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Prepare for Life Beyond High School with These 10 Essential Skills

Meeting the requirements for your high school diploma is satisfying. More than that, checking high school off your list is satisfying. After four years of academic rigor, incessant due dates, equally relentless procrastination, a sports team that just can’t win, social drama, and on top of all that, puberty, you’re ready to move onto the next chapter.


Whether the next chapter is a job or more school, there are some core abilities called ‘essential skills’ that will get you further, faster. Use this list as an audit to see which essential skills you need to develop the most. Then make the decision to work on those skills, and you’ll take a big step down whatever path you choose.


1: Communication

Communicating effectively means making your message clear. It also means making your message persuasive. For example, when you propose an idea to a coworker or express an opinion about a new policy, does your message attract others to your way of thinking? Are you able to apply the way you see it over a previous perspective?


Communication skills also need to be developed in both oral and written form. This will help you appear more confident and thoughtful, which in turn will set people up to listen more seriously to what you have to say.


2: Time Management

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. That sounds like plenty, but if you spend 480 of those sleeping, 150 cooking and eating, another 240 on social media (which is half the national average, mind you), and another 180 showering, brushing your teeth, getting ready for the day (or bed) and going to the bathroom, what’s left?


Time management is how you get the most out of the time you do have. The easiest way to get organized is to use a daily planner (preferably an online or in-app calendar) to block off time for just about everything. You can’t schedule when nature will call, but you can say you’ll only work 60 minutes on project X or Y. This will keep you focused and working hard when you get close to the limit. It will also help you put a stopper on something early enough to avoid getting backlogged on everything else.


3: Teamwork

Teamwork (or collaboration) is all about working effectively with others. This is increasingly important now that collaboration takes place across countries and time zones. The new-gen tools we have to collaborate (at work and in school) are pretty cool, at least, so they give you an instant leg up in developing this skill.


You can continue developing teamwork skills by practicing empathy and showing interest in others’ opinions. Learn to listen actively and work well with others and you’ll be a rockstar collaborator.


4: Community Citizenship

Being a community citizen means being culturally aware while also contributing to the community you live in. This is a skill you started to develop in school when you made friends from different backgrounds. Continuing to develop that skill the rest of your life is central to living well.


For example, don’t just vote in the next election—vote after you talk to people you respect who you know have different experiences than your own. Educate yourself so you can make thoughtful, ethically-based decisions that are good for you and the world you live in.


5: Setting Attainable Goals

Setting goals for yourself is a skill in itself, especially after high school where goals are typically set for you.


To be successful setting your own goals, first ensure they’re attainable. You do want them to be a challenge that will push you to do your best, but if they aren’t fundamentally attainable you risk disappointment and disengagement on future goals.


Not sure what’s attainable? Ask people who have done what you want to do and crowdsource their insight.


6: Concentration

Concentration is a skill that feels almost antiquated these days. Inthe smartphone-driven world where we spend between 3 seconds and 2 minutes on any webpage as we bounce around the web, most videos can’t be more than a minute without us getting bored and navigating away. How can you build concentration skills in this environment?


Curiosity is the natural antidote to a flighty lack of concentration. If you show basic curiosity to understand whatever you face, questions will naturally occur to you. Those questions, in turn, keep you engaged as you search for the answer.


7: Navigate Ambiguity

Not everything in life will have an obvious right or wrong answer. In fact, almost nothing you encounter will fall into absolutes. The better you understand the gray area, the more comfortable you’ll be making choices as you navigate ambiguity.


When you are faced with ambiguity, lean into your values and beliefs to build a plan of next steps that you feel comfortable taking.


8: Working Independently

Knowing how to take a project or task into your own hands without step-by-step instructions is a must for any job or academic career. The better you are at this, the more you’ll impress your boss or instructors, too.


You can learn to work independently by taking initiative before you’re told to. And when you are faced with something you aren’t 100% sure how to do, complete what you can to the best of your ability before asking for guidance.


9: Following Directions

High school actually gave you a running head start on this one. Following directions is a lifelong skill you’ll continually develop. While it’s important to think for yourself and exercise critical thinking, know when to follow instructions, too, like when a task is straightforward or there’s little to be gained by questioning instruction.


10. Self-Motivation

Contrary to popular belief, self-motivation is actually nothing like inspiration. It doesn’t just shower down on you like rays of light from the heavens. In fact, motivation is more like a locomotor’s steam engine. Until you get the coals hot enough and the wheels start turning, you won’t go anywhere.


In the same way, the best way to motivate yourself is to start doing what you know needs to get done. It will be hard at first. You’ll have to keep at it until you’re “warmed up” like the coals in the engine of that locomotor. Once you start moving and have momentum, you’ll be able to stay motivated simply looking at the progress you’ve made.


The transition from high school to whatever comes next usually happens in the span of a few months. The bridge you cross to get there, though, represents an eternal climb. Assess where you are with each of these essential skills and then decide where you’ll devote your energy first. Which needs the most attention? What do you excel at already? Jewell Unlimited: Next Level offers high school students short, flexible courses to sharpen all of these essential skills and more, at www.jewellunlimited.com.


You won’t make it to the other side of the bridge without this full quiver of essential skills. So pick up your feet and make a positive step today.



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