Although a strong background on hard skills, such writing, math, science or trade skills is critical on the job, many of the skills you develop and hone as a student will be equally important. Practiced study habits, collaboration on group projects, speaking and communications skills – all will come into play on the job. These less-concrete skills are called “soft skills”. Having them, using them and perfecting them will increase your academic and career success.
Below are some ideas of what you can do now, as a student, to be sure that you have perfected both your study skills and your soft skills.
Study skills are the tools you need to enable you to study and learn effectively. They will not only help you in school, but are transferable skills you will use throughout your work life. Study skills are not “subject specific”, but cross disciplines and time fluidly. Skills that you use in your math class are just as appropriate in your history or engineering class.
There are plenty of websites online that can help you find out more about them. Some of these are listed below. The Counseling Department offers a 2-unit class as well on College Study Skills (PSCN 15).
Below are general categories of study skills that you will need to succeed in school and on the job, as well as a few helpful website links.
Before you even start to process the text, lectures and classroom projects, it’s important that you are ready to learn. Set yourself goals, organize yourself and your classwork, create a conducive study environment, free of distractions.
If you feel you are not taking the information in appropriately, take a look what you are doing. Look at developing skills in: time management, note taking, listening, research and even text book reading. These are developed skills. Stress management and concentration are also issues that affect how you receive the information.
Once you have the information, now what do you do with it? How do you remember it so that you are not simply cramming for the test, but truly learning the material? There are tools you can you use to improve your memory or visually organize your thoughts.
Some people are good at taking tests. Others are not. However, tests and papers are part of every student’s experience. Learn to minimize the anxiety and maximize the quality of your work.
Soft skills are somewhat unmeasurable. They include, but are certainly not limited to, the willingness to learn, the ability to adapt to change and the capacity to be productive as a team member. Though they are not quite like “you have them or you don’t”, they do have to be honed over time – and they cross disciplines. Employers are looking for these right up front, even asking more behavioral interview questions to probe about them.
Pay attention to the following as you go through your time at Las Positas College and to wherever you transfer. There are also a few websites to visit for more information and ideas on soft skill development.
Collaboration: Employers want team players. They want someone who can work across disciplines and function effectively with a group. Students can develop these skills on group projects in class, through athletics or student organizations.
Problem-solving: Managers do not want to hear about problems, but about solutions to the problems that arise. Many interviewers will ask about a time that you faced a problem and how you solved it. They are looking for your approach to it, and what the measurable outcomes were from your solution.
Adaptability: When you are new to your career, adaptability comes naturally as you are learning new things every day. However, it’s a trait that all employers look for in their staff – the ability to change when the needs of the business change.
Communication/Interpersonal skills: More so than the hard skills, employers want staff who can carry on a conversation, make eye contact and listen actively. You should be able to talk with team members, formulate your ideas, and be able to write them in professional memos or letters.
Time management: Can you organize your work and complete projects on time? Can you track multiple projects at once? This includes consistently showing up to class work on time. You can learn and practice time management through your study habits.
Leadership: Regardless of your role in the organization, it is important to demonstrate leadership skills. Develop the ability to assume a leadership role when called upon.