Soft Skills for Academic and Career Success Part 3: Focus on Results is the final article in a three-part series targeting high school and college students and providing insight into key skills needed for academic and career success. Soft skills are presented within a framework of Readiness, Relationships, and Results in this article series.
To be successful in your education and career, be future-oriented and produce Results. Understand that producing Results is not the same as being busy. Many people are busy all the time but do not produce anything valuable. To produce Results, you must know where you are going, focus on your priorities, solve problems, and be accountable.
1. Know Where You Are Going
Knowing where you are going means that you know what is important to you and that you set goals aligned with your values. If you don’t know what is important, you waste time on trivial activities. You might be busy, but you won’t be productive.
Anchoring your goals to your values is the key to achieving meaningful goals. Students who value their education and see it as integral to a successful life will keep working hard and moving forward even when classes and assignment become increasingly difficult.
Make a list of your values and map your current activities and goals to your values. Minimize or eliminate activities that don’t align with your values, and refine your goals as needed.
Once your goals are aligned with your values, prioritize your time and focus your effort to achieve those goals. Understand that not everything is important and that wasting time on unimportant activities prevents you from making progress on your priorities. Protect your time from urgent but unimportant activities, and don’t let someone else’s priorities knock you off-course.
As a student, your academic priorities include honing your academic success skills, attending and actively participating in class, completing assignments to the best of your ability, and asking questions when you don’t understand. Participation in student organizations and volunteer activities also is important. Manage your time so that these activities enhance your class work but do not take priority over it.
3. Solve Problems
Problem solving is a highly valued skill, and successful people proactively solve problems. It has been said that once you have defined a problem, you have it half-solved. Effective problem solvers ask lots of questions, understand the real issue to be addressed, and are committed to finding solutions.
Here is a simple six-step process that can serve as a framework for you as you tackle problem solving:
- Identify the problem.
- Determine the underlying cause of the problem.
- Determine possible solutions.
- Select a solution.
- Implement the solution.
- Assess the solution.
4. Be Accountable
Accountability refers to personal responsibility. Accountability requires you to take responsibility for your behavior, attitude, and mistakes. Accountability requires you to take responsibility for your performance. Accountability requires you to consistently put forth your best effort and produce high quality results, even when working on tasks that are not enjoyable.
Consistently putting forth your best effort is difficult, but the outcomes can be significant. I challenge you to consistently put forth your best effort and strive to exceed expectations. Consider the fact that you will compete with highly qualified students for scholarships, awards, internships, and jobs. Students who exceed expectations stand out as exceptional in this highly competitive environment.
Gain a deeper understanding of these and other components of Results by reading Leadership and Soft Skills for Students: Empowered to Succeed in High School, College, and Beyond. This book contains practical advice and hands-on exercises to equip you with skills needed for academic and career success.
Cary J. Green, PhD recently founded Leadership and Soft Skills Training. Prior to starting his own business, Green spent twenty years teaching, advising, mentoring, and supervising university students. He also spent ten years in leadership positions in higher education. He taught leadership and academic success courses, and mentored student leadership development organizations. Please visit Leadership and Soft Skills for free resources and more information on Green’s books and personalized coaching.