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The UnCollege Blog

8 Skills Every Young Professional Should Have

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Gap year. College. Job. Internship. There are so many opportunities out there today for young professional to develop and add to their portfolios. No matter what institution you join up with this fall, here are some skills supervisors want to know you already have. If you start off with these things already under your belt, it will make your transition into any new project much smoother.

Gap Years Want…

  1. A strong ability to communicate - Chris Kelly with UnCollege can’t stress enough how important communication skills are for fellows looking to join the program. Before joining the team, prospective fellows are asked to conduct a phone interview where they answer questions about who they are, why they want to take a gap year, and how they expect to change throughout the program. Every gap year program hinges on the fact that their participants have a strong ability to conduct a coherent conversation about themselves and their goals. While a gap year is an intensely personal journey, it is also a highly collaborative effort. You need to be able to interact with other people and conduct yourself clearly through many mediums (phone, email, in-person, etc.).
  2. Self-advocacy - To succeed with your gap year, you also need to be highly self-motivated. If you’re the type of person to identify what you want and go out and get it, great. If not, it’s important to practice self-advocacy before applying for this type of experience. One of the benefits of a gap year for many people is that it provides you with a self-directed learning experience. That also means you won’t have many people telling you what to do and validating your work. Being a self-advocate allows you to understand the value in your work and have the confidence to say so should you come up against resistance or external doubt.

Colleges Want…

  1. Vision - Extracurricular activities and professional or trade interests show colleges where you want to go and what areas of life you want to explore once you enroll. Perhaps you’re interested in helping animals and you’ve volunteered at a local shelter. Maybe you want to design and you’ve done some freelance work in your hometown. If you are able to outline a life path in your application or during your interview, you will be able to show each college exactly where you will fit in on campus. Telling colleges how you will contribute to their community is a huge win.
  2. Time management - Not having this one will knock you straight off any college’s prospective students list before the recruitment team even starts narrowing their pool of applicants. You can’t miss deadlines when applying to college. Time management is a skill you certainly need to have in your tool kit before the first day of school, but don’t just scrape by for the application process. Going forward, you’ll need to be able to effectively manage your time for the rest of your college career. Between classes, campus jobs, social activities, and travel, your free time will disappear faster than you think.

Jobs Want…

  1. Teamwork - On average, when asked what their top priority was when searching for young employees, hiring managers placed this skill at the very top of the list. The ability to work well amidst a team of other professionals in the workplace is critical to the success of any serious organization. Whether you played volleyball in high school or collaborated with other interns on a company project, any type of collective endeavor puts you in line with your potential employer’s expectations. Bosses want to know you can listen to other people’s ideas and chime in with ones of your own in a civil, effective manner to get the job at hand accomplished.
  2. Problem solving - You guessed it, on the list of things employers are looking for in young new hires, this came in at number two. The ability to actively challenge problems and discover solutions for them in the workplace is invaluable to companies everywhere. No organization is perfect. If you can show that you have the cleverness and tenacity to face a problem head on and work to solve it, you will illustrate a great value to your protective employer.

Internships Want…

  1. Networking skills - Chances are you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. When it comes to professional success, it’s all in who you know. Just because you’re young or new to the industry doesn’t mean you can’t start making connections with other professionals in your field. If you can bring a network of people with you to the interview, you’ll be able to show the company you’re applying to how vital of an asset you already are. Better yet, the ability to network is a perpetually fruitful skill. You will be able to continue making connections the longer you work with the company, constantly bringing in new allies and resources.
  2. Research skills - Internships are generally brief exposures to the working world. This means your employer only has you at hand for so long. Show the hiring department during the interview or on your application that you’ve done the work beforehand to familiarize yourself with the company, product, or service. This shows you can learn quickly. If you have a strong ability to do research and do it well, you’ll be able to tackle whatever projects come up in the short internship time. If you can prove you’re able to hit the ground running, you will make employers want to hire you.

This is quite a list of traits to develop, believe us, we know. If you get overwhelmed, break these tips down and focus on tackling one at a time until you’ve mastered it. Then move on to the next one. Before you know it, you’ll be an applicant institutions won’t be able to ignore. No matter what field you choose, every skill here will be useful in life in the long run.

Interested in learning more about a gap year? Check out UnCollege’s free guide here.
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