Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills to Reach Your Career Goals

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Ken Chase

12 min read

Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills to Reach Your Career Goals

Though there are many different abilities and traits that can help you reach your career goals, few are as important as critical thinking skills. The world continues to evolve and the workplace is more complex than ever before. As a result, employers are always in the market for job candidates who can successfully analyze complex situations, solve problems, and make informed decisions. But can you improve your critical thinking skills to enhance your value as an employee? Yes, you can!

In this post, we will examine critical thinking skills, explain why they are so important for career success and consider examples of some of the abilities that can make you a more critical thinker. Finally, we will provide some invaluable tips that can help you improve those vital skills.

What are critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking skills include all those cognitive abilities that you use to assess, analyze, and process information as you consider available data and make informed decisions. People with strong critical thinking skills are able to recognize biases, avoid preconceptions, and quickly separate opinions from facts. Their analytical skills help them to dispassionately examine a variety of perspectives, focus on real evidence rather than assumptions, and fully understand the relevant facts involved in any challenging situation.

Critical thinkers are adept at seeing beyond the superficial appearance of any given set of facts and are able to perceive how different ideas connect. They often seem to be able to see aspects of a problem that others miss, analyzing every detail instead of just focusing on the challenge’s broad outline. As a result, they are skilled at logic-based problem-solving and tend to make decisions that consider all of the evidence they have available to them.

Why is critical thinking ability important for career success?

Employers specifically look for candidates with strong critical thinking skills to ensure that they have employees who can reliably find logical solutions to problems. While many employees can operate within well-structured environments and carry out team tasks, critical thinkers can be relied upon to make decisions independently. In any fast-paced and innovative work environment, that ability for independent decision-making and problem-solving can add real value to any team.

Confident managers who want to avoid the need for micromanagement always appreciate critical thinkers. An effective critical thinker typically has strong communication skills, adapts to changing situations, can solve problems on their own when necessary, and makes sound decisions that consider all available facts and options. Many critical thinkers also possess powerful creative thinking too, which ensures innovation that helps companies remain competitive in the marketplace.

Examples of important critical thinking skills


Analytical skills are some of the most important abilities possessed by critical thinkers. In fact, without the ability to analyze a situation and a given set of facts, critical thought would be impossible. Of course, analysis is a skill set that encompasses several different abilities, including:

  • Observational abilities that are used to examine a problem from multiple perspectives

  • Interpretative abilities that a critical thinker uses to better understand problems, fact patterns, and the elements that can contribute to potential solutions

  • The judgment to recognize which information is key and which facts are of lesser importance or outright irrelevant

  • The courage and confidence needed to ask questions to improve understanding and lead to possible solutions

  • Good research skills to ensure that they understand every element of a problem

  • The ability to take complex information and break it down into its component parts so that each element can be examined


Evaluation is an important skill that critical thinkers use to make judgments as they analyze situations, challenges, and fact patterns. Critical thinking requires that you separate fact from opinion and judge each piece of evidence based on its relevance. As facts are evaluated, some will be discarded as irrelevant, while others will take on greater importance. Ultimately, this ability to evaluate and prioritize information can be a key part of finding the best possible solution for any problem.


Effective critical thinkers are also able to draw inferences that connect various perspectives, facts, arguments, and ideas. People who have the ability to draw these inferences are able to take available information, analyze it, and make assumptions based on the data presented. They draw conclusions that make the best possible educated guess, connecting the dots between facts that they can observe and details that are not necessarily known.

Inference skills are vital for critical thinking. Often, people who are trying to resolve challenges can only see a portion of the relevant facts that must be considered to make a sound decision. By drawing inferences based on available data, critical thinkers are able to fill in those missing facts and make more informed decisions.


To think critically, it is vital to be aware of your own cognitive biases to ensure that your analysis of any given situation is not colored by your own preconceptions and preferences. Critical thinkers are able to set aside those biases and examine information and situations in a dispassionate, objective way. By being aware of their own biases, they can effectively analyze information based on its own merits. They also strive to be humble enough to recognize that they may not have all the answers and thus value the importance of seeking and considering outside opinions and alternative points of view.


Employers value all critical thinking skills, but they also know that critical thought is just a means to an end. That in-depth, logical thinking needs to result in successful problem-solving. Critical thinkers are adept at analyzing challenges, identifying and implementing viable solutions, and then assessing those solutions’ effectiveness. Typically, critical thinkers with solid problem-solving skills will be:

  • Detail-oriented, and capable of observing and identifying key facts that others may miss

  • Well-grounded and focused on the problem-at-hand

  • Adept at pattern recognition, which they use to identify the root causes of any challenge and the best possible solutions

  • Innovative in their problem-solving and solution-generating capabilities

  • Focused on the possible, with a clear understanding of the importance of finding solutions that are cost-effective, time-sensitive, and practical


For employers, decision-making is one of the most valuable critical thinking skills any employee or job candidate can possess. Employees are constantly put in situations where they need to make decisions on their own, even if that decision is as mundane as choosing which customer to help at any given moment. Obviously, most employers would prefer that those decisions are made in a thoughtful and logical way.

Critical thinkers who are skilled at analyzing and evaluating facts to create viable solutions to problems also need to be able to make sound decisions. As you might expect, this requires not only knowledge that is evidence-based but wisdom and judgment as well. The most effective decision-making occurs when you choose solutions that are evidence-based, free from your own internal biases, and considerate of a broad range of perspectives.


Of course, critical thinking skills also include effective communication abilities too. After all, even the best critical thinker won’t get very far in life without the ability to convey sound conclusions to teammates and superiors. This sharing of ideas and conclusions is critical for success in the business world. Moreover, it is often necessary to use the full range of critical thinking abilities within a team setting, working in concert with others to create workable solutions. Without communication, that would be virtually impossible.

Like other skills used in critical thinking, communication abilities are a skill set rather than a singular skill. They can include:

  • Effective interpersonal skills like active listening, negotiation, conflict management, and empathy

  • The ability to present ideas in a coherent way

  • Working effectively within a team structure

  • Humility and an ability to share credit with others

  • Solid verbal and written communication skills

Ways to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

If you have read all that and find yourself wondering whether your critical thinking skills are everything that they should be, you are not alone. Almost everybody can benefit from improvements in their critical thinking abilities. The good news is that critical thinkers are not born that way. Instead, they learn and develop the skills they need to think critically over the course of many years. Obviously, that means that all of us can improve in those areas. But how, you might wonder? The following tips can help you develop those critical thinking skills.

Learn to question your assumptions and biases

One of the most important things you can do to improve your critical thinking abilities is to work on your own self-awareness. Before you assess any situation, take a moment to think about how your own mental processes work. Do you have preset biases that need to be set aside before you can think objectively? Most of us do. Fortunately, being aware of those biases can help you to avoid your natural assumptions and focus on thinking in an objective manner.

Become a more active listener

Active listening can help you develop your critical thinking too. Because this type of listening requires you to be completely focused on what others are saying, asking questions to improve your understanding and then reflecting their message back to them, it necessarily requires some level of critical thought. Whenever you practice active listening, you will also be practicing:

  • The ability to analyze information as you encounter it

  • Key evaluation skills as you separate key details from those that are less important

  • Your powers of inference, as you fill in any gaps in what you are being told

  • More effective communication skills as you work to create understanding

  • Your ability to make sound decisions based on relevant data and a logical thought process

Consider other perspectives

You can also improve these skills by taking the time to consider other perspectives. When you observe a situation, practice the art of trying to view it from another viewpoint. This can help you to develop greater attention to detail as you evaluate different aspects of the situation in an attempt to see it from another perspective. As you become better at this type of analysis, it can improve your overall analytical and evaluation skills, which are crucial components of critical thinking.

Form your own opinions

Like most people, you probably have certain opinions that you have absorbed from others over time. They may be ideas based on things you have heard in the media, or simply the result of “conventional wisdom” – which is nothing more than a common belief that people just assume to be true. As you think about your own mental processes, try to identify some of those preconceptions and biases, and take the time to analyze their validity to form your own opinions.

Work to identify problems

Since problem-solving is such an important critical thinking ability, it makes sense to practice that skill. One of the biggest secrets of problem-solving is that the best way to become an effective problem-solver is to practice solving problems. But before you will be able to do that, you will first need to learn to identify challenges that need solutions. Pay attention to how things are done in your workplace and look for any shortcomings that could benefit from a new approach.

When you identify a potential problem, apply the various skills we have discussed in this article to analyze, evaluate, and draw inferences that can help you find a potential solution. Practice this type of problem-solving approach and you will soon find yourself almost instinctively noting problems that need solutions. When you feel confident enough about your skills, you can start presenting your conclusions to others at work.

Ask questions

The ability to ask relevant questions is a key skill that all critical thinkers possess. You should get in the habit of asking questions, even if they seem basic. Remember, the only stupid question is the genuine question that goes unasked. So, be courageous enough to question yourself, situations that you encounter, and other people to learn the things you need to learn. Over time, you will find that your questions become increasingly focused on acquiring key knowledge that can inform your thought processes.

Practice decision-making

No great critical thinker ever popped into existence ready to make the right decision. That’s why small children often make one silly decision after another. All human beings need to learn how to make sound decisions, and this is true for critical thinkers as well. Still, the fact that you know how to make decisions doesn’t mean that you cannot improve on those skills. And like every other skill, the way you do that is through consistent practice.

To practice your decision-making, you should:

  • Learn how to research and gather information to inform your decisions

  • Try to look at potential decisions from every possible perspective

  • Think about the outcome you desire

  • Analyze your possible choices to determine which decision is most likely to produce your desired outcome

  • Not be afraid to seek advice from a mentor or trusted friend

  • Not be discouraged when you get it wrong. Just learn from the experience and remember those lessons next time!


No matter how much the current work environment changes in the short term, employers will continue to place great value on crucial critical thinking skills. By working to improve key abilities like analysis, evaluation, and problem-solving, you can improve your value as an employee while advancing your career goals.

Want to make sure that your resume effectively conveys your critical thinking skills to potential employers? Get your free resume review from our team of resume experts!

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Written by

Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.

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