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7 Skills You Need for Professional Success, According to a CEO

Female CEO in business meeting

Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Owning a small business takes more than just a good idea. It takes courage, an ability to strategize, and lots of confidence, too. Business-owner Carolina Aponte knows this firsthand and wrote Pave Your Own Way: Thirteen Skills to Create Your Professional Success. Her book not only details her own career journey, but it teaches others how to thrive in any professional field by developing certain skills. 

“I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and at the age of 13, my family moved to Miami, Florida,” Aponte tells CircleAround. Aponte attended middle school and part of high school in the United States but had to move back to Venezuela before she could finish. Four years later, she found her way back to Miami without a high school degree but with plenty of determination to make it on her own and to be financially independent. 

Now, she’s the CEO of Caja Holdings LLC, a full-service accounting and bookkeeping firm based in North Carolina. “Every step I took was a step forward toward building my business and living my purpose while helping other women achieve their own dreams and goals,” says Aponte. 

CircleAround caught up with Aponte to learn more about the skills she recommends developing for professional success. 

1. Leadership

Aponte says she leads by example, and that this is one of the most important skills anyone can possess. She used her extensive understanding of tax codes, accounting, and business management to start her small consulting company, which provides clients with practical, internal accounting and tax-reporting solutions. In doing so, she exemplifies that women have the power to expand their business on their own, and support others in the process.

Aponte also suggests that people can practice leadership in smaller ways, such as leading volunteer committees, or being mentors at their jobs. 

2. Communication

“As a CEO, you must be able to communicate effectively with employees, customers, and the general public in a timely and relevant manner,” says Aponte. This is important for getting your message across, and ensuring your team is on board for any plans or strategies you are implementing.

Listening is also an important communication skill and will allow you to truly understand the needs of your staff, clients, audiences, and more. 

3. Public Speaking

Aponte is often asked to speak at major events about her story and to motivate others. Being able to get up in front of a crowd and speak effectively can help instill confidence in you, your company, and your company’s mission. 

To get better at public speaking, try rehearsing presentations ahead of time. You can practice in front of a mirror or a computer screen. The more you look over what you’re presenting, the more comfortable you’ll feel when the time comes to get in front of an audience.

4. Time Management

For Aponte, a balance between work and life is incredibly important. However, being able to manage one’s personal time and work time is a learned skill. “The biggest reward has been the freedom to actively participate in the lives of my daughters,” she explains. She takes pride in managing her time effectively so she can set an example for them, and so “that they can be financially independent while pursuing their career dreams.”

Keeping a planner or a to-do list of short-term goals will help you eventually manage time for larger, longer-term projects as well. Calendar reminders, phone timers, and more can give you a visual cue for when to switch tasks.

5. Problem-Solving

Being able to be flexible, fluid, and communicate effectively helps the best leaders problem-solve. By utilizing her problem-solving skills, Aponte is able to ensure her clients’ issues are handled in an appropriate manner and by the appropriate people.

6. Networking

Aponte had previously been selected to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Entrepreneurship program. “This was a highlight of my career where I was able to develop a growth opportunity for my business and collaborate with successful business owners across the United States,” says Aponte. 

Start networking within your own community; ask friends and family members if they can introduce you to someone that might be of interest — professionally or otherwise. From there, you can continue to ask for references and make connections, especially online using social media.

7. Trailblazing

“Look at where you are today, what you have accomplished, what you are still wanting to achieve,” Aponte says. In order to be a trailblazer, she knows it’s important to “remove all doubts, stop the negative voices in your head, and begin working toward paving your own way toward success.” Learning the ins-and-outs of your field to identify the gaps can help you see where to focus your energy. Doing things that aren't yet being done can help you become a trailblazer in your industry and beyond.


CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

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