9 Life Skills to Learn Before You Graduate

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With certain life skills, you will be able to navigate any work-related situation, no matter how challenging, and you should try to acquire all nine of them before you graduate. If you can learn to be independent, ask for advice, take feedback, be prepared, say "no" to fun, be assertive, ask for help, solve problems and think critically, and manage your time, your odds of succeeding in your career will significantly increase.

Learn to Be Independent

When you are a student, it is very easy—too easy—to rely on your parents to navigate through any rough waters on your behalf. Many moms and dads are willing to do this even when their children are already adults and living away from home. Don't let them. We're talking about bad grades and roommate problems, or similar situations—nothing life-threatening. Find out what channels to go through to solve the problem, come up with a plan, and move forward.

Why Should You Do This? When you are working, you will have to advocate for yourself. Learn to do this early, and you will be a pro by the time you begin your first job.

Learn to Ask for Advice

Being self-reliant doesn't mean you can't ask for advice from your teachers and parents. As an independent person, you can evaluate everyone's guidance and then decide whether to use it.

Why Should You Do This? Learning how to ask your parents and teachers for input will get you accustomed to asking mentors for advice once you are working. As it is with your parents and teachers, you will evaluate that advice and decide whether to take it.

Learn to Take Feedback

From time to time, your teachers may criticize your performance. Even if you don't like it, use that feedback to improve your performance. Generally, it's meant to help you, not put you down.

Why Should You Do This? Learning to take feedback—or even criticism—can help you get through a poor performance review if you ever get one. Your boss may not be as well-meaning as your teachers, but use the critique to improve how you do your work.

Learn To Be Prepared

Whether in high school or college, get into the habit of always coming to class prepared. Read any material your teacher or professor assigns before showing up to class. Bring with you any work that is due, including rough drafts of papers that your instructor has offered to look over.

Why Should You Do This? Your boss will expect you always to be prepared to do your job.

Learn To Say "No" to Fun

It can be tempting to go to a good party even when it's the night before an early morning class. You may think being tired in the morning—or hungover—won't matter, but it will hinder your performance. Sometimes you may have to turn down an invitation even if it looks like a lot of fun.

Why Should You Do This? While it may not be too difficult to hide in the back of the classroom when feeling out of sorts, it is less likely you will be able to do that at work. Being tired or hungover is not an adequate excuse for missing work or not performing when you are there.

Learn to Be Assertive

Stand up for yourself when someone treats you unfairly. For example, talk to your professor or teacher about a grade that is lower than the one you think you earned. Explain the problem clearly and share proof that backs up your claim. It may not always work, so be ready to accept defeat or prepare to take your complaint through the proper channels to get it resolved.

Why Should You Do This? At some point, you will have to ask your boss for a raise or promotion, or you might not get what you deserve.

Learn to Ask for Help

Ask your professor or teacher for help completing an assignment if you need it. Take advantage of tutoring and attend extra help sessions.

Why Should You Do This? Although employers don't provide tutoring and extra help sessions, ask your colleagues or boss for help if you don't understand an assignment. Mistakes can be costly and will delay the completion of a project.

Learn to Solve Problems and Think Critically

Instead of waiting for someone else to fix a problem, figure out how to do it. It will strengthen your problem solving and critical thinking skills. First, identify the problem, then brainstorm possible solutions, and finally evaluate them and choose the best one. The more practice you get, the better you will become at it.

Why Should You Do This? Most employers value these skills and, in life in general, it is hard to get by without them.

Learn to Manage Your Time

There is a lot of work to do in high school and even more in college. Turn in projects and assignments on time or your teacher may subtract points from your grade. Prepare for exams in advance because cramming is less effective. Once you learn to manage your time, it will be less stressful to complete school work.

Why You Should Do This? Your boss will expect you to complete all projects on time. It will be less stressful if you don't have to rush to do it.