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7 Life Skills Every New Professional Should Develop

When entering the professional world for the first time, many people feel a sense of disorientation. The corporate world is filled with unwritten rules and codes, and unless you have had someone to mentor you, professional work can get overwhelming quickly. Unfortunately, life does not come with a manual or some list of life skills for adults, but there are a number of strategies that lead to a more productive — and even more fulfilling — work life. Below are a few things that should be on a list of life skills for adults looking to improve their professional lives.

1. How to Be Honest

As humans, we often assume that we must justify our missteps. We must have some explanation to place blame elsewhere, lest we be judged. Shana Leibowitz of Business Insider gives the example of tardiness: “When you’re late to an appointment, it’s tempting to pin the blame on gridlock or train delay.” These little white lies, however, build mistrust and cause others to doubt your integrity. Instead, Leibowitz recommends just apologizing and owning up to mistakes: “‘I planned poorly,’” she writes, “is a hundred times better than risking your integrity by inanely blaming traffic.”

2. How to Manage Your Emotions

Everyone gets angry or sad sometimes. However, work is not the place to vent those emotions. Bottling those emotions up is just as bad. As Julie Beck, writing for The Atlantic points out, studies have “linked the repression of negative emotions to increased stress, and research suggests that writing about feelings is associated with better health outcomes for breast-cancer patients, people with asthma, and people who’ve experienced a traumatic event.” Find a positive way to channel your negative emotions.

One study suggests that people who express themselves and find meaning in their feelings—good or bad—have a better sense of mental well-being than those who do not. Expressing yourself appropriately may encourage others to do the same. There are many strategies for using your emotions. “Defensive pessimists” for example, can use those negative emotions to come up with strategies to defeat imagined problems in the future. When negative thoughts occur, take time to create a mindful attitude. When you are aware of your feelings, you are more likely to have the strength of mind to deal with them or even make something positive out of them.

3. How to Ask for Help

We all need a little help sometimes, but we fear that we will be exhibiting weakness or showing we are not fit for the job. But asking for help is a part of effective team collaboration, and it shows humility. No one knows everything and being able to admit that shows strength. Wayne Baker of the Harvard Business Review suggests the SMART formula when asking for help: “Specific, Meaningful (why you need it), Action-oriented (ask for something to be done), Real (authentic, not made up), and Time-bound (when you need it).” This formula leads to clarity and ensures you are not overburdening someone else.

4. How to Fail and Adapt

As Carolyn Cho, writer for Time and Business Insider puts it, “Your twenties is a time when most are relatively free of the responsibilities that will increase into your thirties and forties. This is a great time to experiment, fail, and bounce back. Learn how to ride out failure and persevere.” Because you likely have fewer responsibilities in your twenties, you can take calculated risks without fear of permanent damage to your career. Take any failure as a lesson. What did you learn from it? What can I do differently? Was it the utter catastrophe it seemed to be at the beginning? Probably not!

5. How to Teach Yourself

Many young professionals have a hard time learning new skills. Most of us spend our adolescence and early adulthood learning from others through systematic methods in schools. Once we move into the professional world, though, it is up to us to continue improving. Find a method that best fits your learning style (reading, video tutorials, hands-on practice, etc.), and pick a few skills every year that you would like to learn. Then, have the perseverance to follow through.

6. How to Network

Many young professionals loathe networking. They may be shy or even see it as an empty endeavor. However, as reported by Forbes magazine, “80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking.” That means that job boards and other online postings are probably not going to land you your dream job. Instead, attend industry meet-ups and begin creating a professional network through sites like LinkedIn. It may be awkward at first, but remember, everyone there is in the same boat. Be yourself and you are bound to meet the people who will help you find the right job for you. And you may just be able to do the same for them.

7. How to Prioritize

Small business and life coach Marie Forleo reveals the one mistake that keeps workers from prioritizing: they often mistake “urgent” for “important.” She recommends doing what is important first and saving what is urgent for a little later. “The urgent stuff is always going to get done because it has to,” she says, “but this method ensures the important tasks don’t fall to the wayside.” Urgent items may include calls and texts, email from clients and social media. These tasks are addictive because they evoke an emotional response—good or bad. These “urgent” matters usually align with other peoples’ goals, not your own. “Important” matters, on the other hand, lack drama and have no ticking clock. These things are easier to put on the back burner. Unlike the urgent items on your to-do list, you will not necessarily get to them. These important things lead to accomplishing your goals.

This list of life skills for adults is far from comprehensive. The good news is that some Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree programs are beginning to cover more of these soft skills in their courses. A BBA degree can not only improve your chance at employment, but also make that employment a successful and fulfilling endeavor.

Learn more about the Lamar University online BBA program.


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