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When we’re young we’re brimming with aspirations and opportunities. We dream of one day becoming doctors, engineers, marine biologists, astronauts and the whole lot of exciting careers that we’re fascinated by. When we graduate from high school we set out to fulfill those dreams by going to college to learn how to become those exciting professionals. And while college sets us up with the primary skills and knowledge required for those careers, there are several skills we aren’t able to learn in college.

In college you’ll read textbooks and hear lectures on what those professionals do and their successes and failures and equip yourself with the knowledge to get the job done. But what you’ll not be able to learn are those minute details that’ll propel your career growth to the next level. These are lessons in life that no college or school can prepare you for. And while the talent market remains competitive your chances of standing out greatly increase if you possess knowledge of the world around you. So what are these life skills that you can’t learn at a college but should know?

1. Building a Network

Networking with the purpose of one day using them is definitely a shallow approach to forming lasting bonds. Building a network to serve your professional needs isn’t the objective here. What you should be focusing on is building a community of people who inspire and challenge you. They don’t necessarily have to be likeminded, but they should enrich your community with intellect. Networking opens the doors of opportunity for you and provides you access to people and the resources they possess. A strong network of friends could provide you the launch pad your career needs.

2. Time Management

Time management is probably the most underestimated yet critical skill that can align your life directly to success. Sure having a grip on how you spend your time is great to remain productive, but more than that it’s about self-discipline and staying focused on your priorities. Time management doesn’t only apply to work but it’s also about how you allocate time for personal activities and having fun. This skill however, isn’t taught or acquired easily. It takes patience and practice to master. But once you have time management under control you’ll feel much more accomplished in terms of your professional and personal goals.

3. Working With Cross-Functional Teams

When you’re in college you’ll most likely interact with and form close friendships with people in your program. That’s great as it’ll help you succeed in your profession of choice. The same happens in your professional life where you’ll form bonds with your coworkers from the same team. However, the reality is that you won’t just be interacting with members of your team. There’s a good chance that your job requires you to interact and collaborate with cross-functional teams. And that’s what college doesn’t always teach you. Working on group assignments isn’t the same as you’re working with people who have similar roles. In the professional world, you’ll need to work smoothly with people who have different roles, skills and experience.

4. Personal Finance Management

You can learn finance and accounting at college but what you won’t learn is how to manage your personal finances. This is probably one of those fundamental life skills that everyone overlooks until they hit a roadblock. By then the realization, while important, will be late enough for you to have incurred financial losses. Managing your personal finances entails a lot – you have to have an understanding of income taxes, interest rates (particularly for personal, home or auto loans), inflation, debt management and so on. And if you’re so fortunate, it’s not only important to manage your expenses and outflows, but also how you invest and save. Why it’s important is so that you’re prepared for those rainy days, abrupt unemployment and better informed about your personal worth.

5. Survival Skills

College textbooks all have one thing in common – they’ll help you create a perception that everything and everyone works in harmony. That, I’m afraid, isn’t ever the case. The reality is that your professional career will be filled with colorful and interesting episodes of office gossip, politics, negotiations, diplomacy, bureaucracy, competitiveness, bias and other negative situations. Don’t worry, it’s normal and inevitable. And while, unfortunately, your college won’t prepare you for it, fortunately, you’ll learn to adapt and manage how to get yourself out of these situations on the job. What you could do is be prepared, stay informed, read the signs and always be alert.

Having a college education is a great platform to build your career on, however, if you want an edge in today’s job market you’ll need to develop and enhance your life skills. The right approach is to blend your classroom and textbook knowledge with real-world experience. Skills like leadership and intuition can’t really be taught – they are developed with experience. These and other life skills are what your education needs to propel your professional career.

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