says

“Make your goal to attend to your underlying needs and to aim for a resolution so satisfying that everyone involved has their needs met also.”

This also ties directly into the next point:

11) Negotiation and willingness to compromise

You have needs and goals. So does everyone else. 

This will sometimes require negotiation and compromise: 

You want to seek a balance where you’re not a pushover or a people-pleaser, but you’re also not overly me-first and dismissive of the needs of others. 

Effectively advocating for your interests, while still caring about the perspective of others is the key to negotiation. 

Oftentimes there’s a win-win solution lurking in the background if you talk it through honestly and openly state your own needs.

12) Resilience and grit

Speaking of being willing to negotiate, that takes grit and resilience:

This is another key soft skill that will get you ahead at work. 

Bouncing back from setbacks is another soft skill that can’t be overemphasized. 

Every job has challenges and low points, including because of personal challenges you or coworkers may be going through. 

Being there for others and finding a way through those hard times is a crucial skill. 

It’s what turns a job into something more, and makes you a natural choice for promotion and advancement. 

13) Critical thinking and logic

The ability to use critical thinking is something incredibly valuable in almost every profession. 

Even creative endeavors are often in need of critical thinking about how to best approach the financial side of things or use your time. 

Evaluating information objectively, questioning assumptions, and making well-informed decisions based on evidence is a way to get a handle on your time and energy and begin directing your energy in an effective way. 

Whether you work alone or on a team, being a critical thinker also draws others to you as they see that you’re an organized and logical thinker. 

14) Self-motivation and initiative

Whether you work alone or in a group, being a self-starter is a definite mark in the plus column. 

When your coworkers and boss can see that you move ahead on your own steam, they are much more likely to give you additional responsibilities and give you a promotion. 

It’s really that simple. 

Setting personal goals, staying focused and disciplined, and taking initiative to pursue continuous growth are all signs that your self-motivation is growing and that you’re on the right path to becoming highly self-motivated. 

Soft skills matter

Developing and honing these soft skills will significantly boost your success and fulfillment at work

It’s not only that you will advance more quickly in your career and obtain rewarding outcomes, it’s also that these soft skills are all transferable:

They aren’t just valuable for your work, they’re also hugely beneficial in your relationships, friendships, activities, personal goals and other areas of your life. 

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on and visit his website at

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