7 Job-Related Skills You’re Not Gonna Learn in College
College teaches you some of the the technical skills you need to succeed in your career, but there are certain things you're not gonna learn in your noon class. While you're stuck in there learning how to determine the velocity of a train and the powerhouse of the cell, you're missing out on some important “soft skills” that are way more important to your professional life.
(This dog gets it.)
Here are seven skills you won't learn (but definitely need to know) for your future job.
Salary negotiation is pretty hard, since our society is built on “you get what you get,” unless you’re an avid flea market shopper. Plus, if this is your first job offer out of college, you might feel like you're not in a position to negotiate.
Even though bargaining skills are extremely valuable, for some reason, colleges don’t teach you how to successfully negotiate your salary, which is one of the most important aspects of any job.
There are plenty of in-depth resources out there that get into the nitty gritty of negotiation, but for starters, keep these points in mind:
- Do your salary research—you need to know what your skills and experience are worth, as well as average salaries for similar positions in your area.
- Always remain enthusiastic—if your salary offer is lower than you were hoping for, don't let your disappointment show. Remain upbeat and enthusiastic about the prospect of the job during the negotiation process.
- Be confident (or at least fake it)—asking for more money is scary, no doubt. But if you timidly “umm” and “ahh” your way through negotiations, you're less likely to get the number you're hoping for.
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase, “it isn’t what you know, but who you know.”
College does a great job at addressing the “what,” but they're not always as good for the “who.” Some clubs or advisors may let you in on the secret of how to network with people, but, generally speaking, there are no dedicated classes to teach you etiquette and proper procedure for schmoozing with strangers.
So, when the time comes, it can be nerve-wracking to email or speak to someone that could be your mentor or future boss. Luckily, everyone's terrified of doing it. Just be yourself, put your best foot forward, and don't worry yourself to death about it.
What is a dependent and how do you claim someone as such? When you start a job, you have to fill out a form called a W-4, and it can mess with your taxes if you don’t know how to fill it out properly.
For example, if you don’t have a dependent, but you claim two people on your W-4, then you’ll have to pay loads at the beginning of the year when you have to file your taxes. Many offices just throw you the form and it’s up to you to figure it out. College doesn’t teach you how to fill out this form so that leaves you to do what…WikiHow your way through your taxes?
We recommend the IRS W-4 simulator, since, you know, they're the ones actually taxing you.
No matter your profession, you need to learn how to take feedback gracefully. No one likes to see the special project that they've worked on for ages torn to shreds, and hearing that your regular assignments just aren't up to par can be even tougher. In college, professors give us parameters to follow, specific guidelines, and sometimes, if you're lucky, an outline of the work to be completed.
Chances are your new job won't have these, and you'll have to learn by two things: trial and error and feedback. The latter can help you become a good employee as long as you listen and utilize it—plus, your boss will love that you're willing to improve.
If the thought of being critiqued makes you cringe, just remember these things:
- It's not personal—it's just business. Assuming you're a decent person, receiving negative feedback at work isn't a reflection on your personality or moral character. It's just what happens in a professional environment.
- In the long run, feedback is in your best interest. It's much better to experience the temporary discomfort of critique than to continue to do your job incorrectly.
In college, you probably took a speech class where you had to present something basic, like a “how-to” guide for a familiar task. This is usually one of the first classes you take in college, so there are definitely a few blunders, and chances are, you forget a lot of what you learn by the time you graduate.
I was in the same boat, but in the workforce, you'll have to present something eventually, and it will rack your nerves. Plus, exhibiting in front of a bunch of caffeine-starved college students is a lot different than pitching an idea to your boss. Things like being thorough but concise are important for public speaking, but the number one thing you can do to improve is to do it as much as possible.
No student wants to get up early, and that's why the first time you took a 9 AM class, you vowed never to do it again.
Spoiler alert: your career isn't gonna work like that.
It's your responsibly to get up and show up to work on time. Oversleeping during university might have gotten you glares from your professors, but it could get you fired from your job in the real world. Getting up and coming to work isn't where responsibilities stop, either. Instead of having staggered projects throughout the semester, you'll now have meetings, work projects, and many, many emails that need to be returned. Not doing your job could mean someone else can't do theirs.
If you're worried about your time management skills, a planner couldn't hurt, for starters. But it's also a good idea to start treating your college career like a real job, so that you'll be more used to the demands of the professional world once you reach it.
Working with Others
One of the most hated things in college is the dreaded group project. If you're like most people, you don't really have to work too hard on them, since “C equals Continue.” Or maybe you're the person that does all the work while the others slack—thank you for your sacrifice. Either way, these unintentional psychological experiments rarely teach you how to work with other people effectively.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to survive in the workforce without working with other people, but when you do it right, it can be a great way to make long-lasting networking opportunities along the way (hint hint). You also need to keep in mind that you won’t just be working with your peers anymore, either. You’ll need to understand how to work with superiors, people below you, and probably folks from other departments to get the project completed.
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