8 Real World Skills College Doesn’t Teach You

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College graduation season is upon us, and as social media floods with photos of robe-clad seniors and proud parents, the time has come for the grads to tackle the question “What’s next?” (Because you knowthey’ll be asked that about 400 times over the summer.)

Some, if not most, will struggle with the answer. They may have a crisp diploma in hand, but the working world is an entirely different animal. And while 70% of college students think they have the skills needed to succeed in the “real world,” less than a third of employers agree with them. The fact is, there are some professional skills the college classroom doesn’t teach you.

Below are eight skills valued in the workplace, across a range of roles and industries. But too often, they aren’t taught inside the college classroom.

1. Networking and relationship building

“It’s who you know” is truer than you may think. Networking, in a nutshell, is meeting new people in a professional context, forging a connection, building those relationships over time, and providing value to each other. This skill is essential because 85% of a person’s success is due to “human engineering”—your personality, communication ability, negotiation skills, and emotional intelligence. A mere 15% is because of technical knowledge.

2. Setting realistic career goals

Setting goals, with realistic deadlines, is an important skill to have in any job where you don’t have someone explicitly telling you what to do. Goal-setting is also valuable for personal development and growth. Think about the bigger picture—like where you want to be in five years—and break down that seemingly insurmountable goal into smaller pieces, making it easier to conquer. (Plus, knowing where you want to be in 5 years is handy during job interviews.)

3. Prioritizing tasks and job opportunities

The ability to analyze each of your tasks and rank them in order of importance is a skill that can set you apart in the workplace. On a related note, learning how to say “no”. As you grow in your career, an influx of opportunities will come your way, all placing demands on your time. You’ll need to prioritize what matters most, put some on the back burner, and decline others altogether.

4. Using feedback to make revisions

In college, professors will sometimes hand back papers and tests with comments written on them…but rarely do you actually redo your project based on the suggestions. However, this is something people in all kinds of careers have to do: get feedback, analyze it, and make changes based on it.

This can be difficult, especially when you don’t agree with the proposed changes. But part of any job is setting your ego aside. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a traditional employee, freelancer, or business owner: to be successful, you’ll have to listen to your boss, your clients, or your customers, and take their feedback into account.

5. Collaborating on a cross-functional team

By “cross-functional,” I mean a group of people with different functional expertise working together to achieve a common goal. This could be an engineer, designer, quality assurance tester, and copywriter working together to finish a product.

This is completely different than group projects in college, where everyone in the group has a similar role—writing 1/5th of the paper, etc. People working on cross-functional teams must be able to communicate smoothly even when everyone has a totally different role.

6. Writing for the workplace

Regardless of which college major you pursued, you probably had to write. Research papers, scientific reports, English papers, and the like. But most academic writing is worlds away from the writing you’ll be doing in the working world.

One of the best examples? Email. So much communication takes place through email. And in your inbox, MLA citations don’t matter. What matters is being able to communicate in a clear, concise, professional, and personable way. This also applies to memos, reports, and cover letters (so you can get the job in the first place!).

7. Selling and negotiation

Good things come to those who hustle! How to sell your ideas and yourself is something not taught in college, but you’ll miss great opportunities if you lack the skills and confidence to put yourself out there. You get that dream job by selling yourself to a hiring manager. You get startup investors by selling your vision. You negotiate a raise by selling yourself to a higher-up.

8. Leading a team

In most college classes you don’t get the chance to lead a team of people. Sometimes you can when working in a group project, but usually group projects turn into an awkward sharing of responsibilities (and sometimes one person ends up doing all the work because they care the most about getting a good grade).

True leadership involves knowing who you are and what you stand for, being able to delegate wisely, maintaining integrity, and having the ability to listen to and work alongside others.

Just because they weren’t taught inside the college classroom doesn’t mean you can’t master these career-boosting skills. And once you do, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career—no matter what industry you’ve chosen.

 

 

 

 

Source: Forbes / Laurence Bradford

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