As you start your new life at University, your focus is likely to be split between the academic – where you’ll work towards your biggest qualification to date, and the social – where adventure and experience awaits! There’s even more to your University journey, however with skills to learn wholly separate from the lecture hall.
What are soft skills and why are they important for University students?
Soft skills are attributes that help you engage well with other people, and work and live more effectively.
When talking about skills, people tend to think about ‘hard skills’ – the kind that are easy to measure, such as a degree or experience in a specific job role. Hard skills are of course crucial to progress towards your chosen career, but they don’t replace other essential skills you’ll need during University and beyond.
Key soft skills
Soft skills can include a near endless list of interpersonal attributes. Below we’ve defined the main key soft skills that are important for University students:
- Can-do attitude
- Time management
- Decision making
How to develop your soft skills at University
As soon as you start University, you’ll be building your soft skills without even realising it through some or all of the following means:
- Accommodation sharing
Much more than a place to rest your head and write your essays, living in halls or a house share will help you learn lots about life. From assertiveness to negotiating skills and from sharing responsibilities to respecting differences, living with others at University is arguably one of the best ways to prepare for adult life!
- Managing your course workload
University is a huge gear shift from sixth-form or college, as you’re given complete autonomy to organise your time and meet deadlines. It may well be the first time you’ve truly juggled, and managing your University schedule alongside an exciting social life will help grow your skills in time management, responsibility, decision making and self-confidence.
- Extracurricular activities
There are a huge amount of interesting and diverse clubs and societies that are yours for the trying at University. As well as being a fun way to meet new people, extracurricular activities are also great for enhancing your key soft skills. From teamwork to networking, contributing to a club is sure to deliver lots in return.
University is where many of us make life-long friends, the kind of friendships that can even help us discover who we are. It’s common to develop close bonds at University as you spend lots of time together and connect over your new way of life. Friends help us develop empathy and listening skills, and learn social cues, which we’ll take with us through University, work and life.
- Part-time work
Many students need a part-time job to support the costs of University life. So long as you aren’t working too many hours or doing a job that negatively impacts your studies, part-time or casual work can be hugely beneficial, even aside from the extra income! Skills gained from work experience include developing a strong work ethic, multi-tasking, time-keeping and decision making. Each of these soft skills are ones you’ll need during your studies and future career.
Soft skills for graduates
University is a beautiful bubble, but one that’s a little removed from the real world. When you graduate, soft skills will be ever-important as you apply for jobs, helping you to stand out from other applicants with similar qualifications. By highlighting your key soft skills in your CV, application forms and interviews, you’ll be showing employers the extra attributes you’ll bring to the table if they choose you as their preferred candidate.
The importance of soft skills in a corporate world
Soft skills are a core part of achieving success in a professional environment. Any career path you take will involve some interaction with others, so people skills matter. Those with a can-do attitude and strong interpersonal skills stand out in the corporate world, and developing the key soft skills we’ve talked about will help you both professionally and personally.
Soft skills gained from internships or work placements
Because they’re usually specific to the industry you hope to enter, skills gained from an internship or work placement are invaluable. An internship is an ideal way to hone both your hard and soft skills, as you’ll learn about all of the qualities that are specific to job roles you’re interested in.
It can be tricky to fit in an internship on top of other commitments at University, but even a short work placement or a holiday internship can be of huge benefit and is worth pursuing.
One of the best things about developing your soft skills at University is that it doesn’t require formal studying and happens mostly quite naturally. It’s also worth remembering that the time you spend building your key soft skills can be fun: from playing a team sport to chatting at the pub. We wish we could say every important skill is always as enjoyable to work on!