Evaluating and Enhancing Your Secondary Skills

Published on April 18, 2011 | By Mark Badley - Managing Director

Regardless of your profession, core expertise is vital. Employers seek qualified individuals who have frontline experience and who deeply understand their primary activities. As the economy has contracted and competition for jobs has increased, employers often have to choose from multiple candidates who come with such expertise. This means that secondary and tertiary skills are now more important than ever.

Secondary Skills

If you are not familiar with the term secondary skills I am sure you will gather what I am referring to. Secondary skills are effectively any skills that are used outside of primary skills in order that a professional can complete their objectives. In some cases tertiary skills are also referred to coming after secondary skills in terms of importance.

Examples of secondary skills include your competence on everyday programs such as PowerPoint and excel, stakeholder management and time organisation. There are many other secondary skills and you will often see them described on a job description in the desirable box rather than the essential box. If you wish to be more desirable, developing and improving on these skills sets will certainly help.

Excel and PowerPoint

Technology varies considerably from one company to the next but Excel and PowerPoint are used everywhere. Almost everybody can use both of these programs but there are few experts who are able to truly unlock their potential. The candidates who I have worked with who can produce leading class tables and decks are always those who sit in the higher pay brackets.

One of the best candidates I have worked with managed to double his pay rate over a two year period. A contributor to his success was that he made it his objective to become an Excel expert and played with the program on his home pc for hours on end honing his expertise. Most of us have access to Excel at home so why not copy this individual. You do not need to pay for an expensive course or commit to learning at a fixed time. Youtube has hundreds of excel tutorials that you can follow and soon move from intermediate to expert user.

Like Excel, PowerPoint is installed on most home computers and most procurement professionals that I know of have an intermediate skill level in creating decks. Executives will pay management consultancy day rates to have a PowerPoint expert prepare their decks. Taking the time to develop this skill will enable you to demand instant credibility when presenting to stakeholders, vendors or your own management.

Stakeholder Management

People skills are paramount. Almost every vacancy that we work at Ronin has a requirement for excellent stakeholder management skills. Some people are born with better people skills than others but we can all improve. If you have not yet read ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie then this is an excellent place to start http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influence_People . This book was originally published in 1936 but remains extremely relevant. If you have read this book then I am preaching to the converted; but there are many other titles available covering the subject which can be read to achieve continual development.

Time Management and Organisation

If two professionals have the same levels of qualification and aptitude one can achieve far more than the other by being an efficient operator. Time management, organisation and prioritisation are key factors that when effectively executed can multiply output. There are many schools of thought on the most efficient way of organising ones day and as always wikipedia offers a comprehensive overview http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management . Stephen Covey’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People is also a very good read on this subject.

I recently heard of an individual who broke every waking hour inside and outside of work into 2 half hour activity slots and planned what he was going to achieve within each and every slot. His career has excelled at an extreme pace as he literally never wastes any time. Most of us are unable to practice such incredible discipline but improvement in our organisation skills typically leads to better output.


If you are able to identify and develop the secondary skills that have the biggest impact on your success then you will become more successful. This is relevant whether you are trying to achieve a promotion or looking to move to a new company. Enhancing the described skills and other secondary and tertiary skills will not only gain you recognition, it will also make your working life easier and allow you to focus more energy on your core activities.