Effective Communication

5 Characteristics that Define Higher Level Professionals [AOTJ]

Successful black professional man with characteristics of a leader

When you’re looking to advance in your career, a good rule of thumb is to look at those who are already working at higher levels for guidance. After all, they are where they are for a reason. More than likely, they embody a variety of qualities and characteristics that have helped them reach this level of success. Model yourself after them and you stand a good chance of achieving similar success.

Interestingly, most higher level professionals possess a set of similar characteristics. In fact, Dr. Susan Bernstein suggests 5 in particular. These are qualities that will serve anyone well, regardless of field or industry. If you’re looking to rise through the ranks, take a look at the list below and see if you have some work to do in any of these areas.

5 Characteristics of Higher Level Professionals

  1. Strategic Thinking

According to Bernstein, higher level professionals are strategic thinkers, while those at the lower levels are more tactical thinkers. More advanced individuals understand the big picture of where the organization is going and how all the different parts are interconnected. They have vision and are able to see how their day-to-day tasks and projects contribute to the bigger goals and objectives of the organization.


Also watch: How to Think Strategically Like a CEO


  1. Frame Results in Terms of Business Impact

Bernstein also says that higher level pros are always thinking about their results in terms of business impact. They don’t simply explain that they’ve completed a project; instead, they talk about the measurable effect that project has had—or will have—on the organization.

  1. Exude Executive Presence

Perhaps you’ve noticed that most higher-level professionals tend to have a confident, poised-under-pressure demeanor. Bernstein says this is a common trait and it’s generally referred to as executive presence. To succeed at the higher levels, you have to be able to hold your own with other senior leaders. That means you’re self-assured; can remain composed and in control of difficult, unpredictable situations; and can make tough decisions in a strong, timely way.

  1. Influence Others

Part of being a high-level professional involves influencing the people around you. As you climb the proverbial corporate ladder, these skills are more on display. The higher you go, the more important it is that you can get people on board with your ideas, focus their energy in the right direction, and keep them inspired to continue even when things get hard.


Also read: Soft Skills — Hiring Managers Say Key Differentiator: Are You Prepared? [AOTJ]


  1. Soft Skills

Finally, Bernstein suggests that the most successful high-level professionals exhibit exceptional soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, communication and stress management. This is one area that tends to be a real competency gap in the workforce as a whole, so those who possess these essential skills are more likely to benefit from advancement opportunities.

It’s no surprise that higher level professionals all have similar traits. These are skills that stand out in the workplace and truly allow you to perform at a higher level.

Observe those above you in your organization and take note of the characteristics that have helped them attained their status. Then, follow their lead and mimic their behavior. It’s like following a proven recipe for success.


For Further Reading on Career Advancement
Check out the Advancing On The Job Series


About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.