Chapter 9: Career Well-Being, Skills to Succeed at Work, and Professionalism

Career Well-Being

The first part of this chapter is going to focus on the dimension of wellness known as Career Well-Being.  Career well-being is one of the 8 dimensions of wellness.  When thinking of the impact of one’s career on their overall health, consider this quote from the National Institutes of Health (Stoewen, 2017):

“People often think about wellness in terms of physical health — nutrition, exercise, weight management, etc., but it is so much more. Wellness is a holistic integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, fueling the body, engaging the mind, and nurturing the spirit. Although it always includes striving for health, it’s more about living life fully, and is “a lifestyle and a personalized approach to living life in a way that… allows you to become the best kind of person that your potentials, circumstances, and fate will allow.”

At this point in your career development journey it is okay to not know exactly what you want to do for your future career. Instead, it is more important to understand the vital role that a satisfying career plays in our lives and to continue working towards identifying a career that YOU find rewarding.

Occupational Well-Being

By: Claire Mansveld

What is Occupational Wellbeing?

Occupational (or career) wellbeing refers to feeling good about the work you do. It is answering “yes” to the question “Do you like what you do each day?” It has many facets, including achieving a balance between work and leisure, maintaining positive relationships with colleagues, managing workplace related stress, the safety of the workplace environment and the climate of the worksite. It also includes how you feel about work and whether your career option suits, stimulates and inspires you.

If your occupational wellbeing is strong, you will present as happier, healthier and more successful.

It is important to note that “career” or “occupation” is defined as how you occupy your time or what you do each day. It does not only mean paid occupations but also includes life roles such as domestic duties, volunteer work, community participation, school, or other activities.

Why is Occupational Well-being important?

Because day-to-day work (in whatever form) takes up so much of our time, it is important for our overall wellbeing that we like what we do. People who enjoy their employment have a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

From an employer’s perspective, workers’ wellbeing is a key factor in determining the effectiveness of an organisation. In fact, many studies show a link between the wellbeing of the workforce and levels of productivity.

Assessing your Occupational Well-being?

Ask yourself the following questions:
• Do I look forward to and enjoy going to work most days?
• Do I have a manageable workload? Am I happy with my work/life balance?
• Are my duties consistent with my values?
• Do I feel that I can talk to my boss and co-workers if problems arise?
• Am I happy with my career choice?
• Is my work stimulating and does it give me personal satisfaction?

If you answered “No” to any of the questions, this may be an area where you need to improve your occupational wellbeing.

Occupational Wellbeing and your Identity.

It is fundamental that we have something to look forward to when we wake up each day. When we meet people, one of the first questions we ask is “What do you do?” Your occupational wellbeing is more likely to be high if the answer to that question is a career you find fulfilling or meaningful. We spend the majority of our waking hours working and whatever activity you spend so much time doing inevitably shapes your identity.

We often underestimate how much our occupational fulfilment influences our overall wellbeing. If your occupational wellbeing is low, it can detrimentally affect all other areas of your life

Your Journey to Occupational Wellbeing

Occupational wellbeing is closely related to your attitude about your work (or vice versa) – it encompasses the personal satisfaction and enrichment you get from your career. Since you career is such a big part of your life and you spend such a large amount of time doing it, it is important that you find a job that offers some enjoyment. Occupational wellbeing is about finding a career that challenges you yet gives you work/ leisure balance.

One way to improve your occupational wellbeing is to find something you like about your career. We all have aspects of our work that we don’t like, but focusing on even one small positive thing can help us handle the stressful aspects more effectively.


Mansveld, C. (n.d.) Occupational Wellbeing. Wellbeing Therapy Space.


Some words of encouragement to those who have not yet discovered your path: Remember that this is a process and it it okay to not yet know which direction to take.  Keep going, keep engaging in the process of identifying career choices.

Throughout this class you have learned about the many tools for identifying and choosing a career that is meaningful to you.  You are on the right path, you have the tools, you know the process, and you have many resources to continue using while you are on this path of discovery. 


Next, we will take a look at the important skills to help you succeed in any career or job. No matter where you are at in your career development process, now is an excellent time to start thinking how to be successful on the job.  You may be surprised to learn that success is not solely dependent on how well you know your craft.  Instead, a large part of our success is dependent on soft skills and professionalism. Soft skills include people (interpersonal) skills, listening skills, communication skills, organization, time management etc. These are all skills you can be working on while you are on your path to your career.

The 12 Most Important Skills You Need To Succeed At Work

By Natalia Peart

I cover the intersection of psychology and the ever-changing workplace

Whether you’re are a new graduate trying to figure out how to get a leg up in your career, or you’re a mid-career professional looking to secure your next promotion, you might be wondering what are the most important skills you need to help you get where you want to go. While it’s, of course, important to develop your industry-specific hard skills, what’s just as critical to your success are your soft skills. Soft skills are how you function in the workplace and interact with others. And while they’re not easily taught in a classroom or measured, they are key skills that we all need to have. Additionally, in our more globalized, fast-changing work environment, there is now a premium on the kinds of soft skills that allow you to keep pace with the future of work. So, if you’re looking to accelerate your career, here are the 12 soft skills that you need to succeed.

1.     Learnability

We’ll begin with learnability because it is arguably the most important 21st-century skill you will need to succeed. Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” That’s because, in an environment where new skills emerge as fast as others fade, success is less about what you already know and more about adapting your skills by growing and expanding your knowledge base, so you can use new information and skills to respond to whatever is happening.

2.     Resilience

Setbacks and failures are a part of life, but how you choose to deal with those roadblocks is what is critical to your success. Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of obstacles and failures. When you are resilient, you don’t focus on the ups and downs. Instead, you stay focused on your long-term goals, and you never lose confidence in your ability to prevail. By helping you face challenges and difficulties, resilience also enables you to handle stress more positively.

3.     Agility

As the work landscape shifts, learning to be agile is a critical skill, as yesterday’s solutions do not solve tomorrow’s problems. At the heart of being agile is shifting gears when the context calls for it and responding accordingly to the needs of your workplace, clients or industry trends.

4.     Collaboration

In our increasingly hyper-connected world, we’re no longer expected to work just as individuals or only in silos. Our projects have become more complex, so the ability to work effectively as part of a team has also grown in importance. Given the increasingly global nature of work, your ability to collaborate, share knowledge and contribute to teams that can capitalize on a diversity of thinking and perspective in ways that everyone can benefit and drive to the shared outcomes is critical.

5.     Verbal communication

Advancing in your career is not just based on what you do. There’s a good chance that at some point in your career you’ll have to use strong verbal communication skills so you can sell others on your ideas, products, or services. Whether you’re needing to explain your value when you are being considered for a promotion, presenting as part of a team project, or speaking on stage, you need to be able to communicate well and convey strong, persuasive ideas.

6.     Written communication

We live in an era of tweets and sound bites, but good written communication skills still matter when it comes to your career. Whether you are sending professional emails, communicating with a client, trying to deliver a coherent business plan, or anything in between, you should be able to communicate quickly, accurately and effectively.

7.     Empathy

The ability to empathize with others, or see things from their perspective by understanding their emotions and reactions, is a fundamental part of how we interact with one another. Communicating genuinely and authentically with others is vital because even in instances when you disagree with your coworkers on elements of a work project, for example, empathy allows you to demonstrate to others that they are seen and heard.

8.     Creativity

Creativity is a crucial skill we all need because, in our fast-changing times, employers value employees who can look beyond the present and imagine future possibilities for their company. Creative workers are the ones who ask why. They question, they are curious, and in so doing, they develop new ideas and solutions.

9. Problem-solving

How often do you go beyond your immediate job as assigned and instead, use more knowledge, facts, and data to see gaps and solve problems? Being a good problem solver is essential because employers value people who can work through challenges on their own or as an effective member of a team by defining the issues, brainstorming alternatives, sharing thoughts, and then making sound decisions.

10. Leadership

The importance of building the right culture at companies cannot be overstated, so having the skills to be able to coach and empower others, and to motivate those around you do their best work, is highly valued for success.

11. Negotiation

Whether you’re in salary discussions, finalizing a deal with a client, or trying to find common ground with your teammates during a project, having strong and effective negotiation skills are extremely important. Being a good negotiator allows you to get to reach goals while you build relationships, which is a significant part of being successful in your career.

12. Technology

Technology is changing at an unprecedented pace, so even beyond the technical skills you need to master for your job, keeping up with technology is essential because of the tools that help you manage your career, differentiate yourself in the market, brand yourself, and build the critical relationships that you need to be successful.

Regardless of your chosen career path, building your soft skills is critical so you can set yourself apart from others in a competitive landscape.


Peart, N. (2019, September 10) The 12 Most Important Skills You Need to Succeed at Work. Forbes.



Below is another article that touches on some of the same skills but also highlights other important soft skills to cultivate that will help you succeed.

Soft Skills to Help Your Career Hit the Big Time

You’d be hard-pressed to find professional skills that matter more than these.

By Daniel Bortz

You’ve got a reputation for being the best coder or editor or mechanic or whatever, but it amounts to little if you don’t work well with others. Some of the most important professional skills for workers and employers alike simply can’t be taught in a classroom or measured on paper. These traits are called soft skills and they’re more crucial to your job search and overall career than you think.

According to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, recruiters chose soft skills—topped by dependability, teamwork/ collaboration, and problem solving/critical thinking—as the most important skills they’re seeking in new hires. Recruiters also anticipate this is the area where they’ll see the biggest skills gaps in candidates.

What are soft skills?

Unlike hard skills, which can be proven and measured, soft skills are intangible and difficult to quantify. Some examples of soft skills include analytical thinking, verbal and written communication, and leadership.

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management found that technical abilities like reading comprehension and mathematics aren’t prized as much as soft skills, meaning you have to bring more to the table than, say, great sales numbers, coding languages, or test scores.

One reason soft skills are so revered is that they help facilitate human connections. “Soft skills are key to building relationships, gaining visibility, and creating more opportunities for advancement,” says Kathy Robinson, founder of Boston career-coaching firm TurningPoint.

Basically, you can be the best at what you do, but if your soft skills aren’t cutting it, you’re limiting your chances of career success. Read on to learn which soft skills are critical to have firmly under your belt and what steps you can take to acquire them.

Soft skills for your career

1. Communication

Why you need it: Both written and verbal communication skills are of utmost importance in the workplace because they set the tone for how people perceive you. They also improve your chances of building relationships with co-workers. Communication skills boost your performance because they help you to extract clear expectations from your manager so that you can deliver excellent work.

Why employers look for it: Workers are more productive when they know how to communicate with their peers, says Robinson. If you can clearly express the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a project, you’ll be a hot ticket.

How to gain it: One way to hone your communication and presentation skills is to join Toastmasters, a national organization that offers public speaking workshops.

2. Teamwork

Why you need it: A company’s success is rarely dependent on one person doing something all by him/herself. Success is the result of many people working toward a common goal. When employees can synthesize their varied talents, everyone wins. (Bonus: Having friends at work can also boost your job satisfaction, a Gallup poll found.)

Why employers look for it: Employers look to team players to help build a friendly office culture, which helps retain employees and, in turn attracts top talent. Furthermore, being able to collaborate well with your co-workers strengthens the quality of your work.

How to gain it: To generate goodwill, lend a hand when you see a co-worker in need. (“Hey, I know you have a ton on your plate. How can I help?”) Another way to build rapport is to cover for a colleague while she’s on vacation, says business etiquette and career coach Karen Litzinger.

3. Adaptability

Why you need it: Soft skills help you manage reality. And the reality is, things don’t always go as planned. Instead of digging in your heels, you need to be able to pivot and find alternate solutions. “Successful leaders are the ones who know how to be flexible when problems arise,” says Robinson.

Why employers look for it: “The speed of change in any given workplace is so rapid,” says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Consequently, employers need workers who can adapt to industry shifts and keep the company current.

How to gain it: Push yourself to be an early adopter of change. “For example, adapting to technology without mourning what used to be true yesterday is crucial for people to be seen as someone who is capable of meeting new challenges,” says Garfinkle. Inquire about training sessions and offer to teach your co-workers what you learn.

4. Problem solving

Why you need it: When something goes wrong, you can either complain or take action. Tip: It’s the latter that will get you noticed. Knowing how to think on your feet can make you indispensable to an employer.

Why employers look for it: Nothing is a given. Companies rely on problem solvers—a.k.a. their top performers—to navigate unexpected challenges.

How to gain it: “Always approach your boss with a solution, not a problem,” says Robinson. So when an issue crops up, sit down and think through how you’re going to address it before bringing it to your boss’ attention.

5. Critical observation

Why you need it: Data doesn’t mean much if you don’t know how to interpret it. Is there a pattern emerging? What else should you be looking for? Being a critical observer can help make you a better worker all around.

Why employers look for it: Companies need critical thinkers—people who bring a fresh perspective and offer intuitive solutions and ideas to help the company get a leg up on the competition or improve internal processes.

How to gain it: To be a critical observer, you need to be able to analyze information and put it to use. One tactic is to try to identify patterns of behavior at work. For example, does your boss actually read the weekly sales reports? What was her reaction to bad news in the staff meeting? What’s the best time of day to approach your manager with a question? By observing how people respond to the constant flow of information you can better understand the critical aspects of improving business operations.

6. Conflict resolution

Why you need it: “Any time you put more than one person into an organization, there is going to be conflict,” says Robinson. “It’s human nature.” Therefore, being able to resolve issues with co-workers will help you maintain relationships with peers and work more effectively.

Why employers want it: Being able to constructively work through disagreements with people is a sure indicator of maturity—as well as leadership potential. Someone like this helps to promote a healthy, collaborative workplace.

How to gain it: The best way to resolve disagreements between co-workers is to address issues directly but delicately. So, when stepping in as a mediator, let both parties air their grievances in a judgment-free environment and then work together to find a solution.

7. Leadership

Why you need it: Having confidence and a clear vision can help influence your co-workers and get them on board with your ideas now and in the future. Displaying such leadership skills helps you gain visibility within an organization, which can lead to more opportunities for promotions or salary bumps.

Why employers want it: Bosses and managers are always looking for employees with leadership potential because those workers will one day be taking over the reins and building on the company’s legacy.

How to gain it: Being a leader isn’t merely about getting people to do what you want. Leadership means inspiring and helping others reach their full potential. One way to do that is to become the internship supervisor, which gives you the opportunity to manage people, learn how to motivate a team, and take on more responsibility.


Bortz, D. (n.d.) Soft Skills to Help Your Career Hit the Big Time. Monster.


And finally, let’s talk about professionalism.  Acting in a professional manner regardless of what job you have or how much you like you job is always accessible and something to be considered. As you read the article below, think about the ways you act professionally right now.  Also, think about the ideas that you think would help you improve your professionalism in the future.


Meeting the Standards That Matter

By The Mind Tools Content Team

Professionalism is a powerful quality. It allows you to fulfill your role to the best of your ability. It helps you to impress and inspire others. And it gives you a deep sense of satisfaction and self-worth.

What’s more, professionalism is something that everyone can aspire to from day one of their career.

In this article we explain what professionalism means today, and show you how to act and feel like a professional – wherever you work.

What Is Professionalism?

As the saying goes, “Professionalism is not the job you do, it’s how you do the job.”

Professionalism involves consistently achieving high standards, both visibly and “behind the scenes” – whatever your role or profession.

Some sectors, workplaces or roles have particular “rules” of professionalism. These may be explicit, such as an agreed dress code, or a policy for using social media. Other rules and expectations may not be written down, but they can be just as important – such as what is regarded as professional behavior at meetings, or even how people personalize their desks.

It pays to be observant, and to ask for clarification if necessary. “Fitting in” is a big part of professionalism, as it’s a way to show respect, attention to detail, and a commitment to upholding agreed practices and values.

However, “being true to yourself” is just as important. True professionals don’t follow rules mindlessly, and they know when and how to challenge norms. They’re also flexible, and they find their own ways to do things – while still maintaining high standards.

8 Characteristics of Professionalism

What are the attributes that will mark you out as a professional? Let’s look at eight key characteristics:

1. Competence

As a professional, you get the job done – and done well. Your abilities match the requirements of your role, and you often produce results that exceed expectations.

But you never plow on simply for the sake of appearances. Instead, your professionalism allows you to manage your own and others’ expectations, and to ask for support when necessary.

2. Knowledge

Professionalism involves developing detailed, up-to-date knowledge, which is often highly specialized . At every stage of your career you can strive to master your role – and keep adding to what you know.

It’s also important to put your knowledge into action. Being professional means feeling confident to show what you know – not for self-promotion, but to help yourself and others to succeed.

3. Conscientiousness

Professionalism involves being reliable, setting your own high standards, and showing that you care about every aspect of your job. It’s about being industrious and organized, and holding yourself accountable for your thoughts, words and actions.

But don’t confuse conscientiousness with working longer hours than everyone else or obsessing about details. True professionals plan and prioritize their work to keep it under control, and they don’t let perfectionism hold them back.

4. Integrity

Integrity is what keeps professional people true to their word. It also stops them compromising their values, even if that means taking a harder road.

Integrity is bound up with being honest – to yourself, and to the people you meet. Your beliefs and behaviors are aligned, and everyone can see that you’re genuine.

5. Respect

Professionalism means being a role model for politeness and good manners – to everyone, not just those you need to impress.

What’s more, you show that you truly respect other people by taking their needs into account, and by helping to uphold their rights.

6. Emotional Intelligence

To be a true professional you need to stay professional even under pressure. This takes strategies for managing your emotions, plus a clear awareness of other people’s feelings. In short, emotional intelligence is essential.

Sometimes, professionalism means keeping your emotions in check. But at other times it’s important to express your feelings, in order to have meaningful conversations or to stand up for what you believe in.

7. Appropriateness

A big part of being professional is knowing what’s appropriate in different situations. It avoids awkwardness or upset, boosts your credibility, and helps you to feel secure in your role.

Appropriateness relates to outward appearances, such as dress, personal grooming and body language.

But it also covers the way you speak and write, the topics you choose to discuss, and how you behave with others.

8. Confidence

Well-founded confidence reassures and motivates other people, boosting your ability to influence and lead. It also pushes you to take on new challenges, because you don’t fear damaging your professional reputation if things go wrong.

Professionalism makes you confident about what you’re doing now, but always eager to do it better and achieve more.

How to Exhibit Professionalism

Now that we’ve seen the qualities that set professionals apart, let’s explore ways to improve in each of these eight areas.

Improve Your Competence

Carry out a Personal SWOT Analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then set SMART goals to plan your improvement.

Our article, 8 Ways to Prioritize Your Professional Development, shows how to lead your own learning and growth. It also explains how to work with others to boost the competence of your whole team.

Increase Your Knowledge

Don’t let your knowledge and skills get outdated. Make a commitment to build expertise and to stay up-to-date with your industry.

As well as carrying out research, consider on-the-job training to maintain and develop detailed and relevant knowledge.

Use all the networking you do to stay well-informed about your industry as a whole. And see our Bite-Sized Training session, Building Expert Power, for ways to strengthen and apply your knowledge at every stage of your career.

Be Conscientious

Conscientiousness requires organization, so make regular use of To-Do Lists and Action Programs . You can also learn to be more conscientious by improving your concentration, to complete work more efficiently and accurately.

Resolve to honor your commitments and to learn from your mistakes, in order to develop strong personal accountability.

Role-Model Integrity

Start by defining your own values, then spot any gaps between them and the way you actually behave. Our guide to authenticity explains why this is a lifelong process, involving self-knowledge, willingness to reassess your priorities, and the ability to change your behavior.

Ensure that you’re clear about the laws that apply to your work, as well as any policies that your organization has in place to support ethical practices. These might include guidelines for fair procurement processes, or rules about accepting gifts from clients.

Whenever possible, explain your decisions and choices carefully. And do everything you can to make it easy for others to act with integrity, too.

Promote Mutual Respect

Make it a habit to be polite and kind to everyone you come into contact with. Notice what respectful behavior looks like in any given situation.

Sometimes you might need to develop your cultural understanding – and perhaps do some specific research before an overseas trip or an international meeting online.

You should also learn about any differences among your own people, so that you know how to help everyone feel safe, included and respected. A professional approach like this can help to create a culture of mutual respect.

Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Start by increasing your awareness of your own emotions.

Then work on your ability to sense other people’s emotions and needs. Active Listening is crucial here. You can also practice seeing things from other people’s point of view, so that you empathize with them, and see how best to support them.


Emotional Intelligence can be learned like any other professional skill. There’s a range of practical strategies for this in our article, Emotional Intelligence.

Always Behave Appropriately

This takes “Cultural Intelligence,” driven by a commitment to respect cultural norms and thrive within different settings – which might be countries, organizations, or even different teams within one company.

It also requires understanding. Avoid making assumptions, do your research, be observant, and ask for advice if necessary. After that, it’s about consistently making the effort to get your appearance, communication and behavior spot-on.


Remember that professionalism extends to social media, where inappropriate behavior is likely to be indelible. Social events, both on- and off-line, can also be challenging.

Boost Your Confidence

If you put the advice from this article into action, you can be confident that your professionalism will shine through.

However, if confidence is one of your weaknesses, use techniques for boosting self-confidence. Many professionals also have to manage Impostor Syndrome, so you may need to keep reminding yourself that you really are worthy of your role.

Key Points

Professionalism involves consistently achieving high standards, both in the work you do and the way you behave.

Being professional helps you to achieve high-quality results, while impressing and inspiring others – and feeling good about yourself.

The eight core characteristics of professionalism are: Competence, Knowledge, Conscientiousness, Integrity, Respect, Emotional Intelligence, Appropriateness, and Confidence.

By finding ways to strengthen each of these attributes, you can become confident to act professionally wherever you find yourself working.

These qualities are particularly important when the normal “rules” of professionalism are blurred, such as when you’re working from home.


Mind Tools Content Team. (n.d.)  Professionalism: Meeting the Standards That Matter. MindTools.



Final Thoughts

Some key take-aways from this chapter that will allow you to find greater success no matter where you work or what position you hold:

  • People who enjoy their employment have a greater sense of meaning and purpose. This is occupational well-being and highlights the impact of one’s career on their life.
  • Some basic skills needed to succeed in the workplace, as outlined by Natalea Pearta, are: learnability, resilience, agility, collaboration, verbal and written communication, empathy, creativity, problem solving, leadership, negotiation, and technology skills.
  • Daniel Bortz stressed the importance of the following soft skills that, if used, will help you succeed in any job or career: communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving, critical observation, conflict resolution, and leadership.
  • The Mind Tools Content Team identified competence, knowledge, conscientiousness, integrity, respect, emotional intelligence, appropriateness, and confidence as the 8 core characteristics of professionalism.


Reflection Questions

Career Well-being

  • Why do you think career well-being is important?
  • How much of an impact do you think your career will make on your overall life and life satisfaction?

Job Success Skills

  • From the two articles that outline skills to succeed on the job, which skills do you already use?
  • What skills can you adopt and implement?
  • Why or how do you think they might help you be more successful?
  • How would you go about learning more about those skills?
  • Are there skills you have used to be successful at work that aren’t listed in either of the articles? If so, what are they and how did they help you be successful?


  • Can you identify some of the ways you act in a professional manner at work (either in the current or past)?
  • What are some areas of professionalism that you can improve upon or start to engage in?
  • Are there ways you have acted, either in the current or past, that demonstrate you are a professional and aren’t listed in the article above? If so, what are they and how did they add to your professionalism?


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Career & Life Planning by Dawn Forrester and Eden Isenstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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