Skills for Real Life
Many of the skills you develop in university will serve you well in the world once you graduate. Are you good at writing essays and reports? Great – that means you already have solid writing skills. Do you lead your group projects to a successful result? Excellent – add project management and team work to your skill set.
However, writing emails and reports in a business setting usually requires a less academic approach than what you may be used to. And group dynamics take on a whole new meaning in the context of an office environment – just ask anyone who works in one.
Below is a selection of key skills you’ll need in the real world, along with some practical tips.
Join a professional association or attend conferences to meet others in your area and to keep abreast of the latest industry trends and knowledge.
- Before going to a professional event, prepare a short blurb about who you are and what you do and practice it. It’s called an “elevator speech” and it’s an important part of the networking culture.
- Build your network with an online LinkedIn account .
Changing jobs every few years is not unusual these days, so interviewing is a skill that you will likely use throughout your career. It is essential to do it well.
- Keep track of all your ongoing accomplishments and successes so you can add them to your resume and use them to answer those all-important interview questions.
- Record your practice interviews with the video function on your phone or your webcam to see where you need to improve. You can also sign up for a practice interview with one of our career counsellors.
The ability to manage time, multi-task, and meet deadlines is in universal demand by employers today. Good books on these topics are in every bookstore and library, but the best way to learn these skills is to practice them.
- To manage your time effectively, start by setting goals and deadlines. Then you can figure out what needs to be done by what date and in what order.
- Volunteering can help you while you help others. Pick a cause that’s close to your heart and offer to serve on a committee. Observe the dynamic veteran volunteers to see how they handle their many responsibilities in order to pick up some pointers.
Starting A New Job
Understanding human relations and respecting others as well as the culture of your workplace are key to getting along well with your boss, colleagues and clients (PDF). Interpersonal skills are not always taught in school, but can have a great impact on your career.
- When leaving a voice mail message, keep it short and concise, include your name and phone number, the date and time of your call, and the reason for your call. End your message by repeating your phone number clearly.
- Take a short cut and learn from the experts with books like New Rules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead or Business Etiquette for Dummies.
It is important to understand and work within the dynamics of a group and to respect, be open to and supportive of the thoughts, opinions and contributions of others.
- Listening is one of the most important aspects of being a strong team member. It will help you to understand your team members, and to be clear about the team’s goals as well as your individual responsibilities.
- The Conference Board of Canada’s Employability Skills lists many of the attributes required for successful teamwork.
When it comes to money, there’s a lot to think about: paying off your debt, renting or home ownership, using credit cards wisely, budgeting, saving, insurance, and everyone’s favourite – taxes. Taking the time to learn about money management and making the right financial decisions now could have a big impact on your future. The good news is, once you get a job, you’ll be able to do more shopping!
- Share the rent with a roommate that you trust and like, have most of your meals at home, save big by buying a used rather than new vehicle, or, take public transportation if you can.
- Understand that compensation for a job is more than the basic salary. It’s important to understand the full benefits package and what components may be negotiable.
In addition to the basic word processing and spreadsheet software, know the industry expectations for your area and get the required training. Keep on top of new developments and tools.
- Many workplaces offer computer or software training to new employees. Take advantage of this when and while you can.
- It may sound obvious, but the “Help” function of your software program is a great source of useful information.
Effective writing is one of the most valued skills in the workplace. You may have expert knowledge but you also need to be able to communicate it clearly and concisely. Typical tasks you’ll need to master are emails, resumes, cover letters, proposals and reports.
- Many workplaces have style guides that outline specific spelling and usage for that company and/or industry. When you start a new job, ask if your company has a style guide and follow it.
- Blogs and books on writing abound. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. is a classic, and a good place to start.
Many fear it, but being able to share your expertise with others in a dynamic and organized way is a skill in high demand.
- Join Toastmasters or take a course in public speaking.
- Start with a small group and work your way up to presenting to a larger group.
- U of T Continuing Studies
- University of Toronto Career Exploration & Education: St. George Campus
- University of Toronto Mississauga Career Centre
- University of Toronto Scarborough Career Centre
- Conquering the Real World: A Guide for Achieving Success After College
- Government of Canada website with advice and information on repaying your student loans
- Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to do before you join the real world, book by Lindsey Pollak