During your high school and college years a lot of focus goes toward good grades and a collection of clubs, organizations, internships, or jobs which reflect one’s leadership and involvement outside the classroom. These are indeed important areas to focus on and can be a critical element in what sets your resume apart from the stack of others competing for the same opportunity. These aspects of your resume can help get you in the door of your desired area of work, but what helps keep you there (and eventually excel) are a set of skills not easily captured on a resume or even in an interview. Sharpened abilities in the relational and emotional elements, often known as “soft skills,” are the qualities that begin to set you apart from your co-workers.

These skills can sometimes be a bit elusive. Some people, through either their natural wiring or the environments they are from display them with ease while others have to focus a bit more to be aware of them. None, however, are beyond being developed with some time and attention. It would be impossible to establish a comprehensive list because different jobs in different parts of the country would vary, however, there are a few that are close to universal in their importance. These would include:

A Knack for Problem-Solving: At first glance this might look like a hard one to get a grasp on. It’s easy to think some people just have the ability to tackle problems and others don’t. The secret on this is problem-solving in almost every case isn’t about how smart you are, it’s about how tenacious you are. Tenacity is a skill that can be built and the first step is being willing to be wrong on something. Does that seem counter-intuitive? Won’t your boss be upset if you are wrong? Not always. Most bosses would agree a wrong solution is better than no solution and any boss worth their salt will notice an appreciate an employee who offers an idea. You don’t want generally to initiate ideas without talking with them first but developing a habit of “we could try this” or “have we ever though about..” is something your boss will pick up on and begin to see you as an idea person and not as an excuse person.

Adaptability: The lack of this soft skill possibly hurts more careers than any other shortcoming. We all have to embrace this singular fact today without argument: Today’s world moves fast and change in the workplace is inevitable.” Yes, change is inconvenient. Yes, change means you have to likely give up something you like. Yes, change means you may have to learn a new way of doing something. These will be aspects of your workplace and when it happens you have two choices: embrace the change or leave. In many cases supervisors are stuck with implementing a change that they have little to no control over and, in fact, may not like themselves. You don’t make their work easier by fighting against it. Those that embrace change the quickest also inevitably are the ones who are the first to figure out how to thrive in it.

Dependability: This one is pretty simply but not as well-practiced as you might think. It’s simple: if you have a job to do then do it to the best of your ability within the deadlines that are given. This begins with small things like returning e-mails in a timely matter or filling our standard forms like expense reports. Many careers hit bumps because someone concentrates on hitting the big targets but develops a reputation for not taking care of the small details. A smart supervisor sniffs these things out because they want someone who can run processes and systems well. The person who can do this is the one is conscientious enough to take care of the small things.

While it’s important to develop the disciplines that go with getting good grades and building the networks that come with clubs and organizations one always wants to pay attention to the soft skills in today’s electronic media saturated work culture. The first may indeed get you your start but the latter are the ones critical to moving forward.