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The transferrable skills your student leaders should be learning – and how to strengthen them

January 24th, 2018 by Amanda Bradley

Anyone who has ever been tasked with planning and executing any kind of campus event knows it’s no easy task. That is why we are continuously impressed with the creativity and hard work of the many student leaders we work with across the country.

 It often can be easy to forget that these individuals are not employees, but students. As students, they are doing far more than just providing entertainment for your student body with each event. They are building crucial skills that they will be able to apply to their future careers. While it is important to get your programming done on time, it is equally important to make sure you are finding ways to sharpen your students’ skill sets along the way. Here are five transferrable skills that every student leader should be building:


Problem Solving Skills

No matter how talented of an event planner you are, there are bound to be a few hurdles or mishaps you weren’t expecting. Students can learn a lot from these situations and apply the knowledge gained in any future career path.  Is there instinct to panic, or do they immediately rush to the first resolution without thinking it through? Do they tell their advisor right away hoping he or she will fix it, or do they try to fix the problem hoping no one notices? These can be the gut instinct when a problem arises, and none of them are a super great response.

Advisors – spend some time during training or a staff meeting discussing various scenarios and allowing the students to talk out what they think would be the most appropriate solution. This way, if it ever happens for real they can react calmly and with confidence. Also, I would encourage you not to jump in and solve the problem for them. Act as a sounding board, guide them in the right direction, and provide feedback along the way.


Communication Skills

 Think back to when you were a freshman or sophomore in college. Did you know how to write a professional email? The number of inquiries we receive that read more like a text messages than in email (emojis included) would surprise you. Even more shocking is the number of students who practically have a phobia of making a phone call.

The ability to communicate professionally and efficiently, both in writing and orally, is an important skill that does not come easy to all.  Have your student leaders practice calling vendors or sending important emails. We are always happy to do some mock phone calls with students who are nervous or need a little practice. 


Time Management Skills

Students are busy. I get tired just thinking about how these students are taking classes, doing homework, holding one or more student leadership positions, participating in other clubs, activities, or employment all while keeping an active social life.  Good time management is key to getting it all done to the best of their ability and maybe also squeezing in some sleep (a girl can dream).

Check in with students on a regular basis to make sure they are keeping up with their tasks. If you see that they are becoming overwhelmed, spend some time developing a schedule and setting priorities before picking up the slack yourself or assigning another student to help. It is also important to teach students that it is OK to say they are overwhelmed and to ask for help when it is needed rather than trying to power through on their own.


Teamwork Skills

Teamwork might seem like an easy skill any person who ever worked on a group project or played a team sport would have mastered. But there is a lot more that goes into being a real team player.

One way to work on teamwork skills is pairing individuals with different personality types. It can be easier for someone who is a natural leader and a natural follower to work together. But what happens when two strong personalities have to put on a program together? Being able to adapt to any situation and work with varying personalities is a difficult skill most people are still learning.


Leadership Skills

This one might seem like a given – they are student leaders after all. However, being in a position of leadership does not necessarily mean the student has leadership skills. This skill includes having the ability delegate tasks and motivate a group.

Do your student leaders set goals and actionable steps to achieve them? Are they able to assign tasks and motivate a team towards completing a goal? Do they keep a positive attitude and serve as a role model for other members of the group or individuals outside of your organization? Acquiring these valuable traits are just a few of the ways your students can be on their way to a successful future. 

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