Graduation represents more than just receiving an academic degree. To employers, it signifies that you’ve also been equipped with skills that would prepare you for the working world. Face it, your competitors and potential colleagues all have academic degrees too. This is why it’s important for you to work on these skills before you finish your studies.
1. Business Writing
Regardless of the field you’ll be working in, there will be writing to be done. From proposals to clients to reports and summaries, you must know how to communicate your ideas clearly on paper. Being able to construct straightforward and intelligent sentences is a skill that displays both effective communication and critical thinking.
Tips on how to improve your business writing can be found all over the Internet. Websites like hbr.org and www.businesswritingblog.com are just two of many sources that you can learn from. Your CV is actually a form of business writing and colleges often teach students how to write their first CV. Use the opportunity to learn how to sharpen your business writing skill.
2. Write Professional Emails
Emails, prehistoric as they may be, are still regarded as the mainstream method of communicating amongst professionals. To be regarded as a professional yourself, you need to be able to write clear and concise emails to save time and maximise productivity. A well written email is bereft of many words but it gets the message across.
As a student, you will come across many opportunities to write professional emails. There will be instances where you will have to write emails to college officials and yes, those are professional emails. Your internship period is usually the time where you need to write the most emails. Learn from your superiors on how to craft effective emails according to your field.
3. Leadership and Teamwork
When it comes to essential soft skills, this is almost always ranked in the top three. Great companies run on the efficiency of great teams which are made up of individuals who are both great followers and leaders. So if you want to stand out and be open to lots of opportunities, this skill is a must have.
Training your leadership and teamwork isn’t easy but as a student, you will come across many chances to do so. It’s a skill that can only be built through experience so you must involve yourself in activities which require you to work together with people. Don’t worry too much about failing and making mistakes. All great leaders start out that way.
4. Presenting and Speaking
The importance of this skill can be summed up with one quote:
You can have all the great ideas in the world and if you can’t communicate, nobody will hear them.
– Kara Blackburn, Senior Lecturer in Managerial Communication, MIT Sloan School of Management
College is actually one of the best places for you to sharpen this skill. Aside from the many presentations you’ll be doing, you should also take part in extracurricular activities that expose you to situations where you must speak in front of a crowd. You don’t need to run for the Student Council or anything like that. Joining a club is good enough but in the end, it’s still up to you whether or not you want to be brave and take the opportunities that come.
5. Critical Thinking / Problem Solving
Together with Leadership and Teamwork, this is another skill that’s almost always ranked in the top three of the most important soft skills. Being able to follow instructions and work regularly are things almost everyone can do but if you really want to stand out and provide valuable contributions, you need to be able to solve problems.
The situations in which where you need to use critical thinking can basically occur everyday in your student life. From the way you talk to people to the way you do your assignments, everything can be improved if you apply critical thinking. The best way to learn how to think critically is to read books on how to do it. Self-improvement books of all kinds will generally have elements of critical thinking throughout the books. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of those books.