To be a rock star computer programmer, you'll need a different set of skills, experiences, and strengths than a rock star human resource manager. Every position has different requirements, every company has different values, and every team has a different kind of chemistry. Still, despite all the diversity and uniqueness that exists in the professional world, there are still a handful of qualities that employers look for in every candidate, regardless of position.
If you can exhibit these seven qualities, your employer will consider you an instant win, and you'll be far more likely to get hired, earn promotions, and build great, long-lasting professional relationships:
1. Proactive. Proactive people seek out solutions to problems before the problems escalate, and sometimes before they ever become problems in the first place. The opposite quality is reactive; reactive people wait until a situation demands a response before taking action. Proactive employees are rare but extremely valuable, because they're always on the lookout for actions to take and they're rarely caught off-guard. To be more proactive, you have to think critically about your position, predicting things before they occur and preventing possible problems before they develop into anything serious. For example, a proactive person might notice a flaw in a certain procedure, and correct the procedure before it manifests as a live issue.
2. Honest. There are rare cases when honesty isn't the best policy--for example, you might bite your tongue when your boss asks what you think of his new haircut. But honest workers are hard to come by, and even if their honesty is difficult to take at times, it's still good to hear for the company. For example, a worker might point out that your company's website has an ugly design; this isn't exactly positive feedback, but it does illustrate something you might have otherwise missed, giving you the opportunity to improve. Honest employees are also unafraid to express their needs, such as when they feel overworked or when they feel their strengths aren't being utilized.
3. Flexible. Great workers aren't rigid about their responsibilities or their circumstance. When the boss asks you to take on a task outside your responsibilities, a rigid worker might respond with "that's not my job" while a flexible worker might accept without resistance. Blindly giving in to all of your boss's requests isn't always the best policy either, but showing your flexibility by offering a compromise is always better than a flat-out rejection. Show that you're willing to make accommodations, and that you aren't inflexible.
4. Positive. Positivity in the workplace is an absolute essential for any business that wants to do well. Positive employees are more productive, more likely to stick around, and are generally more pleasant to be around. But what's really interesting is that positivity--and similarly, negativity--are contagious qualities. If you hire five positive workers and integrate them into your work environment, the entire atmosphere will grow more positive. Hire five negative workers and you'll experience the opposite. Simple habits like smiling and greeting people on your way into work can go a long way to making your personality an indispensable one for the workplace.
5. Independent. Bosses and supervisors generally don't have the time or inclination to babysit their team members. They don't have time to set a direction and walk you through every step of the process you'll need to take to achieve a certain goal. Instead, they'd prefer to set a direction (or a goal) and have a reliable, independent worker who's capable of pursuing that direction with minimal further instruction. Independence is a quality that implies reliability without constant oversight, and it's valuable to employers because it reduces the time they have to spend following up with you and decreases the stress they might otherwise have to deal with.
6. Confident. Confidence is important because it allows employees to make decisions independently and voice their opinions in group settings. For example, if there's a client emergency, an unconfident person might delay a response until checking with multiple other people. A confident person could save time and make the client feel more comfortable by making a judgment call and taking immediate action. In meetings, confident people are more willing to express their thoughts, leading to more shared perspectives and a greater group understanding of the topic.
7. Passionate. Last but not least, we have passion, which is a little more difficult to define. Passion is what motivates people to do things. It's the reason most of us get up in the morning. A person without passion can execute a series of tasks about as productively as a passionate person, but they won't be as happy about it, and eventually, they'll burn themselves out. They might also require more direction or supervision than someone who's passionate, and use more resources to get the same work done. Passionate people will do whatever it takes to do a good job because they actually want to do a good job.
The great thing about these qualities is that you don't need years of education or experience to achieve them. You can easily incorporate them into your "work self" in your behaviors, habits, and actions. It might take some practice--for example, if you don't feel naturally confident, it could be hard to exhibit a confident attitude. Still, in most cases, you can "fake it 'til you make it," exhibiting the quality as best you can until it becomes a natural part of you. For more insights on how to get ahead in today's corporate work environment, grab my eBook, Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Career Hacks for Modern Professionals.