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How You Can Use Soft Skills Learned in College at Your Job

using-soft-skills-learned-from-college-in-groupGoing back to school isn’t just a stepping stone to a future career goal. College can help you develop skills you can apply in a professional setting right now! 

'What do you learn in college that is relevant to a job? The answer somewhat depends on the program of study and the job. However, there are some skills learned in college, regardless of the subject area, that are critical to various professions. 

Let’s look at five crucial soft skills learned in college that you should capitalize on to improve your performance as an employee.


In a 2021 report from the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), employers considered the ability to “work effectively in teams” to be more important than any other skill! The ability to collaborate has always been helpful, but it’s taken on greater importance in today’s workplace.

How do you learn it?

Students often get great opportunities in college to practice working in a team. One way is through group projects. When you’re working on a group project, you’re likely focused on the project’s content. But throughout the process, you’re getting valuable practice in collaboration. Study groups are another way to get accustomed to working in a group setting. 

In an online program, you get the added benefit of practicing collaboration through virtual channels. As remote and hybrid work becomes a normal part of today’s workplace, being able to work with others through email or video is an incredibly relevant and valuable skill.

How can you apply it?

So how can you put your experience with collaboration to use in your job? Consider the lessons you learned in group dynamics. What are some strategies for helping people work together and move a project forward? What role do you excel in—are you more of a leader or a follower? Use these lessons to inform the group projects you take part in at work.

You may not be working for a grade, but the stakes often feel higher in the business world, making the lessons you learned in college crucial. Your success with collaboration can help you stand out as a star employee and drive revenue for your company. 

Problem Solving

More than 91 percent of employers in a 2020 AAC&U survey said they seek candidates with problem-solving skills. These skills frequently come into play in everyday life and professional contexts.

How do you learn it?

In any learning environment, you acquire problem-solving skills. One way you can learn these skills directly is through coursework. Instructors often look for ways to instill critical thinking in their students through class discussions, exercises, and assignments.

You can also learn problem-solving through challenges you face in school, like determining how to work with a professor or student you clash with or change your study habits to do better on the next test.

How can you apply it? 

There are numerous opportunities to apply problem-solving skills at work. Often, things don’t turn out perfectly the first time. This doesn’t make you a bad employee—the key is how you respond.

You need to think critically about what’s going wrong and pivot to improve your performance or the success of a project. This allows you to continuously grow and innovate solutions for your company, making you a prime candidate for raises and promotions. 


Communication is one of the top skills employers value, and for good reason—nearly all employees need to communicate in their jobs. Especially if you have a customer-facing role or collaborate with other employees regularly, the ability to communicate clearly and respectfully is key. Communication is one of the skills learned from school that is useful in both your job and personal life. 

How do you learn it?

Regardless of what field you are studying, college can help you sharpen your communication skills. 

You can learn interpersonal communication skills through the interactions you have in college. You can also learn written communication skills by writing essays, forum posts, and more. In some cases, you may also have a chance to practice public speaking skills in classes that have you conduct presentations.

How can you apply it?

Communication skills are relevant to many jobs, not just those in the communications field. You can put your communication skills to use when you:

  • Write emails that sound clear and professional.
  • Give an engaging presentation.
  • Communicate effectively in one-on-one meetings.
  • Make customers feel heard and understood.

Whoever you’re conversing with and whatever the setting, your good communication skills will be a valuable asset.

Time Management 

Time management is a critical skill that many people struggle with, making this a great area to focus on when you’re setting SMART goals. Good time management skills learned in college not only make you a better employee from your company’s perspective, but also enhance your work-life balance and decrease your stress levels.

How do you learn it?

Fortunately, students get plenty of opportunities to practice managing their time. If you juggle different responsibilities at the same time—such as school and work—this can be a challenging but great way to develop excellent time management skills. Even if you’re not working full time, managing extracurriculars or a part-time job can help you learn how to maintain various responsibilities without dropping something or getting overwhelmed.

How can you apply it? 

Employees with effective time management skills can work smarter and get more done in the same amount of time. One example of good time management at work is consistently completing projects early or on time. You may use checklists or schedules to help you stay on track.

You can also apply your skills to achieve a better work-life balance. This involves taking on the right amount of responsibility and knowing when to say “no” to optional requests that will stretch you too thin or contribute to burnout—an issue that more than half of employees deal with today.

Even managing a full course load helps you learn how to allocate your time and complete your assignments. Online programs tend to impose less structure on students, giving you extra practice in managing your time independently.


If you want to advance in your career, leadership skills are essential. No matter how good you are at your job, you may not be ready to take on a managerial role unless you can effectively lead others. The leadership skills gained from a degree can help you rise to the next level in your career.

How do you learn it?

Whenever you find yourself in a group setting in college, you can work on leadership skills. Of course, not everyone in a group can be the leader, but if you find this role naturally suits you, others may appreciate you taking the lead on a group project or organizing a study group.

One of the best ways to intentionally learn leadership skills in college is in a master’s program. For example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program can help you learn how to organize and manage teams and make smart decisions that drive your company forward. 

How can you apply it? 

Even if you’re not in a management position, you can still demonstrate leadership skills when you show initiative to help colleagues or implement process improvement. You can also show your aptitude for leadership by developing positive working relationships characterized by good communication and respect. 

If you’re in a leadership position, you can use the leadership skills learned in college to earn the respect of your employees and help them succeed, both as individuals and as a team. Great leaders can make a tremendous difference in a company’s culture and success.

Time to Achieve Your Academic and Professional Goals 

A good degree program—especially one designed for working adults—will equip you with skills you can start applying on the job right now. The skills learned in college can also help you take on new responsibilities and roles with confidence. 

Want to learn more about the online programs offered at Mount Vernon Nazarene University? Request more information!