Soft Skills to Cultivate as a College Student

It can be easy to focus solely on business and technical skills when you’re in college. After all, you’re at school to learn, and the facts are there for the taking!

However, there’s something called soft skills, and they are nearly as important as the practical knowledge you’re learning each day. According to the dictionary, soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They’re also known as “people skills” or “interpersonal skills.” You can have all the right information and specifics under your belt when it comes to a certain career path, but if you aren’t able to pair that knowledge with soft skills, you might find it tough to get a job post-graduation.

So what are the soft skills that are important to cultivate? We’ve compiled a list for you!

1. Communication, communication, communication

This is probably a soft skill that the whole world would do well to continue cultivating. Communication is the key to avoiding misunderstandings, mistakes, unmet expectations, and a whole host of other frustrating outcomes. Even if the job field you’re headed toward doesn’t utilize communication directly within the job, you’re still going to need to have conversations with your supervisor and co-workers, so it’s important you practice this—no matter where you end up.

Many jobs do, however, utilize communication regularly when working with clients, patients, or the rest of one’s team. Communicating effectively can help speed up production time, help you network, and help you form relationships with your team. It’s important to remember that no one can read your mind—no matter how much you think they should be able to expect the same thing you’re expecting. Everyone comes from a different background, and it’s incredibly easy to get things mixed up. You can practice your communication skills in a variety of ways: write your thoughts down daily in a journal, have online and in-person conversations with friends, read all sorts of different kinds of books, and join clubs or teams where you’re forced to communicate in order to succeed.

2. Leadership skills

There are a lot of different definitions out there for leadership, but the most basic is the act of leading a group of people or organization. It also implies that you have a certain amount of influence over people, and depending on the role of the leader, you might even be in charge of assigning tasks and what their day-to-day work life looks like. Great leaders invest in the people they are supporting, they’re resilient to change, and they’re willing to swim upstream and solve massive problems.

It’s true that leaders grow over time, and they can definitely be intentionally cultivated. The best way to grow your leadership abilities is to jump right in and start doing some leading. Is there an opportunity at your school to be a Resident Assistant for your hall? Is there an opening in student government? Are you in the running to be the captain for your sports team? At the very least, you could practice in one of your classes by taking the lead on your next group project.

3. Emotional intelligence

Perhaps one of the trickier skills to cultivate if it doesn’t come naturally, emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” is a very valuable skill to have mastered. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to manage one’s own emotions, be aware of others emotions, and manage one’s relationships. Having the ability to manage your emotions no matter what the circumstances, as well as be cognizant of what others might be feeling will do you a huge service in the workplace.

In order to cultivate your emotional intelligence, you can try reflecting on your own emotions and identifying exactly what you are feeling, practicing healthy ways of coping and managing stress, practicing resilience in the face of failure, and practicing empathy. Noticing the verbal and non-verbal cues of those around you can do a lot to clue you in on what your friend or roommate might be feeling. Practice positivity and gratefulness—even on your darkest days. If this seems like a tough thing to start practicing, try thanking God for just one thing each night before bed. This can help you bounce back from adversity and remember the good and beautiful gifts God has already given you.