5 Underrated Workplace Skills That Can Help Your Career

Interactive designers obviously need certain skills and proficiencies to be successful, like outstanding aesthetic sensibilities and advanced knowledge of design software and web technologies. But some subtle—and often underrated—traits and abilities can also play a pivotal role in your career. Here are 5 underrated career skills worth cultivating:

Tact and diplomacy

When you spend eight-plus hours a day in a deadline-driven environment with an array of personality types, it’s only natural that disagreements will arise. As such, knowing how to diffuse tension and resolve conflict is invaluable.

work hard, be nice, skills for the workplace

To start, watch what you say—and how you say it. A perfectly valid point will lose its impact (and generate resentment) if it’s delivered in an insensitive way. If you happen to lock horns with a colleague, do your best to reconcile quickly. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone in your office, but you do need to work together harmoniously. (The Ask a Manager blog has great advice about coworker relations.)

Solid writing skills

Copywriters aren’t the only ones on the creative team who need to master the written word. Strive for clarity and correctness in all your communications. Sending confusing updates, requests or directives can lead to costly misunderstandings and unnecessary back-and-forth.

Whether you’re drafting a client brief, memo, email or meeting agenda, slow down and think about each sentence. Is it clear? Does it add value? Also, don’t forget to proofread. Typos and grammatical errors will cause others to question your professionalism and attention to detail.

Communicating your ideas is key to a good blog. Learn how to start your own in Blogging for Creatives.


Position yourself as a people person by being genuinely nice to everyone, from the intern to the CEO. Get to know colleagues in all corners of your organization and show a sincere interest in their work. Sign up for cross-departmental activities, attend company events and generally aim to be a positive presence. Even if you aren’t a social butterfly, just strike up conversations in the cafeteria with coworkers you don’t know yet. The better connected you are, the more resources you’ll have at your disposal.

The ability to ask the right questions

Time is money. You must be able to quickly glean important bits of information from colleagues when collaborating on projects. The key is asking the right questions. Be clear about what you need and why.

There’s a big difference between a vague question (“What’s the status of this project?”) and specific request (“I need to update my team on the website redesign so we can reassign resources if necessary. Do you foresee any issues that will prevent us from completing it by the deadline?”). The more detailed you are, the higher quality information you’ll receive.

Connect with clients and coworkers better with Andy Epstein’s communication advice.

A commitment to learning

Even the most experienced and successful creatives recognize that there’s always more to learn, especially when it comes to new developments in the digital world. Whether it’s polishing your presentation abilities or teaching yourself a new SEO trick, intellectual curiosity and the motivation to continually update your skills will keep your abilities sharp and relevant.

Make it known you’re always looking for ways to grow. From training workshops to e-learning classes, take advantage of any professional development opportunities your employer offers. Join industry associations and attend conferences to keep up with the latest developments.

While the attributes and abilities listed above aren’t always highlighted in job ads or performance reviews, they are prized by employers and colleagues alike. Developing these skills will help you distinguish yourself on the job and advance your design career.

Photo by Wurz of poster by Anthony Burrill