18 Jun 7 Creative Ways to Acquire Professional and Business Skills While Studying
In today’s super-connected and fast-paced world, there are numerous creative ways to work on self-improvement and developing your professional and business skills while you are finishing up your studies. In this post, I will show you simple, easy-to-apply but proven strategies that can help you shoot two birds with one stone – and do the best job you can do in school or college while also enriching your business focused skill set.
Number 1: Get a part-time job
Even if you’re still studying, that doesn’t mean you’re bound to the beans-and-ramen life. You can be proactive and take steps towards improving your financial situation while attaining valuable personal and professional skills at the same time.
You can opt for a traditional part-time job to pay the bills and work on basic skills required in the workplace, such as discipline, professionalism, time-management, client interaction, etc. Alternatively, you can apply for internships, which will benefit you even more because they’re hopefully in your academic or professional field, so you’ll be gaining relevant professional experience.
Otherwise, a very good idea is to just start your own business, by taking up some freelancing work in your dorm room. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can apply skills you already have to complete projects and services for clients all around the world – and get paid for it!
In addition, you learn valuable lessons about job searching, marketing yourself, applying skills, negotiating, communicating with clients, collaborating in a professional environment, etc.
Number 2: Attend conferences & industry events
You’re learning all day, every day, but there’s always room for more. So, why not keep track of all the different conferences, events, and workshops that are taking place in your town? Attending these industry events can turn out to be a very smart move for you, professionally, because you learn some information and skills that you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to at school.
Events are an excellent opportunity to get to know the key players in your industry and how to get an “in” with each of them. Plus, there is no better networking opportunity than an event that attracts so many different companies, recruiters, talent hunters, and other institutions that can prove to be essential in your post-academic trajectory.
Your listening skills will be really solicited here, as well as your communication skills – you’ve got to listen carefully to what everyone has to say. This will help you know how to approach them best to make a good – and lasting – impression. Don’t forget to keep up with everyone you meet over social media; tools such as LinkedIn or Facebook are great ways to reinforce your continued interest in their work and maintain the connection over time. You never know when it will come in handy.
Number 3: Volunteer
We must not forget about volunteering. It continues to be a unique opportunity to gain professional and interpersonal experience and which can be essential in helping you stand out for a potential job application.
Don’t be fooled by what volunteering appears to be – free labor – it’s so much more than that. When you volunteer, you gain valuable experience collaborating with people in a team, you demonstrate that you can handle responsibility, you show a willingness to help others and problem-solve, as well as the desire and ability to take initiative.
Truthfully, volunteering is an opportunity for personal enrichment as much as it is a tool to create a positive image for a potential employer.
Number 4: Spend a year abroad
A year spent studying abroad can do so much for you, not only personally, but also professionally. You need a strong initiative to pick up and leave to an unknown country for a chance at a unique educational experience, and that is a valuable trait in both business and life.
In addition, this also demonstrates that you are able to be independent and figure things out on your own, but that you know how to work with the people around you. The truth is that it’s a unique situation you find yourself in, where you learn language skills, money management skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills the hard way.
Number 5: Participate in debate teams or contests
Do you know the most effective method to gain confidence in your ideas and learn how to express them accurately and effectively? That’s right, practicing in a debate environment can help you develop tremendous self-efficacy. It teaches you confidence, oratorical skills, and presentation skills, first of all, but most importantly, it teaches you and allows you to practice your reasoning.
You see, when you’re in a business environment and you’re answering to clients, partners, or bosses, this is one of the most important skills you can possess. It teaches you to weigh the pros and cons and the merits of different ideas you have and present your reasoning in an effective and persuasive way. That can be the difference between receiving the green light for a project or getting shut down.
Number 6: Come up with a research project
Have you ever considered that even something as basic as coming up with a research project can actually teach you a lot of essential skills? There is a lot of research necessary, and clients and employers like that – it means you have the ability to search for objective, accurate information and synthesize it.
Not to mention all the organization work you need to do to put this huge, long-term project together, and the time management skills you need to refine in order to stay on schedule and respect all of your deadlines. All of these skills are also what businesses rely on the most. You may not know it, but you’re on your way to learning how to be a super professional and reliable employee or partner. The fact that you need to self-motivate and are able to do that is a bonus, as well.
Number 7: Defend your thesis
Even defending your project or thesis helps. I’m going to tell you why – presentation skills are absolutely essential in a lot of different industries nowadays and on a lot of different levels. You’ve got to be able to present your ideas to the clients and partners you’ll be doing business with.
In addition, you need to speak with the confidence of the fact that you researched and worked on the project yourself, and being able to persuade your audience is crucial; that makes the difference between an excellent presentation and a failed one where the client is left completely unconvinced by your skills, work, or ideas. So, the next time you’re feeling scared or demotivated when thinking about your thesis defense, remember it’s just practice for your future career.
In conclusion, you may think that studying is completely separate from the rest of your life, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Your academic trajectory is teaching you a myriad of personal and business skills that are absolutely crucial in a professional environment and in life, in general. Do not underestimate your ability to learn and improve, because studying is helping you become a more well-rounded individual and preparing you for life after academics.
About The Author:
Caroline Black is a freelance writer and part-time business studies student. She knows the challenges a full schedule brings but understands it’s always important to seek out opportunities for personal growth and skill development.
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Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN (Stars From All Nations). He is an education and policy enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a former consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and the author of the forthcoming book: Breaking the Limits. Tom-Chris is a thought leader on topics such as youth development, African innovation, social entrepreneurship, and the future of work.