SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
Whether you’re an upperclassman or a first year, the first week of college sets the tone for the year and for your career. Summer break is over, and now it’s time to gain skills that recruiters are looking for any opportunity that you get. Getting into the right mindset can make a huge difference when you’re creating your 4-year plan, starting your classes and preparing to get a job. So let’s make every minute of the first week of school count. Here’s what you need to know to be successful as soon as you arrive at campus.
Be intentional about striking up a conversation with someone new in your classes. We are creatures of habit, so once we get into a routine, we tend to sit in the same seats every class period. Try to sit in a different seat any chance you get and strike up conversations with people around you. You might not always be successful, but you may run into someone that has the same career goals and learn something about what they do that puts them at an advantage. If you don’t take the opportunity to do this, you may miss out on our chance to meet and learn from different people and turn your connection into an opportunity. Especially in classes for your major, these people will become your cohort, traveling from class to class. Take the opportunity to discuss lectures, go over notes and work on group projects. It’s much easier to thrive academically with a good group of encouragers and friends around you.
Make sure you enter the school year with a strong digital profile and if you do not have one - create one for free with ProSky. Many have LinkedIn profiles, which is probably a good idea because it is a mainstream network for professionals, however, check out our post on how it doesn’t help you land a job. Don’t forget you can add any experience from internships or jobs you acquired over the summer. Updating your resume can also help you determine which skills you want to improve for the new school year.
When it comes to goal making, it is important that you do not overwhelm yourself and stick to goals that you can measure for yourself. College is all about making incremental goals for yourself from day one. Here is a great example of short-term and long-term goals that can be set by Umass - Dartmouth.
I often made goals for the new school year, as August came around. I focused on five things I wanted to accomplish for the semester, including academic, personal and professional goals. For example, last fall I wanted to complete three web projects for my portfolio, blog at least twice a week, and do something I’ve never done before. These goals helped me track my progress, and it helped to write them down to see what I wanted to achieve—and celebrate when it actually happened. Creating goals that you can accomplish at certain times will help you to become more organized while in school and translate into behavioral skills that companies find valuable.
College comes with a range of expenses, so don’t do what I did and not plan what you spend and save. You may want to save for a study abroad experience, professional development courses or spending a summer in New York. Use the 50/20/30 rule that Mint suggests: 50% of your monthly income used for essentials (rent, food, utilities, etc.), 20% for financial priorities (student loans, savings, etc.) and 30% for extra lifestyle purchases like shopping, entertainment, and travel. That is a great start to becoming a more financially responsible person. The greatest benefit to learning about money is understanding TINSTAAFL. You will become more conscious of your time while in college and in the work force. Learning the value of a dollar will help you realize that your time is money, and you should spend the time you have now gaining valuable skills in subjects recruiters are hiring for (like growth hacking!)
Whenever you begin a new semester or quarter, make it a point to learn more about your professors and teacher’s assistants.There are no better resources at college than your professors and advisors around you. Introduce yourself to your professors and tell them why you’re interested in their class and ask them questions about the subject or for advice within your major. You know they are there for you, yet every class that goes by, you cram all your meeting sessions before finals or midterms. The time that counts the most is during the weeks you don’t any major tests going on. For one thing, they will be able to spend more time with you since they are not bombarded with hundreds of students that are trying to learn 4 weeks of material in one week. for another, you will be building on your time management skills. It’s important to establish these relationships early on in your educational career to get in the habit of networking and translating those skills in the office.
Get in the habit of dedicating some time to organization. It is very important to set some time for getting your thoughts together, your tasks listed out and ultra super organized folks will go above and beyond with using color coordinated post its and designated notebooks for different things. If you are one of these people, you are ahead of the game. If you manage to excel without organization, we don’t know how you do it, but if you are struggling with time management and having to do things over and over again because you didn’t spend the time early on to get organized, this one is for you.
Review your syllabi for your classes early on this week and put all test dates and due dates on your calendar ahead of time. I learned this time from my roommate in college, as planning ahead helped us plan out our free time and weekends. Also include important events in your planner including cultural events, events for your major, advising sessions, networking events, club meetings, and activities. The more organized you are, the more time you will have to engage in extracurricular activities like meeting up with likeminded individuals that share your career goals.
While studying late or watching Netflix till the early morning hours are facts of life, getting into a good sleep routine is so important for a successful semester and for a healthier life, in general! If you want to make a health goal this semester, here is a go-to tip: Go to sleep before you are tired. That way you can skip the caffeine and feel energized to get work done and hang out with friends. The more restful you are the better your brain works. More and more studies are proving just how important sleep really is and college students suffer from the most lack of sleep as a result of the lifestyle in general. I, for one, had to get my sleep. While many friends were staying up late to spend time with their friends, they came to class looking like zombies. I knew that life wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked having fun, but being able to stay awake in class and perform well on tests took precedence for me.
With all of these tips, you are setting yourself up for success. One part of you thinks, "getting a job after college is the end goal" while the other is reminding you to be "enjoying your time" while you are there. This is not one or the other, you can most definitely have an amazing college experience and still make decisions that will help you advance in your careers. Your perfect job won’t fall in your lap, after all, and these aforementioned tips will help you to organize your time better so that you can engage in activities that will benefit you in the long run.
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