Ask any career coach for examples of desirable career skills that are easy to pick up, and they’re likely to take exception to the “easy to pick up” part. While it’s easy enough to join a writer’s group to sharpen writing skills or Toastmasters to become a better presenter, both obviously require effort to reap any benefits. 

“This is quite a challenge, to think of the career skills and tips that are both easy to pick up and [have a] meaningful impact on one’s career success,” says Bob Viney, executive business coach and practice wner at Effective Business Coaching LLC. “So a caveat on ‘easy to pick up’ … I believe these skills are easy to understand, but will take effort and commitment to develop into habits.” Personal improvement projects are like that. They often involve steps that are fairly easy to grasp, but less easy to adopt and consistently do. That’s true whether the goal is strengthening our bodies, minds, finances, relationships or careers. Luckily, every day offers another chance to put these new, perhaps never-much-considered disciplines into practice, which is good, because as our experts agree, repetition is what they will require to grow.

Here are the skills and professional behaviors recommended by Viney and Ann Marie Sabath, author of eight books on domestic and international courtesy, and founder of At Ease Inc., a 28-year old Cincinnati-based etiquette firm:   

Focus on a purpose for your career that goes beyond your own self-interest. 
A higher level of motivation comes from providing a great value for others other than just ourselves. Think through whose lives will be better, in some small way, through your career or business success; what value your product or service provides to helping improve consumers’ lives, again, in some small way.   

Listen up, and remember: the most powerful way to influence another person is by asking great questions, not by making statements. 
Work on developing your skills as a great and an empathetic listener. True listening is listening to understand, not just to prepare to respond. It involves using your eyes to see body language, to focus with undivided attention on the person (no multi-tasking!), and sensing the feeling behind the communication. Further, when you ask great questions and listen before speaking, you gain an understanding of how to help or to influence another person that you do not have if you launch into speaking your understanding, insights or ideas first. Great questions can cause another person to think about their actions, beliefs or ideas in a different way, and they may come to see the issue on their own in a totally new way. That is much more powerful than listening to your ideas.

Remember that the real you will be noticed especially when you are "off-duty." 
Whether you are getting coffee in the break room, buying lunch in your company cafeteria, or are en route to a meeting in an elevator, the eye contact you make, the way you acknowledge others and the courtesies you extend will show the real you. A friendly greeting, smile and/or sincere compliment will be noticed and may differentiate you from your colleagues.   

Commit to continuous improvement in your skills. 
Jim Rohn said, “If you want to be better, work harder on yourself than you do on your business.” You cannot achieve more over time if you do not improve your skills over time. Never stop seeking more learning—from books, from other leaders, from personal mentors.   

Accept the discipline of setting goals and measuring results. 
Setting goals that are SMART—meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant to your Purpose and Time-Specific—is one key to all success. You cannot achieve a target you don’t set. Setting ever-improving goals is one key to achieving continuous improvement in your results. 

You also cannot improve what you do not measure, which is why it is critical to establish a measurement plan for every goal. Review progress against goals regularly, take the learning when you fall short of the goals, and celebrate when you achieve or exceed the goals. Make the tracking and review of your results (versus goals) a regular part of your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual disciplines.   

People first, and then technology. 
Smart phones have become much more than on-the-go efficiency tools. If you are like most, they have become addictions. Rather than letting this tool sabotage your career, condition yourself to check messages periodically rather than the minute you hear a ding. Besides being a more efficient form of time management, those around you will appreciate the undivided attention that you are choosing to give to them.   Avoid being on time! Think of it this way, instead: when you are early, you are on time. When you are on time you are late. The sure-fire way for being on time is to map out the time you have to leave for a meeting rather than the time that you have to be there. This will allow you to maintain control of your time rather than having unforeseen situations control you.   

Follow-up and Follow-through, with courtesy. 
Anytime someone has given you more than 15 minutes of his or her time, demonstrate your appreciation by following up with a note of thanks, such as by email. If a person, however, goes out of his or her way for you, knock yourself out by sending a handwritten note of thanks. Use blue rather than black ink to add a personal touch of warmth to your words.