The three to four years invested in college or university can be used meaningfully to prepare yourself for the world of work, irrespective of what career you want to pursue.
Developing the right skills and attitudes is important for transitioning from the world of higher education to the world of work.
There are plenty of opportunities during your time in college to develop the necessary skills, attitudes and aptitude.
Ten key essential skills are detailed here:
Oral, written and e-mail communication skills for sharing knowledge, interests, attitudes, opinions, feelings and ideas is important to influence and ultimately lead others.
The skills include ability to listen and observe for gaining understanding, clearly and effectively relating to ideas, and developing strategies to work effectively with others.
It is about being able to operate smoothly and efficiently within a group.
This amounts to drawing on a number of other skills like the ability to encourage and inspire other team members to perform better; being able to control one’s own ego; communication and other interpersonal skills such as negotiation, influencing, advising and interpreting.
3. Data and numeracy skills
This relates to an understanding of the basic principles of day-to-day numeracy and data analysis.
Knowledge of and ability to work with numbers (percentages, proportions, discounts, profit and losses) and different units of measure (currency, weight, volume and area) is essential for any work situation.
Being comfortable with data and statistics (texts, tables and graphs), and recognising and working with mathematical relationships, patterns and proportions expressed in verbal or numerical form leads to work efficiency.
4. Technology skills
Ability to use computers and computing devices for performing a variety of tasks like using e-mails, developing spreadsheets, preparing presentations, using web applications, entering and analysing data, and processing information is now a basic requirement in many entry-level mid-skill jobs.
Browsing and researching on the internet and familiarity with social media platforms and e-commerce sites are added skills useful to your profile.
5. Data gathering and analysis
Observing, receiving and obtaining information from meetings, interviews, internet, documents or research are analytical skills that all employers of today look for.
This also includes the ability to study data from different perspectives and draw inferences in an effective manner by using tables, graphs, diagrams and presentations.
6. Problem solving and decision-making
Using analytical skills for decision-making and problem solving requires the ability to ask questions, formulate a problem statement, collect data, reach conclusion(s), consider multiple ways of resolving problems and decide which is the most appropriate.
Recognising long-term consequences of solutions to problems while probing, devising and evaluating towards a plan of action can go a long way in efficient decision-making.
Networking has become critical in professional and social life.
Establishing and nurturing contacts with people, leveraging social media to communicate with opinion makers, publics and government are skills required to keep pace with the changed business environment.
Networking can also be an invaluable skill for job hunting, start-ups and picking up best practices.
It pays to develop constructive and collaborative working relationships, and maintain them over time.
8. Organising and prioritising
Managing self and/or others, and resources including time and surrounding circumstances, is critical to achieving goals and objectives.
Working professionals are expected to take responsibility for their performance, exhibiting high standards of organising and planning skills.
9. Work ethics
This refers to values and behaviours which are expected to be ethical and productive, and in tune with the organisation’s policy.
In other words, “ethics” is the name given to our values or good behaviour.
A positive work ethic is the collection of all values and actions appropriate for the work place.
Individual attributes that can significantly impact your work performance are habits such as honesty, integrity, positive attitude, cooperation, respect, compassion and taking ownership.
10. Learning how to learn
Acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and aptitudes to set, plan and reach your own learning goals and become independent autonomous learners.
You need to become a self-directed learner and rely on your own learning capacities.
It is about learning what you know, learning what you do not know, and learning what to do about it.
This will also provide you confidence to know when and who to ask for help.
Now how do you learn these skills?
Well, one can start by doing specific tasks and documenting the new skills learnt.
Also, multiple skills can be practiced and learnt in a single task or a project.
Some of the activities which you could undertake during the college years are:
• Group projects
• Teaching others
• Using social networks
• Attending or organizing seminars and conferences
• Applying the learnings in your local community or class or college
• Work part-time
• Find a mentor.
These skills must be nurtured throughout the 3 to 4 years of college in order to enter the workplace with confidence and to realise ambitions.
Creating an e-portfolio of the work done and skills developed will help you in the long run.
You must prepare yourself to deal with the complex and uncertain world, and not just with routine work. Good luck!