Professional Development: 3 Types of Skill Sets

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
5 min read
develop your skill sets to advance to greater responsibilities

Skill Sets

To perform effectively in a job and advance to greater responsibilities requires developing a well rounded set of skills. Every job and every industry has its specifics but these skill sets are general and apply across all jobs. Skills are fundamental for turning a job into a career trajectory and this trajectory is part of our personal fulfillment in life.

We are all different and have different interests. As we become aware of our curiosity and interests we are directed towards our fulfillment and an understanding of our true selves. Aristotle talks of the acorn encompassing all that the oak will become. Our goal should be to become as fully ourselves as we can in order to be as successful and satisfied as possible. Potential and possibilities need to be actualized. Lifelong development of skills is a path to this achievement.

Success is ultimately determined by your ability perform and deliver value in a variety of situations. This requires fulfilling your potential and becoming most fully who you are meant to be.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Building our strengths and reducing our weaknesses requires self knowledge and honest self assessment.

We can soar with our strengths and work on our weaknesses. First and foremost we must be honest with ourselves in our self assessment.

3 types of Skills

The skill sets we all need to continuously develop and upgrade fall into three general categories: words, numbers, and personal attributes.

Words and Numbers

These are the functional skills and the ones that are inculcated since grammar school, the 3 Rs: reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic.

Business is about measuring and communicating. Goals, visions, and strategy need to be articulated. Numbers and quantitative analysis need to be communicated and explained in plain clear language. Incentives, targets and metrics need to be translated from memos and plans in language and implemented in measurable numbers. These tasks require a facility with words and numbers and translating back and forth between them.


Accounting and finance are the realm of pure number. Costs, revenues, valuations, budgets all require an easy facility and comfort with numbers, math, spreadsheets and computers. Those numbers and analyses need to be communicated to others in the company and outsiders with an interest in the company’s performance. This takes communication skills


Written and verbal communication skills are critical to your success and chances for taking on more responsibility.

Personal Skills

Personal attributes have to do with developing your character and cultivating an outward appearance that reflects a developed inner life. A career is a relatively long time and there will be trails, tribulations and vicissitudes to navigate and endure. It is important to develop resiliency, the ability to bounce back and endure setbacks. We need inner strength and an inner compass and sense of integrity and ability to discern right from wrong in a sense of ethics.

The modern world has left us on our own to determine what our personal values are and how we are going to conduct our lives. This freedom is a huge responsibility and has been considered terrifying and the source of existential fear and doubt. It is a great responsibility but it is also liberating and exciting and fun. We are to the fullest extent in history, self determining beings.

We must develop a sense of priorities. Enjoying life and participate in its satisfactions and joys doesn’t mean making more and more money. Business success can be measured in the beneficial end products and services you participate in creating and supporting. After the basic human needs of food, shelter and safety are met, we are motivated by a desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. These needs are of a different dimension than the basic ones and the incremental benefit of more money in fulfilling them is limited.

Life is a journey of self discovery and fulfillment of purpose. The work to achieve this requires introspection. But much of the satisfactions come through social interactions and helping others.

Being aware and developing ourselves and our skills help us maintain a healthy lifestyle and feel good about ourselves. It also helps us keep energized and alert for the long haul. We need stamina in order to complete worthwhile projects and succeed. Life is not a sprint, it’s a multiple marathon. We should strive to pursue and actualize our potential. In this way we will reveal our truth to ourselves. We need to have the physicality to endure and the mindset to engage. And the spiritual awareness to direct those attributes.

skill sets like a Swiss Army knife

These general skill sets and their continuous development are part of self actualization and becoming the best versions of ourselves that we can be. It is about communing with our better angels. This is the best way to be an inspiration and model for others including our children. It increases our self esteem and confidence to handle ever larger tasks and projects. It helps us have confidence in our ideas and opinions, to be creative and to follow through and realize our dreams. Personal development also reassures us and takes away our fears. This attitude supports our personal and professional integrity and helps keep us calm under pressure. It is about becoming the person you want to be.

you are a super star!

Check out the slide deck below for 10 behaviors to be aware of and make into habits in order to perform more professionally on a consistent basis.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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