Aside from the knowledge and skills taught and acquired within the confines of the lecture halls, there is invaluable wisdom that cannot be gleaned solely from textbooks or classrooms.
These intangible skills and ideas hold immense significance, sometimes even more than the diploma, degree or a postgraduate certificate. In this article, I explore 15 important ideas that demand the attention of every university student.
The aim of this article is to complement what is being taught and learnt in the lecture hall, so that, in the end, the next generation of students that are churned out of the universities will be all-rounded in terms of the knowledge and skills needed to survive in the ever-evolving complex world.
It is my anticipation that students would internalize these 15 crucial ideas to augment their academic works to be able to excel in both their personal and professional lives. These ideas signal them to expand their horizons, venture beyond their comfort zones, and embrace the transformative potential of education that transcends the confines of the lecture hall. These facts are;
- Graduating with a first class or distinction is better:
Do not let anybody lie to you that first class doesn’t matter. It does. In fact, every class matters. The various classes and ranks on the certificates are a global phenomenon and they are there for a purpose. If you can graduate with a distinction or First class, please do.
Why settle for a lower grade if you can attain excellence? A First class may not necessarily be a destiny-changer, but it can definitely be a trump-card to land some life-changing opportunities. The truth remains that, graduating with a First-class degree is highly regarded as a significant achievement and gives you a competitive advantage in many ways.
To a large extent, it signifies exceptional academic excellence, consistent high grades, and a deep understanding of the subject matter. Employers are often attracted by values such as demonstrated commitment, discipline, and intellectual rigour, and a first-class certificate easily gives the impression that the bearer has these values.
It can enhance employability prospects and open doors to a wider range of job opportunities. A first-class degree also provides a strong foundation for future academic pursuits, such as postgraduate studies or research, by increasing the likelihood of securing scholarships or funding. However, if you cannot bag a first class, work towards a Second Class (Upper or Lower), and if you cannot, manage with a Third class or Pass. In all, what matters most is the certificate.
- Success goes beyond certificates and class:
It is fine to graduate top of your class. However, upon graduation, you will be hit with the harsh reality that life is no respecter of certificate or class. Life is a very open platform.
From the first-class student to the third-class student, anybody can become successful. Success is not defined by the class one graduates with. Not at all. While achieving academic excellence is commendable (as I’ve explained in #1), it is important to recognize that success in life transcends the boundaries of class rankings or specific degrees.
The real world is a diverse and dynamic place where individuals from all backgrounds and educational achievements can thrive. Success is more determined by factors such as perseverance, adaptability, creativity, and the ability to seize opportunities, than certificates.
It is, therefore, essential to develop a range of skills and qualities beyond academic performance, including emotional intelligence, leadership abilities, and a strong work ethic. Ironically, you may find that some of the industry gurus who will employ you never stepped in the classroom or dropped out.
- Most opportunities will come through your values:
Between an honest third-class graduate and a thief first-class graduate, every business owner or client would love to do business with the honest one. Your values, character, and integrity are what make you an attractive candidate to employers and clients, not your degree.
Employers and organizations value individuals who align with good ethical behaviour. Cultivating a strong moral ethic, demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow, and prioritizing building meaningful connections are essential. Your values act as a compass, guiding your actions and decisions, and shaping your reputation.
By consistently demonstrating integrity and aligning with your values, you create a positive personal brand that attracts opportunities and opens doors for career advancement and meaningful collaborations. Remember, it is not just the degrees on your resume, but your values and character that leave a lasting impression.
- Some of your biggest downfalls will be caused by friends:
The reality is that some incredible job opportunities or favourable circumstances can slip through your grasp simply because a friend who had the chance to mention your name, recommend you, or speak positively about you will fail to do so.
It can be disheartening to discover that someone you consider a friend would not truly support your professional growth and yet pretend to be in your corner. This article serves you a reminder to remain vigilant and mindful of the dynamics within your relationships.
While friends may laugh and celebrate with you, it is crucial to bear in mind that not all of them may have your best interests at heart. By heeding this caution, you can approach such situations with a realistic mindset, make well-informed decisions, and ensure that you surround yourself with individuals who genuinely uplift and care for your success. It’s not about the quantity or number of friends you have, but rather the quality of the friendship bonds you share with the select few who truly stand by you.
- Practical experience:
Industries always employ graduates who have both academic credentials and practical experience. They are more comfortable hiring individuals who can contribute immediately and bring value to their organizations. An inexperienced graduate without real-world exposure is usually seen as a risk or a liability.
However, the good news is that you can acquire valuable experience while still in school by taking advantage of attachment and internship programmes during vacations, evenings, or weekends to gain hands-on experience in your field of interest. Additionally, engaging in volunteer work and community service can provide valuable transferable skills and demonstrate your commitment to making a positive impact.
You can also engage in extra curricula activities such as school debate clubs, sports, entertainment, public speaking, quiz competitions, student politics, among others. All these are experience-gathering activities that can be captured on your CV for future use. By combining academic achievements with these practical experiences, one enhances their employability and graduate with a well-rounded profile that sets them apart from other candidates.
- Develop a professional online presence:
The world has become non-negotiably digital. In the rapidly evolving digital world, cultivating a professional online presence has become an imperative for success. It is therefore important to curate a strong and professional image online.
Establishing a LinkedIn profile serves as a virtual resume, enabling one to showcase their skills, experiences, and accomplishments to potential employers and industry peers. Additionally, actively participating in relevant online communities and forums allows one to engage with like-minded professionals, share insights, and expand their network.
By proactively managing one’s online presence, it can enhance one’s visibility, establish credibility, and seize valuable opportunities in today’s interconnected world. Embracing the power of a professional online presence to unlock new avenues for growth and advancement is therefore a must-know for today’s university students.
- Refine your CV and cover letter:
One of the non-negotiable skills every university student must know is how to prepare top-notch competitive CV and cover letter. Even though these skills are usually not taught in the typical classroom, they are so important that the student cannot afford to graduate without knowing them.
One common mistake I have observed over the years is that, graduates usually prepare one CV, print it many times, and spread across various employers. No, that is not the way to go. Rather, take the time to tailor the CV specifically to each job opportunity or graduate programme you’re applying for.
This means customizing your CV to showcase relevant experiences and accomplishments that directly align with the requirements of the opening. Additionally, craft a well-written cover letter that conveys your enthusiasm, motivations, and how your unique strengths make you a perfect fit. By putting effort into refining these documents, you’ll increase your chances of making a strong impression and standing out among other applicants.
- Nurture transferable skills:
The university student must know that transferable skills, such as communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership are of immense value in industry. These skills are highly sought after by employers in diverse industries.
While technical expertise is important, it is often these transferable skills that set you apart from other candidates. Effective communication skills enable you to convey ideas clearly, collaborate with colleagues, and build strong relationships.
Problem-solving skills equip you to analyze challenges, devise creative solutions, and adapt to new situations. Leadership skills empower you to take initiative, inspire others, and drive positive change.
By nurturing these transferable skills, you enhance your employability and become an asset to any organization or team. Embrace the development of these skills as a lifelong journey that will continuously benefit your professional growth.
- Failure and resilience:
Once you come out of school, you will understand that failure is more realistic and a part of human life than you were ever told. You will fail as many times as you will succeed, and sometimes, even more.
Failure is literally an inevitable part of our experiences. In fact, you’re more likely to fail at your first business, get rejected at your first job interview, etc. Therefore, instead of fearing or avoiding failure, it is crucial to embrace it as an opportunity for growth, resilience, and self-improvement.
Each setback we encounter presents valuable lessons and insights that can propel us forward. By reframing failure as a stepping stone to future success, we develop resilience and learn to bounce back stronger.
Embracing failure allows us to cultivate a growth mindset, where we view challenges as opportunities for learning and personal development. So, don’t shy away from failure; embrace it, learn from it, and let it fuel your journey towards greater achievements.
- Polish your interview skills:
Interviews are part and parcel of post-university life. From securing a job, to gaining promotion and securing a scholarship, everything revolves around interviews. Therefore, it is important for the university student to start equipping themselves with strong interview skills while in school.
To excel in interviews, it is crucial to invest time and effort in refining your interview skills. Start by researching common interview questions and understanding what employers are seeking in their ideal candidates.
Then, craft thoughtful responses that highlight your skills, experiences, and achievements in alignment with the job requirements. Practice mock interviews to simulate the real experience and gain confidence in articulating your thoughts effectively. Seek feedback from mentors, career counselors like myself, or trusted individuals who can provide valuable insights on your performance.
By honing your interview skills, you increase your chances of making a positive impression and standing out among other candidates, ultimately paving the way for career success.
- Explore entrepreneurship:
The reality in Ghana is that job opportunities are rare. The number of graduates our universities churn out each year outweigh the number of vacancies that exist. Besides, the invention of AI and other technological tools has rendered some human activities redundant.
Therefore, each university student should explore their innate entrepreneurial tendencies before they complete school, so that they won’t be compelled to join the frustrated unemployed masses. Cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset allows you to think creatively, identify opportunities, and embrace calculated risks.
Start by exploring your passions, strengths, and areas of expertise to uncover potential business ideas. Conduct market research, analyze consumer needs, and develop a solid business plan. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who can provide guidance and support.
While entrepreneurship entails challenges, it also offers the potential for personal fulfillment, financial independence, and making a positive impact. For more information on exploring entrepreneurship, read my article on “monetizing your hobby to survive unemployment”, published on this same platform a few weeks back.
- Understand financial literacy:
Life revolves around money, to a large extent. The one who knows how to make money, save, invest, use and spend is most likely going to be successful eventually. It is crucial to develop a strong understanding of personal finance to make informed decisions about your money.
Start by learning about budgeting, which involves creating a plan to allocate your income wisely and prioritize your expenses. Understand the importance of saving and the various strategies to build an emergency fund and achieve long-term financial goals.
Educate yourself about investing to grow your wealth over time and manage risk effectively. Additionally, gain knowledge about managing debt responsibly, including understanding interest rates, T-Bills, FDs, Bonds and developing strategies to repay debt efficiently.
By understanding financial literacy, you empower yourself to make sound financial choices that can lead to financial security and a brighter future. Most times, a comfortable life is not one with the most amount of money necessarily, but one that efficiently manages the little amount available.
- Most opportunities will come through recommendations:
Most of the big opportunities you will grab after school will come because an uncle, friend, sibling, colleague or friend recommended you for the position, and not necessarily because you graduated with the highest class.
While obtaining a degree is important, it is often the recommendations and referrals from trusted individuals that lead to valuable opportunities. These recommendations carry weight and provide credibility that degrees alone may not convey.
Therefore, be intentional about actively seeking out mentors, engaging in networking events, and cultivating meaningful connections to increase your chances of accessing coveted opportunities in your chosen field. Recommendations can showcase your skills, work ethic, and potentials, giving you an edge in a competitive job market.
- Cultivate global awareness:
The university graduate should be aware that the world is now practically a global village. The competition of the graduate is no longer with their countrymen but people outside the country.
There are many people in Ghana who work for international brands, and there are many out there in Europe, USA and other parts of the world who also work for companies in Ghana. Therefore, competing for jobs, opportunities, scholarships, etc have become more competitive than it used to be.
It is therefore imperative for the graduates to continue to learn, read and sharpen their skills in line with global standards. Today’s graduate needs to embrace a global perspective by staying informed about international news, global issues, and cross-cultural dynamics. They must recognize the interconnectedness of our world and the importance of fostering collaborations across borders.
- Celebrate your ‘little’ achievements
A lot of people wait till they hit a jackpot or a major milestone in their life before they celebrate it. Hence, in situations where the major jackpot comes in disguised forms, or never comes at all, they tend to get depressed, worried, frustrated and feel inferior in themselves.
It is important to establish that life doesn’t move in major milestones, it is the daily consistent ‘little’ stones that pull together to become the major milestone someday. Therefore, it is important to regularly pause, reflect and celebrate these ‘little’ stones, in anticipation of the major one.
Acknowledging and celebrating your achievements has a primary benefit of enhancing your confidence and self-esteem. By recognizing and valuing your accomplishments, you strengthen your belief in your capabilities and foster a positive mindset, which positively influences your performance during interviews and networking opportunities, making you a more compelling and influential candidate.
Additionally, celebrating your achievements enables you to effectively communicate and demonstrate your strengths and skills. Through reflection on past successes, you gain clarity on the specific abilities and experiences that distinguish you from others.
Thank you for reading today’s episode. Continue to follow the insightful articles I share on this page.
Author: Daniel Fenyi
The author is a licensed counselor and career coach, who guides the youth and students through his writings.