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10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life

10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life

College. Think about that word and what that means to you. The odds are, everyone has a different image of what college is or what the typical college experience may be. Images of long study nights, dorm or frat parties, new friends, classes, club activities, etc. are probably some of those in mind. However, there are valuable lessons we learn in college or as recent graduates that aren’t always tangible things or memories.

College is most certainly a time for learning and cementing who we are as people. This is my list of 10 lessons I learned from college life.

1. You don’t know everything

Okay, to be fair, you probably already knew this, or just really didn’t give it too much thought. The next thing you know, you’re walking into your first college classroom and realizing you know no one, you know nothing about what you want to do for the rest of your life, how to navigate the campus, or even what major you want, and those are just the beginning of your thoughts. This is likely the first time most of us learn about debt and financial responsibility, mostly paying the price the hard way.

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2. Learning is forever

Being forced to go to school can be really frustrating and can lead to rebellion and angst during growing pain periods where we all want nothing more than to hang out with our friends, play or write music, or do other things we consider fun. We finish high school thinking it is all over, but it is really the beginning. Sure, we will all go to college. Eventually, that, too will end, but we will never stop learning about relationships, each other, and we regularly rediscover ourselves. We start realizing that in college through our group work, the awkwardness that is trying to make new friends, and learning how to move on.

3. Worrying about what people think about you is a waste of time

You could be the best person in the world, and someone still won’t like you and will find plenty to criticize. Sometimes, someone will just find looking at you annoying. Yes, there are people out there who will simply look at you, think “I don’t like that person”, and from that point on, you’ll be on their bad side. The fact of the matter is, are those people really trying to impress or waste your time over? Do you really want to worry over people who are devoted to misunderstanding and undervaluing you? If someone doesn’t have an honest critique of you or is talking about you to everyone else except you, don’t worry about it. What they do says more about you than it does about them. You start realizing these things in college, as going gives you exposure to all kinds of people you perhaps wouldn’t normally meet or associate with. College is a definitely a time where you learn to develop a thicker skin.

4. You can’t have everything

And that’s okay. You don’t need everything. Living in a dorm or at home with Mom and Dad while pursuing your education is evidence of that. Long study nights on the laptop you still use from 2008 and endless ramen noodle cups will likely become a staple in your dorm, if you aren’t living at home. If you are living home, expect no rules to change on the account you’re slightly older and in college. This is an important lesson, though, because life is all about making choices and priorities. You will learn about what is important to you and your values based on the choices that you make.

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5. Relationships can be complicated

Entering college can sometimes mean losing all of your former friends from high school, etc. Earning new friends can be difficult, and romantic relationships are no different. Dating is complex. Sometimes you’ll know you’re dating someone, but you won’t talk about it. You won’t use the title of boyfriend or girlfriend. There may not be many conversations about the relationship. Don’t expect your college relationships to make much sense or be concrete. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out, and that involves learning how to communicate, express desire, and figure out what and who they exactly want for the future. I don’t encourage anyone in college to take dating seriously, but although we leave college, relationships never end up less complicated. They may become simpler, better defined, less insecure, but will take work and dedication.

6. College is a big bubble

You’ll learn a lot in college, but it isn’t exactly the real world. Unless you’re a working student while going to school, something I recommend every student becomes and does, you’re going to live in a big, college bubble. If you have loans, you won’t have to worry about them, until you graduate. Much like how you had to exert yourself to make new friends in college, you’ll have to learn how to live without many of those friends upon graduation. The cycle starts all over again, and before you know it, you’ll have a 9 to 5 every day. You may get married and have a family, or go travel the world. I, for instance, teach English in South Korea now, and it is amazing! I am slowly learning a new language, new customs, how to live on my own and support myself, etc. Sometimes I stumble and fall, and  other times, I surprise even myself with the resolve I see myself have sometimes. There is a whole world outside of college. Explore it.

7. Things don’t always work out the way we hope for them to

We could all always use just a little bit more money, a little bit more time, or a little bit more of something else. We’ll make plans that will fall through, we’ll change majors 3 or 4 times, we’ll learn to live without that person we thought we could never live without. It happens that on occasion things seem to not go our way, but that feeling isn’t permanent. There is always something else to discover and to strive for.

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8. People change and so will you

Your dress style, who your attracted to, your values, and what ideas you support and activities you deem important will change in your new environment. This is where you start becoming and realizing who you are. You have to sculpt that person, and that begins in college. No one is there to hold your hand and walk you through doing your essay. No one is there reminding you to check your daily agenda for anything you may have missed.

9. Trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so simple

My honest opinion is choosing one path in life for a permanent career is extremely limiting and dangerous to the human mind and spirit. We need to be stimulated, creative, excited, and always dreaming, so don’t limit yourself. Yes, trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so simple, and maybe it’s something you shouldn’t be doing. Like I said before, desires change and people change, they grow and they evolve. Limiting yourself in terms of friendships, relationships, and career paths doesn’t benefit you. In college, there will be a lot of pressure to pick that one major and do something in that field. I say study what you like, and use all the tools you learned to promote yourself the way you want to in the industry you want to. You can have a chemical engineering degree and be a brilliant writer. You can have an English degree, and be an incredible inventor.

10. Always have a back-up plan

College is not for everyone, despite the push for everyone to go to college. Some students go in and excel, others have a hard time affording it or aren’t having their unique gifts catered to. Other students don’t find the material they are learning applicable to the lives they think they want to lead, and therefore, they drop out. It is important to always have a back-up plan. Maybe you know college isn’t for you, but how about a paralegal certificate from a community college or through online learning? How about vocational school? In college, you will be told about the reality of your degrees and your employment prospects. You will have the resources to build an impressive resume, consult a career center, and other valuable options. You will learn that despite having your degree, you will need additional experiences and ideas moving forward. Whether you’re dealing with an unpleasant roommate, soaring tuition costs, or other ideas, having a backup plan is invaluable.

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That’s it for the top 10 list. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you agree or disagree with the points I mentioned here. For those of you needing a back-up plan or have questions about your degree path, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Happy learning!

Featured photo credit: Diego Grez-Cañete via commons.wikimedia.org

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Emina Dedic

TEFL Instructor, Traveler, Professional Writer, Model

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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