The University of Life has been the greatest teacher I know. Greater than any college course or academia are real world experiences that shape and influence who we are and where we will grow and go in life. There are 5 areas of growth (I didn’t learn in college) I wish I had known to better prepare for work and life in the real world:
Have a vision for yourself. Trust in your ability to go after the life you want. Your intentions will determine your motivation to take action on your dreams. More than any dream, job or person, love and learn about who you are and why. Your confidence and ability to effectively voice the value you bring will be influenced by your level of self-awareness. The vision you have for yourself will be a faithful North Star as you and the environment around you grow and change. Your resilience and ability to adjust course when things you can’t control get in the way will depend on it.
Communication Competence. This one is critical to your growth. First and foremost, develop your social awareness or emotional intelligence as it’s often called. Emotional intelligence is what is often known as “soft skills” in the working world. Yes, your technical skills are important but social awareness, this is what will elevate you and separate you from the rest.
Are you articulate and clear in your messaging? Do people easily understand what you are trying to communicate? Learning to be concise and clear in your communication requires you to be fully present in the moment, avoiding thoughts about what you think or believe and want to say next.
Social awareness includes learning to listen and ask questions with empathy and a learning mindset. Do you know when to hold back for a moment and be the observer to gather more information before giving your opinion on something? Are you able to stay curious and open, free of assumption and judgement before discovering and learning from their point of view? Can you read the room and recognize where and for whom you might be able to add value? How well do you handle constructive feedback? Do you immediately get defensive or are you open to another perspective regarding your performance or contribution? Are you able to give feedback that challenges and inspires growth in other people?
Cooperation. The golden rule tells us to treat others as we would like to be treated. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Well, mostly. Learning to cooperate with the people we work with will make all the difference in how much we learn from others, how well our ideas are accepted, our errors forgiven and trust built with those around us. In our working environment, we engage with people from all generations, experiences and walks of life. The challenges and experiences that define who they are today are different from yours. Are you able to build a bridge between your two very different worlds to create a harmonious working relationship? When there is a misunderstanding, how do you navigate through conflict? Engaging in the crucial conversations necessary to create common ground and seek understanding while also speaking your truth is a life skill. It’s a learned practice that takes a deliberate effort. Learning to ask really good questions before responding in any given situation will enable you to become a master in social awareness. Cooperation doesn’t mean being a yes person and not advocating for yourself or your difference in opinion. Cooperation is compromise and flexibility, it’s listening to learn, before you respond.
Community. The people we surround ourselves with influence who we are, who we want to be and the success we will achieve in life. If we spend our time with someone who is negative or making poor lifestyle choices, we will find ourselves faced with tougher decisions in overcoming the influence or temptation to do the same. Choose your circle of influence to be those who are at the next level you want to achieve or people who are on a similar trajectory you are in living the life you desire.
Curiosity. Staying curious takes courage and I believe it’s the gateway to growth. When we are curious, we aren’t taking one side or another on something, we are suspending our previous judgements and beliefs. It’s a mindset shift, a conscious decision to overcome the comfort of certainty with an openness to learn something you may not already know. Curiosity is being open to new ideas, new ways of looking at old things in our life to welcome innovation and opportunity.