Life Skills You Will Need for the Workplace

9 Things You Must Learn to Do Before You Graduate

Classroom
You can learn more than academics while in school. Lise Gagne / Vetta / Getty Images

While you are still a student, make sure to learn these 9 life skills you will need for the workplace in the future. Regardless of the career you choose, they are essential to your success, and there is no better place to acquire them than in high school or college. While these skills won't be part of any formal curriculum, there are many opportunities to learn them. Make sure you do.

Learn to Be Independent

When you are a student, it is very easy—too easy—to rely on your parents to navigate through any rough waters on your behalf.

Many parents are willing to do this even if their children are already adults and living away from home. Don't let them. We're talking about bad grades or roommate problems, not life-threatening situations. Find out what channels you have to go through to solve the problem, come up with a plan, and move forward.

Why Should You Do This? When you are working, you will have to advocate for yourself. If you learn how to do this early on you will be a pro by the time you begin your first job.

Learn to Ask for Advice

Being self-reliant doesn't mean you can't ask for advice from your teachers and parents. As an independent person, you can evaluate everyone's guidance and then decide whether to use it.

Why Should You Do This? Learning how to ask your parents and teachers for input will get you accustomed to asking mentors for advice once you are working. And as with your parents and teachers, it will be up to you to evaluate and decide whether to take it.

Learn to Take Feedback

From time to time, your teachers may criticize your performance. You probably won't like it, but you should use that feedback to improve your performance. Generally, it's meant to help you, not put you down.

Why Should You Do This? Learning how to take feedback—or even criticism—can help you get through a poor performance review if you ever get one from your boss.

He or she may not be as well-meaning as your teachers, but you can still use the critique to make changes to the way you do your work.

Learn To Be Prepared

In high school or college, get into the habit of always coming to class prepared. If you have a reading assignment, show up having completed it. If your professor wants to see a rough draft of a paper, bring it with you.

Why Should You Do This? You should always be prepared to do your job. Your boss and your coworkers will appreciate your diligence.

Learn To Say "No" to Fun

It can be tempting to go to a good party even when it's the night before an early morning class. You may think being tired—or hungover—won't matter, but it will hinder your performance. Sometimes you have to turn down an invitation even if it looks like a lot of fun.

Why Should You Do This? Although you may be able to hide in the back of the classroom if you are feeling out of sorts, you won't be able to do that at work. Not only will you be expected to be present, but you will also have to perform regardless of how tired you are.

Learn to Be Assertive

When you get a grade you think is unfair, talk to your professor or teacher. Explain the problem and have proof to back up your claim.

Doing this may not always work, and when it doesn't, you should be ready to accept defeat. If you are sure your teacher or professor is being unfair, take your complaint through the proper channels to get it resolved.

Why Should You Do This? At some point, you may have to ask your boss for a raise or a promotion. If you don't, you may not get one. You will have to speak up for yourself, or you won't get what you deserve.

Learn to Ask for Help

When you have trouble completing an assignment ask your professor or teacher for help. Take advantage of tutoring from teachers and peers if it is available. Attend extra help sessions and ask questions in class.

Why Should You Do This? While tutoring and extra help sessions do not exist in the workplace, you can always ask your colleagues or boss for help if you don't understand an assignment.

It is better to do that than make mistakes that can delay the completion of a project or may be costly.

Learn to Solve Problems and Think Critically

Instead of waiting for someone else to resolve a problem, figure out a way to do it yourself. It will strengthen your problem solving and critical thinking skills. First identify the problem, then brainstorm possible solutions, and finally evaluate them in order to choose the best one. The more you practice doing this, the better you will become at it.

Why Should You Do This? Most employers value these skills and, in life in general, it is hard to get by without them.

Learn to Manage Your Time

You will have a lot of work to do in high school and even more in college. Projects and assignments must be turned in on time or your teacher may subtract points from your grade. Why start off with a lower grade for the same amount of work? And you will learn, if you haven't already, that cramming for an exam is less effective than preparing for it well in advance. If you have trouble managing your time, or if you tend to procrastinate, you will have to make some improvements.

Why You Should Do This? Completing projects in a timely fashion, will not only impress your boss, it will decrease your stress level. Rushing to complete a project to meet a deadline can be very stressful. If you fail to do so, you may lose your job.