With today's economy, students are more worried than ever about what kind of career awaits them. The best way to increase the odds that the job you'll get won't involve waiting tables or flipping burgers is to get the skills you need while you're still studying. Here are some critical job skills that every student should master, regardless of his or her ultimate career path:
Writing clearly and forcefully. Students often don't recognize how important writing skills are in many professions: Many students, without a trace of shame, proclaim "I can't write" and consistently avoid courses that require them to write papers. But the "I can't write" excuse won't stand you in good stead later when you have to write a strategic plan for your business, write briefs for your legal case, or pitch your advertising plan in a report to the client. Actively seek out your courses that give you lots of opportunities to write.
Systematizing and organizing data. Many jobs require employees to do quite a bit of number-crunching and to create numerous spreadsheets and tables. Be sure you take courses that teach you the skills to do this kind of work.
Doing research. In this Internet age, no one seems to be reading books in a library much. But there's more information out there, so being able to conduct research is even more important than before.
Presenting material orally. In many jobs, you will spend more time than you can possibly imagine attending meetings or giving presentations, or giving presentations at meetings. Needless to say, when your boss asks you to comment at a meeting or give a presentation, it's not wise to plead shyness or fear of public speaking. College/university offers you many possibilities for training in public speaking. Also get proficient in presentation software, such as PowerPoint, and learn to use all its features, including video and multimedia.
Taking notes. Maybe you like to sit back in lecture and enjoy the passing show without bothering to write a single note. Or maybe you write from time to time, as you focus in on what the teacher is saying. This isn't a good idea, and it is even less of a good idea when your boss asks you to remind him or her in detail of what plans for the big campaign were developed at last week's three-day retreat. Every college/university class gives you an opportunity to become an ace note taker, so don't blow the chance.
Meeting deadlines. At college or university, many professors will offer extensions, and incompletes for a wide variety of justified and often-unjustified reasons. One of the most common shocks experienced by students once they hit the real world is that most clients and bosses expect them to meet their deadlines, no matter how many grandparents passed away that week, dogs got hit by cars, or friends broke up with their consolation. Get ready for this now by taking your deadlines seriously and meeting them, without exception.
Working on a team. Teamwork is often a key factor in job success: What worker is a one-man band? Group projects at college/university or work with study groups can give you valuable experience in working with a team.
Getting along with a boss. In college, the teacher is your boss, much like how in after-college life you'll have a real boss. Learn to get along with your teacher, whether what he or she is saying is what you'd like to hear or not.
Multitasking and time management. A college/university schedule of four or five classes, each with different sorts of assignments and schedules, is the perfect training ground for developing your prowess at doing lots of things at once and balancing the time needed for each.
Seeing a big project through to completion. You'll be in a position to easily handle jobs that involve large, complex, long-term projects if you've worked on, and completed, a major term paper, a junior or senior thesis, or a sustained science experiment while you're at college/university.
Creative thinking. Try to always go beyond the most obvious points, striving for deeper levels of meaning and more imaginative ways of expressing them. Creativity shines through at any job interview, and beyond, once you get your once-in-a-lifetime job.