How to Be More Competitive at Work by Mastering These 4 Skills


What have you done at work lately to make yourself a little nervous? How about volunteering to give a presentation even though standing in front of an audience terrifies you? Or offering to analyze data, when crunching numbers takes you on a long trip outside your comfort zone? Doing things that give flight to those butterflies can sharpen your competitive edge on the job. And trust me: Bosses appreciate a team member who’s willing to try something new or take an assignment no one else wants to touch.

When we get nervous, our first instinct is to turn and run — as fast and as far as possible. Instead, take a moment to sit with your nerves and see what they’re telling you. It’s probably pretty good advice. Thankfully, you don’t have to tackle your fears alone. You’ll find plenty of free resources online to help you gain mastery (or at least some proficiency). Talk to your boss to see if you can carve out some time during the workday. Otherwise it’s a wise investment in the evenings and on weekends to set aside a few hours with your own brand of continuing ed.

Here’s a list of four common anxiety producers at work and the tools that can help you triumph over them once and for all.

1. Master Microsoft Office

In its role as benevolent ruler of the document-creation universe, Microsoft offers free courses on Excel, Word, PowerPoint and more. Too many of us struggle along as neophytes with these workplace tools, especially with the dreaded spreadsheet. Knowing how to use Microsoft Office like a pro can save you time and help shine like the star you are. What could be more fierce than learning how to create an Excel formula that literally does your work for you? And there’s no better confidence booster when faced with a presentation than knowing how to build a kick-ass PowerPoint.

2. Dominate Google Analytics

If you’re already skilled at content development, then you need to develop the know-how to prove what’s working and what’s not working on your website and social media platforms. That’s where the Google Academy comes in. Start with the basic course, Digital Analytics Fundamentals, and go from there. Before you know it, you won’t be taking those analytics reports from the web development team at face value anymore.

3. Get good at grammar

For you lucky people who can analyze data in your sleep, it might be time to boost your comfort level with content. Even in this age of texting and emojis, mastering the basics of good grammar is an absolute career essential, whether you’re putting together a detailed report or a short email. And sad but true: Spell check is not always your friend. I’m fond of Grammar Girl. The tone is light and friendly (no judging here) with lots of timely insights into word choice and punctuation, especially the dastardly apostrophe.

4. Professionalize your public speaking

I recently stumbled across a new site called Coursera . It’s an education platform that partners with top educational institutions (including world-class universities) to offer classes for free. So if you want to do a better job with that PowerPoint Presentation, you can sign up for Introduction to Public Speaking with the University of Washington. There are also classes on successful negotiation, marketing, finance and more. Many are on demand; some even give you a pretty certificate to quantify your time.


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