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8 Essential Career Skills You Need to Learn on Your Own
Formal education won't teach you everything you need to know in life.
While some skills are easy to acquire on your own, for others you'll need a bit of self-education and mentorship. This goes especially for skills relevant to your career and professional success.
Here are eight critical career skills that you need to teach yourself to make the most from the early years of your professional life.
1. Applying and Interviewing for Jobs
No wonder that the mere thought of a job interview makes you panic – nobody ever told you how you should behave and how to answer those key questions asked by recruiters.
You have probably heard about what happens during a job interview, but were never prepared to face the reality yourself.
- What should you bring to the interview?
- What kind of questions will you need to answer?
- How do you follow up?
One way to prepare yourself is ask friends, parents and mentors to tell you how to handle job interviews. Make sure to have updated copies of your resume and a portfolio which shows off your skills.
You may also find our employability skills pages helpful, especially:
2. The Art of Negotiation
Negotiation skills are valuable in every aspect of your life, not only in your career.
Even business courses often don't offer enough training in negotiation. The best way to acquire bargaining skills is in real life, and most often through your own mistakes.
Be sure to educate yourself on the basics of negotiation and take your theoretical knowledge to market.
See our Negotiation Skills pages for more guidance.
3. Building Your Career
University education used to prepare graduates for stable careers which lasted a lifetime. If you keep an eye on the job market, you simply know that this doesn't hold true for today's graduates.
Workforce culture has changed and you need to catch up with these developments.
That's why you might need to be the one to create your job. Combining your passions into a career and gaining experience on the job are things you need to learn on your own.
Think creatively about how you could make a living. Pursue your passions and you could build a unique, rewarding and individual career for yourself.
4. Avoiding Burn-Out
College can be tough, but the reality outside is even tougher. But don't fall under this pressure; instead use your 20s to explore the world, learn about yourself, and how to keep your body (and mind) in shape.
If you experience burn-out at this point, without learning how to deal with it, you won't be able to handle the rest of it.
Knowing when to step back and get rest is a key skill which is just as important as knowing when to push hard. Limit time spent on idle newsfeed browsing. Try practicing mediation. The sooner you learn how to effectively manage your time, the sooner you'll be the one in full control of your resources.
See our page: Avoiding Burn-Out for more.
5. Accepting Defeat
You must know that job hunting is necessarily entangled with rejection. And lots of it.
You'll send out hundreds of resumes, apply to countless jobs and internships, and you might well have to deal with rejection. The waiting process is hard to stomach and that's absolutely normal.
But if you enter a job interview with a positive mindset which paints it as another valuable learning experience, you'll not only make a better impression on recruiters, but also manage rejection in case you fail to land the job. Prepare yourself for rejection and learn to be patient. Good things come to people who know the importance of timing for their careers.
You may find our page on resilience helpful.
6. Smart Resource Management
One of the most important skills which translates into many different career types is smart resource management.
To put it simply, every supervisor will be happy to employ a person who knows how to achieve a lot with just a few resources.
Job hunting is a good exercise in this as well. Your resume, professional online profiles and portfolio all have their limitations, so you need to make sure that every single element adds to your professional narrative and says as much as possible. Practice cutting back and summarizing your points. Learn the value of selection.
7. Managing Finances
Another key skill is managing personal finances. Lack of financial math knowledge leads to a serious inability not only to balance your check book, but also to allocate your financial resources to protect your future.
Take control of your finances by budgeting yourself and learning basic financial terminology.
There are lots of insightful blogs around which will teach you how to save money and how to learn everything you need to know about your bank account, credit score, and investments. Set aside 10% of your every pay check and don't fall into the financial trap experienced by many twentysomethings.
8. Strategic Networking
Sure, you've been to many parties and mixers, so meeting new people and building a social network isn’t a problem. But how do you leverage all these connections to achieve professional success?
Your social network isn't just about being popular, but also about building relationships that could help you with a job search or career progression.
Take a long good look at your social network. Is there someone who could act as your mentor? Or a person who graduated a couple of years before you and is now working your dream job?
Reach out and talk to them. You'd be surprised at how many people will be willing to help you. Be sure to maintain productive relationships for their own value and you'll take your career in the right direction.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.
The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.
While college offers valuable knowledge, when it comes to your professional life there's a fair number of things you need to learn yourself. Have an open mind and be actively engaged in your career. By educating yourself and acquiring new skills, you'll be getting closer to your dream job.
About the Author
With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at Open Colleges, Australia's leading online educator. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.