6 skills every student should learn – or be able to do

I am currently job hunting. Because of COVID-19, I am now counted as a part of the global unemployment statistics. It’s tough. However, I am grateful that I took the time to do some short courses to gain some differentiating skills to broaden my employability – virtually. This triggered my need to do this blog post.

My current situation made me realize that it doesn’t matter what career you wish to pursue or are in, you will encounter scenarios that require the application of one or more (or even all) of these skill sets. Companies need people with these skills. They outline them in the job specifications and job descriptions. This is worth some attention.

At least you should have an idea or understanding of these skills and how to use them. At most you should know to, or learn how to, apply these skills to your everyday tasks, or for your (or the organisation’s) benefit.

There are many courses that teach these skills; in part or by specializations. They are offered through a number of distance learning websites. Look out for a follow up blog about where you can access some of these courses. I got you, don’t worry, it’s in the works!

So, without further ado, let me list them now with a brief explanation about why they are necessary.

#1 Business [Idea] Development

What it involves: High Impact Business Writing, Idea Pitching, Proposal and Grant writing, Creating Business Strategies, Business Strategy Writing, Business Models.

If you possess the coveted ability to survey your environment, and assess where improvements could be made or where transformative intervention is required, you’re already a goldmine! Now, if you can create a plan of action and communicate your idea “effectively”, any company you become employed with will think they’ve hit a jackpot!

You see, proper business [idea] development can activate the revolution of organizations’ services, products and processes. Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs need to know how to do it. Knowing how to develop your idea, into a plan with an actionable strategy, is a distinguishing factor that can help you persuade the right people – in the right networks or levels of management.

I learned how to do this while pursuing my Masters degree. Let me make a plug here for the Business Canvas Model (BMC). Learn how to develop a BMC… just trust me on this. (Those were two links by the way.)

#2 Strategic Networking

What it entails: Meeting People, Having Focused Conversations, Building Partnerships, Learning Skills, Enhancing Talents, Gaining Experience and Exposure in Your Field/Passion.

This one will help you significantly if you do not have any work experience. Still, it will help you even while at work. It’s an intangible skill that can bring tangible results and it’s not always explicitly listed in job postings.

Even while you’re in school, join a club, group, organization, NGO, or chamber. Go to business mixers, seminars, and workshops. Get yourself out there! There is a “circle” for everyone. Find yours, join it and watch how it expands your possibility to achieve your personal goals. Try, also, to exchange something of value in these spaces, with the people you meet. Remember you’re not “known” yet. Practice active listening, ask questions, offer assistance, opinions, or even a free service. In doing so, you will experience self-development, learn new skills, enhance your innate talents, gain experience, and so much more. The list is inexhaustive. You’d gain everything you need to get to where you want to be. *wink*

Wait introverts! Before you dismiss this suggestion, note this, the world is becoming more digital (especially after the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak). So, here’s what, there are group spaces that can offer you the same experience! I heard that sigh of relief (Ha!). Come on! Jump on to those Webinars. Join LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and Slack communities. These are all great places to explore!

One thing I can guarantee you, is this: you will come into contact with potential business partners, coaches, mentors, investors, and even valuable alliances and friends.

I’m an ambivert, I’ve done and do both.

#3 Copywriting

What it requires: English Language Skills, Proofreading, Editing, Research Skills, Curiosity, A Wide Vocabulary, Clear Communication, Strategic Thinking, Creativity.

Sure you can write (or not, for the techies). But how well can you write? I experienced some creative blocks when I started to transition from academic writing to creative writing. Maybe you may have the same issue, maybe you won’t. But know this…

Almost all professions require some level of written communication. It does not matter what role in the organisation you’ll be charged with. Someday, you’ll have to write something. A report. An email. A speech. A document. An advertisement. A script. Something. Most times, though, it’s easy to just “write” without understanding how to effectively craft the intent, or purpose, of your words, for the audience that has to consume it. Learning copywriting will help you to capture the, often, missed opportunities to trigger the exact response or emotion you want your words to provoke.

Although its directly associated with advertising and marketing, you’d be surprised at how much copywriting will complement other forms of written communication; in your life. I dare you to challenge yourself to learn this skill.

#4 Lead Generation

What it comprises: Digital Literacy, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Creation, Public Relations (PR), Marketing, Email Marketing, Business to Business (B2B) Knowledge, Business to Customer (B2C) Knowledge, Sales, Software as a Service (SaaS), etc.

According to Hubspot, Lead Generation is “the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service” and “it falls within the second stage of the inbound marketing methodology, after you’ve attracted an audience and are ready to convert those visitors into leads for your sales team.”

Knowing how to generate leads, for an organization, will differentiate you as a progressive human resource asset. Any employer would see you as a worthwhile investment for their organization. Customer’s desires and demands are constantly changing and evolving. If you can find a way to keep the conversation with potential and existing clients going, you’re on your way to standing out as a force to be reckoned with.

If subjects in this area aren’t offered during your academic journey, make sure to enroll or purchase a short course or a few, in this discipline. You’ll become a highly-valued employee. And BOOM goes the dynamite!

#5 Data Analysis/Analytics

Pre-requisites: Problem-Solving Skills, Mathematical Ability, Methodological and Logical Thinking, Knowledge of Programming Languages, Attention to Detail, Curiosity.

Data Analysis is the process of systematically applying statistical and/or logical techniques to describe and illustrate, condense and recap, and evaluate data… An essential component of ensuring data integrity is the accurate and appropriate analysis of research findings.
(Source: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR))

This one here, boy oh boy, this one is the cherry on the cake. It’s used in almost every profession for the simplest of tasks like calculating employee absenteeism in a company, to major projects like Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiatives. With data, companies can address internal issues, predict trends and adjust organizational approaches and strategies, and the list goes on.

You’d want to be a part of that! Career defining moments happen when you are able to collate, manipulate and use data effectively.
Oh, if you don’t like mathematics, this skill could be challenging.

#6 The Ability to Speak a Foreign Language (or at least understand one)

What it requires: Open-mindedness, Curiosity, Determination, Willingness to Learn.

I’ve seen this phrase in some of the job postings I’ve come across: “knowledge of a foreign language is an asset”. Some tell you what language they’d like you to be fluent in; most times it’s Spanish and/or French. I would know, I’ve seen many.

Either way, as a student, you’d benefit from learning and knowing another language. The world is a global village, communities are merging, communication extends beyond continental borders. Do not limit yourself to the language you speak, and write, ever!

Watchmojo lists 10 languages that you should consider learning, in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTi1px7V0Rc&feature=youtu.be.

Final thoughts: This list is not final. There are so many other skills that you can learn to load into your personal arsenal for future use. I’ve found, however, that these skills, when certified through a course, diploma or degree, can complement any programme you’ve completed.

So enhance the utility of your resume! Make it stand out by dressing it up with one or more of these skills! They are awesome, functional, useful, valuable, and versatile “accessories”.

Be the full package!

Which do you need help with? Let’s have a chat about it, shall we?

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7 effective study techniques

I’m not a fan of studying. I never liked it, don’t think I ever will. But, ever since I discovered my “internal barriers” to studying, I quickly began to search for hacks to overcome them, because… exams. Ugh.

Let’s face it, exam time is the time when many students rush to “cram” work into their minds within the final few hours before they’re about to take a test. While this can actually work (as it has for me many times), you find that, beyond some days after the examination, you can’t really remember squat!

Lawrence Clement (2016) reported that “students who report internal barriers lack motivation as well as cognitive and metacognitive skills“; and “study time is correlated with retention, motivation, and study effectiveness, but not with performance” (p. 357).
Source: (Clement, 2016)

Don’t feel to badly if this is your issue. I’m about to share some effective ways to study; and you’ll remember what you’ve learned.

Here we go!

#1 Fast Revision Technique – FRT

It’s frequent revision, really.
The same day you learn something, revise it once more at the end of the day and then go it over at the end of the week. At the end of the month, review it again and then continue looking it over on a monthly basis.
This will work as a proactive approach to studying. What does this mean? You won’t have cram!

#2 SQ3R

SQ3R consists of 5 steps:

  1. Survey – speed read the material with intention and the mindset that you have to absorb information. This creates a good foundation for the next step.
  2. Question – ask questions that you think are important about the subject and write them down. Set a goal to answer every one of them as best as you can.
  3. Read – after listing your questions, read over the material again. Approach the material with a mission to answer the questions you’ve come up with. Take notes if you have to.
  4. Recite/recall – speak out the points you’ve learnt, aloud. Hearing the material doubles up on the effectiveness of the technique.
  5. Revise – Use the FRT technique (#1) for maximum effect.

#3 Dual Coding

So this worked for me. A lot!
Use combinations of words and visual aids to concretize what you’ve learned.
I used acronyms, songs or counted steps to remember my material. Let me explain:

  • Acronyms – this is a rather common technique. You can simply find ways to create succinct phrases to remember important points that you can then elaborate on. Choose letters that make up a word (it doesn’t have to be real) that you can remember easily. Then assign a line or phrase to each letter.
  • Songs – I once helped my brother learn the planets that revolve around the sun by, drawing them, writing their names underneath and then composing a song for us to sing together. It was catchy! To this day, a couple decades later, we still sing it as a childhood memory. I just may have dated myself there. Oops!
  • Counted steps – so my brother developed this one for himself. He came up with the idea when he had to go to the grocery for my mother. I asked him once, “how do you remember everything mom tells you to get, without writing anything down?” He replied, “I count how many things she said, I repeat what I heard, and then I say them over with a number like #1 – butter, #2 – bread, #3 – sugar, and so on. When I get to the grocery, I start to count. If I fell short, I knew I left out a number”. Mind blown. I applied the same thing to my work, specifically things that had stages or steps. It worked!

#4 Explanations

As simple as it sounds, it’s very effective.

Find someone that you can have a discussion with about the subject you have to learn and ask them to let you explain it to them.

May I propose a script? Start like this.
“Hi George, do you know about effective learning techniques?” George may say no. So tell George ahead of time that this isn’t for him, it’s for you; but he could learn too. Perhaps you may have to give George an incentive. $1 maybe (ha!).

What you would find happening is that, if George is a good participant, he could ask you questions that can help you further break down the topic. You may even have to use relatable examples for him to understand. There you go! You’re now a student and an educator!

#5 Retrieval

So, this is similar to what my brother did. But this is more focused on recalling what you’ve been taught, without a hack.

With this technique, you remove (from your sight) anything that reminds you about the subject matter and try to write down or recite the material you were taught. When you’re done calling out or writing down what you remember, you check the material for accuracy.

Here’s a trick. I find this to be especially useful right before sitting an exam. If you speed read the questions and use the retrieval technique, you can quickly jot down everything that comes to mind so that you won’t forget when you come upon the question during the test. You’re welcome!

#6 Timed study sessions

So here’s a nifty idea I used often for my harder exams.

Break up your study time into short periods for focused concentration and take even shorter breaks. For example, study for 20 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes. For each study period go hard, set a goal of what you need to remember, make sure you’ve met it.
You may, at times, adjust the time frame, but always learn one thing. If you need to, also, you can break up the topic over a few periods.
It’s a good technique, I promise; but you have to get rid of distractions to use it effectively.

#7 Online resources

Of course I couldn’t NOT mention that YouTube and Google have helped me with almost EVERY challenging topic I encountered. It’s also wonderful that it’s $free-99!

I’ve used Khan Academy and TED Talks regularly. For other types of information, I just search for engaging content on various channels. This alternative was specifically effective when I just could not grasp the understanding of the topic in class. I did not want to be left behind and have to stress out myself having to “catch up” before the next class. Digital platforms offer you the flexibility of choosing how you want to learn.

Final thoughts

So, Now What?

Does this feel like 7 more things you need to absorb and remember? Well I hope not. These techniques are a buffet, so choose what you like and leave what you don’t. (Unless of course you are like me and the word buffet just means YES!)

It would be remiss of me if I did not say that you should also combine the techniques you are comfortable with and use them repeatedly for the best results.

Not everyone learns in the same way, so again, decide what suits you and your personal style. There is diversity in everything, even in the way we absorb, understand and communicate information. So let’s celebrate this, because ultimately, the goal is that we all win!

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5 Tips for New Online Learners

In the year 2020, the Novel COVID-19 pandemic prompted a spike in digital communication, interactions and services. The global community deepened its appreciation for the functions of technology and its infinite potential to revolutionize everyday business operations; and daily activities. And what also became apparent, in 2020, was the increase in the promotion of e-learning.

I realized for some time that technology began to morph the education system. Through digital education (all online educational practices), teachers and students have access to a digital toolbox full of engaging technological gadgets, digital textbooks and e-material, and online courses.

How serious is it?

“In fall 2017, there were 6,651,536 students enrolled in any distance education courses at degree-granting post-secondary institutions.”

(Source: National Center for Education Statistics)

There are thousands of online courses available for you to enhance your academic portfolio. If you have never done an online course before, the concept of online learning may be a bit foreign to you. I know, because, it was strange for me.

I decided to give you a “heads up” to help you prepare for a new version of learning. There’s no need to be nervous or sceptical, be excited.

Here is a list of important things, like a starter kit of sorts, that you need to know, or have, before you begin to explore online learning.

So let’s begin.

#1: Be clear about what you want to do

Of course this comes first, right?
Do you need to get a specialized certificate for a another position at work? Perhaps you just want to learn a new skill (for personal development). Maybe you need to enhance your profile for your LinkedIn platform. And what about those of you trying to make a career change, but you just don’t have the time to go to “school”.

Well, whatever your reason for considering an online certification, you need to know how much potential it has to bring value to your worth and how suitable it is to your goals. Simply ask yourself, “Where, and how, does this fit into my life’s plans?”

Your “Why?” must be clear. Or you’ll just be wasting time and money.

#2 Be comfortable with online payments

Once it’s online, that’s where you pay. Pretty much all online courses require that you make your payments using a credit card – whether prepaid or secured. Payments are usually accepted directly from your credit card and, can at times, be further filtered through online payment platforms such as PayPal or Stripe.
Online payments are simple, but a word of caution. NEVER save your payment credentials on any device. Digital security must be a foremost priority!

#3 Check the offer out completely.

Firstly, consideration is how the course itself is being offered.

Generally, online courses are offered by cycle or one-off purchases. They promise unlimited access to the material once you’ve confirmed enrollment or purchase.
So, firstly check out whether the course you’re set your eyes on is either a one time purchase, like courses in Udemy, or by cycle, like Coursera? I’ve found that there is flexibility in both options, but for courses I don’t plan to start soon (especially those I catch a promotional offer for), I tend to buy the course and come to it when I have the time.

Another consideration is, what does the completion certificate look like? Well, using the examples of Udemy and Coursera:

Udemy’s certificates look something like this:

And Coursera’s Certificates look something like this:

If you aren’t comfortable with the amount of information the former provides, you may want to use online institutions that frame their certificates like the second. But take note, both have verification codes that validate the school and the authenticity of the course; located at the bottom right or left corner of the certificate.

You should also consider are whether the courses are a part of a series or just a specialized subject. You’d find, however, that they are either presented in groupings e.g. Students who purchased “Course A” also purchased “Course B”, or as a specialization e.g. my Search Engine Optimization Fundamentals course was the second of a six part SEO specialization that ends with a Capstone project.

For either option, the course you choose can be used as a stand-alone certification!

Then, you must find out if the certificate can be sent to you via hard-copy. This is important for those of you that require original certificates to apply for jobs or new positions where the employer asks for such. If you can use the printed online version, however, then you can forgo that cost.

#4 How is the course validated?

To understand this point, these are some examples of questions you should ask:

  • Is the course is being administered by the known professional through an online institution (see the Udemy Certificate)?
  • Is the course being hosted by Professors through a credible university (see the Coursera certificate)?
  • Is the course being offered solely by a professional under their business/enterprise?

Each of these would impact how you view the certificate’s validity. That is completely subjective.

#5 Is the course up-to-date?

Let me tell you. Everyday something in the world changes.

Ergo, even non-trending courses would have had to be upgraded to make the discipline remain relevant. So please, check to see if there are more recent versions of the courses you wish to enroll in. Yes, some content may be evergreen, but (as an example ) even Microsoft Excel would have had updated some functions or added new ones when Office versions changed.

There you have it. There are more, but I think these are specifically important for the distance learning newbies.

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