4 Marketable Skills You Should Develop while Getting your MBA

Recent college grads, or those about to graduate, may not realize they have been building the marketable skills that will make them competitive job seekers. Sure, a university education might seem like a lot of accumulated knowledge that you ultimately won’t use in the real world. However, you are building valuable skills. Here are four most important marketable skills that you should or should have developed in grad school.

1. Written Communication Skills

Perhaps the internet of things like text messaging can be blamed for a lack of solid written communication skills among today’s job seekers. Poorly written communication doesn’t just look bad to your employer, but it also can lead to an actual loss of revenue.

If you’re still in school, stop rolling your eyes when your professor takes off points for improper grammar or a poor word choice. Instead, seek to improve your written skills, even if the job you want isn’t in the English or communications field. Whether you’re a scholar of poetry or an accountant, the value of clearly written communication is significant. You’ll be more effective, more respected, and regarded as an authority on whichever subject you’re discussing.

2. Teamwork and Leadership Skills

Thousands of memes and jokes probably have been written about group work. You know the cliche: two kids completely slack off, one person carries the whole load, and everyone loathes each other by the end of the assignment.

Try to stop looking at the group project as a punishment your professor doles out capriciously. If you’re working on a group project, and not everyone is picking up the slack, use this as an opportunity to hone your leadership skills. Practice delegating tasks and inspiring your colleagues in a respectful but efficient manner.

The group project teaches you a lot about the real world, particularly situations in which you’ll encounter people who don’t take up their fair share of the workload. This is why it’s essential to have strong leadership skills and the ability to work with a wide array of personalities and people.

In a recent speaking event with the incoming MBA cohort at College of Charleston, I spoke about team engagement.  Here is the content I shared with them:

College of Charleston’s MBA program uses the power of collaborative learning teams across most classes.  This comes with inherent challenges:

  1. Distractions – Many people are tethered to their phones.  Or someone may be disinterested.  This zaps the momentum of groupwork.
  2. Personalities – Often personalities will clash when a team is fatigued, or of there is a Resistor or Disruptor.
  3. Schedules – The MBA program is rigorous and demanding.  Sometimes work or internships create additional challenges.

Some tips to promote cohesion, productivity, and focus:

  1. Establish ground rules for the team at the beginning – working time, lunchtime, phone/personal breaks
  2. Expect and plan that there will be tensions and conflict – when it occurs, as much as possible, relax and don’t become defensive, stay objective, and take a time out or break.
  3. Resolve conflicts with your team members – to a point, then elevate to faculty for their support as needed.  If a conflict cannot become resolved, seek the Director, then Dean’s support.
  4. Provide the level of focus, support, and attention to others (including your professor, and faculty) that you deserve.  This means don’t habitually surf the net, engage in texting during class because it is rude and disrespectful.  And others see it and it will diminish your credibility.

The collaborative cohort approach is an opportunity to prepare yourself for the human side element of business that will either fuel your growth, or create roadblocks.  Expect and plan for the worst, hope for the best, learn from others, from yourself, and remain flexible to change for the better.

3. Time-Management Skills

Most people have procrastinated on a task in college at some point, and perhaps some have made this a habit. Everyone has heard about the practice of washing down caffeine pills with energy drinks and rushing to finish a paper in the wee hours of the morning, six hours before the deadline.

Not only is this sort of routine bad for the body and mind, but these poor academic practices also lead to bad habits in adulthood that can affect your work life. Learning how to break a big job into smaller tasks, and to schedule these smaller tasks accordingly, can be extremely beneficial when practicing and honing your time-management skills.

The next time you’re given a paper or alerted of a test, figure out the different aspects of the task as a whole. For a paper, you might need to research and outline before sitting down to write. Create a schedule, from the day the assignment is given to the day it’s due, and follow it. Not only will you be building your time-management skills, but you’ll also be sleeping peacefully, knowing your work was done before deadline.

4. The Skill To Cope with Failures and Setbacks

Failures and setbacks are a part of our personal, and professional experiences in life.  These events may trigger an emotionally charged response that has cascading, lasting negative effects.  You should beware of this, and learn healthy ways to cope with the stress.  Here are a few tips that work for me:

  1. Sit with the “Hot Potato” – plan to let the uncomfortable issue sit with you for a day or more before taking any action. Having this cooling and reflection period allows your mind to work on understanding the issue, and planning for a rational response.
  2. Be Objective – look at the situation from an outsider’s viewpoint. Try to accept this fact: What is important to you may not be important to others.
  3. Don’t Burn Bridges – there is rarely any benefit to reacting in a way that creates animosity. Even if you were wronged, take the “high road.”  It is OK to respond with constructive feedback – just keep it to the point and polite.  This will serve your reputation well; you will be considered rational, reasonable, and credible.
  4. Challenge Yourself – part of learning from a failure is taking action to elevate yourself to a higher level. In your career, this will have many forms – from interpersonal relationships with peers and managers, to subject matter expertise and beyond.
  5. Don’t Give Up – tenacity and persistence are key to long term success. When you feel like you are down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

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