Foundational Skills Series: Critical Thinking

woman looking at laptop

As a young professional trying to navigate the workplace, you’re working hard to learn new skills daily. It can easily become overwhelming to think about all you have to learn as you enter your new reality.

Foundational skills, or soft skills as they’re referred to in most workplaces, are the foundation to success in the workplace. The two main skills are critical thinking and communication. You may have also heard them referred to as employability skills, power skills, or workplace skills — they’re all referring to the same thing with critical thinking and communication skills at the core. Think about it, if you’re able to solve problems and communicate the solution, you’re bound to be successful, right? Other foundational skills include leadership, initiative, adaptability, and patience.

But the first skill we’re going to focus on in our Foundational Skills Series is critical thinking. In a recent study by the World Economic Forum, they found that 5 out of the 10 most valuable work skills of tomorrow are centered around critical thinking and problem solving. By perfecting these skills, you will be able to manifest success in any workplace.

Also, what many young professionals don’t realize is you likely already have some of the basic knowledge you need to level up your critical thinking skills for the workplace.

You Practiced the Foundation for Critical Thinking Skills in School

Think back to the days you were sitting in your philosophy class in college. Maybe it was a required gen ed class you didn’t enjoy, and you felt the professor was out to get you with every essay assigned. But actually, the professor was preparing you to thrive in the workplace.

Every paper you have ever written was an exercise in critical thinking. You had to use research to gather relevant resources, you had to synthesize your findings in a clear and concise manner, and you had to evaluate and provide your final recommendations or conclusions.

What does that sound like to you? It’s critical thinking! It is the full process that you need to analyze any workplace scenario, but it was hidden in those pesky papers you always hated writing. Surprise!

Now, critical thinking to complete a paper may look different than critical thinking in the workplace — but you can use those steps and apply it to nearly any workplace situation.

How to Apply Your Critical Thinking Skills in the Workplace

Now that you understand how critical thinking was taught to you in school, channel those skills and that knowledge! Here are a few ways you can use your critical thinking skills as you aim to perfect them.

Ask Relevant Questions

Part of critical thinking is asking relevant questions. Not only asking others, but also asking yourself. Start with questions like these to guide your direction:

  • What is the true problem I am being asked to look into?
  • Do I truly understand the goal of the project or what the problem is? If not, what do I need to do to understand?
  • Where should I go to look for this information that will provide quality information and diverse opinions?
  • Once I have the info, how will I evaluate it for biases?
  • How am I going to use this information to come up with a valuable recommendation?

Asking yourself these clarifying questions is the basis of making sure you have the knowledge to succeed. If you find something is missing, then and only then do you go to your manager or colleagues to ask more qualifying questions, showing you understand the topic and the importance of what you’re being asked to do.

Provide Valuable Conclusions

At work, you’re hired to solve problems. You can’t simply send your senior management links to sources when you’re asked to complete a project. You need to form valuable recommendations or conclusions to share with your company or manager and use your critical thinking skills to do this successfully.

Think Things Through

Take a moment to process information to form eloquent recommendations. For example, during meetings don’t chime in for the sake of chiming in. Take a moment to listen and evaluate, so you can provide valuable suggestions and ask well-informed questions!

Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills to Level Up

You don’t have to struggle to hone your critical thinking skills or foundational skills alone. Take our quiz to learn more about your potential foundational skills gaps and how NimblyWise can help you level up, so you can achieve that wildly successful career you’ve always dreamed of!