By Cary J. Green, PhD
Success in school and on the job requires a well-developed skill set, in addition to book smarts. Examples of important soft skills for students include communication, teamwork, time management, problem-solving/critical thinking, and a strong work ethic. The following three tips for building soft skills in junior high and high school will help you boost your academic performance and hone your career-readiness skills.
- Get Involved in Student Organizations
Developing soft skills requires more than mere membership in a student organization. Get involved by running for an officer position. Volunteer to lead a project or organize an event. If you are already involved in student organizations, step up to new responsibilities. Doing so will help you improve your current skills and will also help you develop new skills. Below are a few examples of impactful student organizations.
Student government organizations provide opportunities to develop your leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Speech and debate teams provide exceptional opportunities to develop your communication and problem-solving/critical thinking skills.
Student service and leadership programs such as Key Club and Leo Club are available within many schools and communities. These clubs provide excellent opportunities to develop leadership and teamwork skills and to earn community service hours.
Research the opportunities available to you, and make a commitment to get involved in a student organization or two. Set a goal to make a positive contribution to the organization as well as to develop your skills.
Volunteer activities provide excellent opportunities to develop soft skills including communication, teamwork, adaptability, accountability, and time management. Further, volunteer experience is valued by hiring managers, scholarship committees, and college admission counselors.
Start with service activities within your school. Take the lead in organizing a group of students to volunteer at your local hospital. Interacting with hospital administrators and staff, and organizing your fellow student will contribute greatly to your leadership and teamwork skills.
Run an online search for “volunteer opportunities” in your community to find additional options. Your teachers can help you select a great volunteer experience. Connect, and get started.
Volunteering or interning for a business provides career-related soft skills that future employers will value. Research local businesses to identify those offering volunteer or internship opportunities for high school students. Even if the business does not perfectly align with your career goals, the soft skills you develop are “transferrable” and are applicable to different careers.
- Find a Mentor
A mentor is an excellent resource to help you build soft skills. Select a mentor based on a career path you are interested in. Ask your mentor to describe the educational requirements, skills, and experiences that are most important for a successful career. Use that information to select courses and extracurricular activities to prepare for your career. Finally, ask your mentor if can shadow them on the job.
Student organizations, volunteer activities, and mentoring offer excellent opportunities to build soft skills. Ask your teachers and counselor about specific resources and opportunities in your school and community.
Developing your soft skills requires focus and commitment. Relentlessly put your best effort into building your skills. Keep a journal of your experiences and learn something from everything you do. Apply what you learn and continually step up to new challenges. Doing so will allow you to continually refine and expand your soft skills.
By integrating leadership skills, soft skills, and academic success skills, Dr. Green empowers students to enhance their academic performance while building career-readiness skills that employers seek. Visit http://www.caryjgreen.com/ for information on his new book, Success Skills for High School, College, and Career.