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Harvard career expert: The No. 1 ‘desirable skill’ that very few people have—especially men

By | Heidi K. Gardner |

When young people ask me for career advice, I always tell them: “Don’t just focus on your own accomplishments. Be a collaborator.”

Through a decade of teaching and research at Harvard’s business and law schools, I discovered an important and often overlooked insight: People who figured out how to collaborate across teams gained a major competitive edge over those who did not.

The advantages of collaboration skills

When it comes to hiring, smart collaborators are highly desirable candidates. They deliver higher quality results, get promoted faster, are more noticed by senior management, and have more satisfied clients.

But here’s what shocked me the most: Collaboration skills are surprisingly rare, especially among men.

A 2021 McKinsey study found that women leaders, compared with men at their same level, were about twice as likely to spend substantial time on collaborative efforts that fell outside their formal job.

How to be an exceptional collaborator

Being a collaborator isn’t easy. But the primary goal is simple: bringing people together to solve problems and learn something new.

Here’s how to get better at it:

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