Skills Employers Want that You Won't Learn in the Classroom

Sep 9, 2013
  |  by Jennifer Cook

Successful people in every field tend to have a lot of the same attributes, but they’re not inborn; you have to cultivate them, and often no one can teach them to you. There are a lot of skills that you won’t learn in a classroom that will take you far in your career. You can develop these skills throughout your college experience and in the real world. It’s important to be mindful of these skills and recognize opportunities to develop them.

Accepting Criticism

College papers will provide many opportunities for professors to mark up your work with a red pen. But, in the workplace, the criticism and feedback you receive won’t be in colorful pen on a term paper. You will get comments and suggestion, often on a daily basis, on your behaviors, actions, timeliness, communication skills, etc., and will be expected to use it to improve yourself professionally. Sometimes criticism is constructive, even if it can be harsh. Employees should know how to take constructive feedback and apply it in other things they do.

Marketing Yourself

It is important to know how to “sell” yourself and your company to the outside world. How you portray yourself to a company will (or won’t) get you hired. You need to understand how your target market (or potential employer) will respond and present yourself appropriately. That can mean participating in industry conversations and making a name for yourself, or it can simply mean knowing how to showcase your skills and body of work. Not everyone learns this lesson, and their great skills can fall under the radar.

A Positive Attitude

This really does link back to handling criticism and adversity well. Sometimes you have to look at obstacles, even in the workplace, as growth opportunities and see how you can use them to make you a better professional.

Not all employers are worried about personal problems, but when it affects your work, they will become deeply concerned, and not in a good way. Employees should learn to try their best to keep a positive attitude and a clear mind at work and deal with their personal issues on their personal time.


Motivation is a great asset to an employer. Taking initiative to get things done or accepting new responsibilities without being asked speaks volumes. This gives the employer confidence in an employee and allows them to spend less time micro-managing and more time tackling larger tasks. It also puts you on their radar as someone who can get things done.

Setting high goals and initializing growth takes motivation up a notch. Developing new thoughts and ideas that can take the company to new levels will make you an extremely valuable asset. And having that type of forward-thinking vision and drive helps you succeed where others fail.

Problem Solving

As a professional it is important to know how to recognize an issue and improve it. It takes critical thinking and careful evaluation to consider causes of the issue at hand and all possible solutions. It takes a true problem-solver to actually choose and carry out the best solution. When you know how to solve problems, you’re able to see through to the heart of complicated issues and plot a way through to a solution.

Time Management

Employers will expect you to be punctual and be able to effectively manage time and accomplish your duties throughout the day. Setting priorities and knowing how much time a particular task should take will help you effectively plan your day. It’s really about balancing priorities and working smart rather than hard. Finding the time management tools and learning to work with others to divide work effectively can be a challenge of both your tech savvy and workplace diplomacy.

Strong Communication Skills

Being able to share your thoughts in an effective way is an important skill to have. Writing and speaking are among the most common ways that we communicate in the workplace, and among one of the top things that employers desire in their employees. Listening is an equally important part of communication. Listening with undivided attention, asking questions where needed, and being engaged is important to an employer.

Higher education will give you knowledge, but these are skills that you can develop by applying and using that knowledge in different ways. These professional “street smarts” are important to develop because after you obtain the degree you’ve worked so hard for, you can use them to flourish in the career of your choice.

Jennifer Cook is always looking for new learning technology to help college students crack the code of higher education. When she isn't writing for Strayer Buzz, you'll find her pontificating on the latest issues relating to college financing, grad school preparation and disruptive online learning tools.




All content provided on Strayer Buzz is for informational purposes only. The views expressed on Strayer Buzz do not necessarily represent those of Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, or any of their affiliates. Neither Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, nor any of their affiliates make any representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on Strayer Buzz or found by following any link on Strayer Buzz. Neither Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, nor any of their affiliates will be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. Neither Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, nor any of their affiliates will be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.

Request more information

Step 1 of 2