The Real Must-Have Job Skills For 2013

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A Wall Street Journal article titled Must-Have Job Skills in 2013 asserts:

“For employees who want to get ahead, basic competency won’t be enough. To win a promotion there are four must-have job skills: 1) Clear communications; 2) Personal branding; 3) Flexibility; and 4) Productivity improvement.”

My take: Total and utter nonsense.

Let’s use me as an example to prove the fallacy of the article.

1. Clear communications. Perhaps this is a bit bombastic and egotistical (but really, what did you expect from me?), but I’m the best communicator in my company, and our job is communication. I’m the best writer among the analyst staff, and probably the best presenter.

2. Personal branding. I’m the most quoted analyst in my company, and my blog was voted 2nd best banking blog. That’s pretty good personal branding in my book. Happy to take on any of my colleagues who think their personal brand is stronger.

3. Flexibility. Tough attribute to measure quantitatively. Willing to give myself just an average grade on this.

4. Productivity improvement. The WSJ article says “In 2013, workers should find new ways to increase productivity.” No problem here. Two years running now, I’ve published the most reports of any analyst at my firm, blowing away the goal.


Having made these pompous claims about my skills, let me tell you this: There is no one — and I mean NO ONE — in my company who is LESS LIKELY to get a promotion next year than I am.

It’s not like I just developed the above skills. I’d argue that I’ve have had them for years. Yet, the last time I got a promotion was — you sitting down? — 1999.

That’s right. Haven’t been promoted in 13 years. In fact, title-wise, I’ve been demoted. I used to be a “VP, Principal Analyst” and now I’m just a lowly Senior Analyst.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Ten times happier doing what I’m doing now than when I had the fancier title.


But the more important point is that the skills listed above are NOT what it takes to get a promotion. If you really want to get promoted next year, I’ll tell you what to do. It’s quite simple. If you do the following things in 2013, I guarantee you that you’ll get promoted (will buy you lunch at a nice restaurant in Boston, but you will have to PROVE that you did these things):

1. Make the company money. There are other things on the list, but if you do none of the rest, just doing this is bound to get you promoted.  Here’s what the social media gurus morons don’t get: Your personal brand is worthless if the company you work for can’t capitalize on it. It’s great for your ego that your community knows who you are because you tweet links to 500 articles every day, but your employer couldn’t care less.

2. Do the dirty work. In every company, there are sticky issues, or problem areas, that don’t ever seem to get resolved or cleaned up. Do the stuff that nobody else is willing to take on, and you’re on your way to a promotion.

3. Drive other people’s productivity. The WSJ article is way off the mark. Companies promote people who are willing to take on the responsibility of dealing with headaches and issues that come with managing other people.  Improving your own productivity doesn’t win you promotions. What it does do — and this shouldn’t be downplayed or overlooked — is win you freedom. What I get from my personal branding, productivity, and communication ability is freedom. Freedom to (mostly) do what I want and how I want to do it (for the most part).  This is what too many Gen Yers don’t get. They think they’re entitled to this level of freedom because they’re the “future.” Buzz off, you inexperienced little nudniks. If John Houseman was still around, he’d tell you that “you have to EARN it.”

4. Earn the respect of your colleagues. Smart companies know that the number one reason why people leave a company is bad bosses. It’s not money, or anything else. It’s having a lousy boss (I speak from experience).  If you want that promotion, you stand a better chance if you’ve done the three things above AND if people like you (I’ve learned that the hard way, too).


Bottom line: I don’t know what the WSJ editors were thinking when they decided to publish that article. Not a particularly good piece.

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