Attending College? Don’t Neglect the Soft Skills!

College is a time for students to learn and grow. In addition to the technical skills you’ll need for your future career, you’ll also need to develop “soft skills” that will enable you to succeed in the workplace. While some schools integrate these skills throughout their curriculum, you need to be sure that they’re part of your college education.

Time Managementwork-life balance shoes
Students who have a job and can maintain a healthy GPA have great experience with time management skills. Balancing your time between work and school isn’t easy, but if you make a list of priorities in order of importance and timing, you’ll be more productive and organized. This is a valuable skill to have and build upon throughout your career. It can help you to never miss a deadline. In addition, make sure to schedule “you time” so that you have time to relax and decompress.

Team Management
Group projects are common in college and in the workplace. Take this opportunity to step up and become a leader. Make sure you have open and fair communication, a clear goal for the group, and a plan for delegating work. Your professor will notice, and you’ll gain confidence in leading a team.

Making Presentations
Group projects are sometimes accompanied by a presentation in front of the class. Use this opportunity as a way to practice making presentations. If your goal is to become a leader within a company one day, it’s important that you get comfortable in front of an audience now.

failure ropeDeal With Failure
You won’t always win the fight, but it’s important to learn how to get up when you’re knocked down. Say you put 110% of effort into a research report, but it received a low grade. Instead of getting frustrated, talk to your professor about what went wrong (hindsight), what he/she didn’t like (insight), and what you can do better next time (foresight). This can also help you in an office setting where professionals have to be prepared to have their work critiqued by top management and know how to respond to creative criticism.

The Big Picture
It’s just as important to learn soft skills as it is to learn technical skills. Leadership, organization, and communication are only a few examples of these essential soft skills. Be proactive in trying to develop these skills. If you’re not developing them in the classroom, seek out other opportunities. Participating in an IMA student chapter or the IMA Student Case Competition are great ways to do this.

These skills can help prep you for a smoother transition into the workforce and for success in your career. Companies today are looking for qualified candidates who already know how to work on a team, manage a schedule, and give a presentation. The training you get in college will make you stand out from the crowd. By staying focused on your goals for the future and continuously developing your soft skills, you’ll get the most out of your college education.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

Related Articles
“8 Things Really Focused People Do” – Inc.
“6 Apps That Block Online Distractions So You Can Get Work Done” – Mashable

2 thoughts on “Attending College? Don’t Neglect the Soft Skills!

  1. Thanks Raef, for the advice I can still use, even though I am past my own college days. I went back to the university after changing fields of study because the job I got as a business manager for a distributor required some accounting knowledge and then grew into the controller position. At Eastern Michigan University, my professors encouraged me to join the IMA and the IIA, and to become active as an officer of the IMA’s Student Chapter. I eventually became the President of the chapter and attended the local professional chapter board meetings because I thought I should and was invited.
    As far as the soft skill of giving presentations, I have come full circle to the point that I give presentations to the EMU Student Chapter now, including one upcoming on Emerging Tech Trends based on my work as Chair of the Tech Solutions and Practices Committee of the IMA. The more talks one gives, the more comfortable it feels. I would also encourage students to Write More! Improving written communication abilities will also be worthwhile. Do not avoid having others review your writing (ruthlessly) so that you continue to improve this key skill.

  2. Thanks for the great comment. It’s certainly true that while these skills need to be developed in school it doesn’t end there – we need to continue to develop and refine these skills as we progress in our careers. You could even say that these skills become even more important as one advances up the career ladder – and that adds to the importance of starting to develop them early in one’s career!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s