Updated: Oct 10, 2019
You’re at the start of your college career. You’re young, smart, and able to juggle several balls in the air like you did in high school. You’re about to embark on a four-year journey in higher education. Either you, your parents, or others have invested a lot of time, money, and resources into finding the right school for you. You think this journey will pave the way for your next step in life and prepare you well for life after graduation. As a 25 year old professional working in the business world, I highly encourage you to think differently and approach your college education pursuing what you might not be exposed to in the classroom. I encourage my colleagues to take charge of their careers because they’re fortunately in control of them. Similarly, I advocate for students to do them same: take charge of their education… like I wish I did better.
Did you choose a major? If so, why did you choose it? Have you asked yourself that question? Have you thought about what you want to get out of your major? Have you spoken with upperclassmen or past alumni about their experiences in the major? Before choosing a major, I’d like you to ask yourself these questions and figure out the “why’s” behind your actions, so you can fully understand why you’re pursuing the path you’ve chosen. If you think your major is going to set you up with a job and success, I’d ask you to think again. Most of your classes will be in the classroom. You’ll spend your time reading about theories and concepts and either be tested on those ideas or asked to write a paper about them.
Essentially, you’re learning how to memorize and synthesize information. Few of your classes will actually enable you to learn by doing. You’re given few opportunities to apply the information you’ve learned in projects or simulations besides tests and papers. Memorization and synthesis of information is useful for future classes and is important to your future work, but it’s only one factor in a career. It isn’t the entire package. In my opinion and personal experience, you forget a lot of the information you’ve spent so much time trying to memorize when you don’t apply it to work beyond the classroom because it’s not a the forefront of your brain on a daily basis. Is that really what you want - all of your energy to be wasted on studying and memorizing just to forget the information once you’ve taken an exam or written a paper? I would've reflected on how I'd be able to apply what I've learned into my own life, my work, and ultimately my career. Honestly, if I had to do college all over again, I'd also would’ve taken the initiative to enroll in classes that called for more application-based learning.
Do you know what soft skills are? What about transferable skills? If not, that’s totally okay. What’s not okay is going through four years of college and not knowing what they are… The reason why that’s not okay is because soft skills and transferable skills are critical and necessary to any job in the workforce. According to The 7 Transferable Skills To Help You Change Career in Forbes, “transferable skills [defined as] ones that apply in all professions. They are the foundation of all the professional success you will experience in this and other careers you may pursue over the years.” Examples include critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. The cool thing about transferable skills you can take them with you in any line of work, and they will be utilized. A soft skill is an attribute that allows you to interact effectively and pleasantly with other people. Examples include teamwork, empathy, adaptability, and conflict resolution. Soft skills can also be transferable skills.
In reflecting on my college career, I realized the work in only a handful of my classes (less than five) incorporated developing transferable skills. Throughout college, I was lucky to have further developed these skills through internships and in my time on a college event-planning board, the Board of Programmers. Although, when I went into the workforce after college, I had a minimal understanding of the importance of these skills and didn’t realize how often I’d be using them. The point I’m trying to get across is if you want to thrive in the workforce after you graduate, I’d suggest recognizing and developing these soft skills, which can be done both inside and outside the classroom, with your peers, and in your everyday interactions.
As I mentioned, I was a part of an event-planning board all throughout college, which I think was one of the foremost reasons I was able to develop some of my transferable skills and to really learn by doing. While on the Board, I had the opportunity to plan, manage, and market a diverse types of events. I had to get creative. I had to think of ways to incorporate neat features in my events. I had to be forward-thinking and anticipate what would go wrong with my events (as every event planner anticipates). I also had to work with and collaborate with a variety of different people in order to make the events successful. From delegating to fundraising to talking with executives on my campus, I expanded my transferable skill-set like improving my communication with others.
Ultimately, I found an outlet which allowed me to develop skills that I could take with me to the professional world. I encourage all freshmen to find these opportunities, whether it’s a creative outlet, activity, or internship - find these opportunities that enable you to build on your transferable skills and take them with you beyond graduation.