Translating academic skills into career skills

You’ve studied hard, received good grades, completed graduate school, and then you find yourself out there trying to convert essay writing skills and exam taking skills into professional skills in the workplace. So are all those academic skills relevant to your professional life?


I’d definitely say, “Yes!” 


In fact,I wrote about my own transition from being a scholar and educator on the tenure track to suddenly finding myself at the helm of a start up! And in this article profiling me for the University of Toronto, (where I completed 3 of my 4 university degrees) I said: “As an entrepreneur, I have a strong sense of resilience, which I developed at U of T – I learned if I found myself in a demanding situation, I could rise to the challenge.” And what I was trying to get at with that idea was the notion that school-based skills can definitely translate into real-life skills or other professional skills needed on the job, regardless of your major.


I didn’t get an “A” in resilience or anything like that, and the things I did get an “A” in (such as essay writing) aren’t what I do in my day-to-day job. However, that sense of being able to pick myself up after some harsh feedback or manage my time when I had to juggle a job, school work, and my social life are the skills of resilience that serve me well in my professional life.


Now that I’m a boss rather than a student or educator, I am on the other side of things and can share with you five key skills that you’ve probably developed in school, that you might not necessarily have noticed, that are very valuable in the workplace.

  1. Stick-to-it-iveness:  Sometimes the only thing between passing and failing a course is just sticking with it, plodding along day in and day out. Those who learn the skill of sticking to something a.k.a perseverance in school will take that skill of sticking to something in the workplace. 

  2. Speaking Well: If you’ve ever had to do a presentation in class, deliver a speech, or discuss a topic one-on-one with your teacher or professor, and you took advantage of those opportunities to be good at speaking, then you’re developing a key “soft skill” that is highly valued in the workplace.

  3. Writing Well:  While you may have dreaded the various in-class writing assignments, exams with long answers, or research papers, if you know how to write for school, then you know how to write for the office. Organise your thoughts, write a first draft, polish it off, and finalise your writing; whether you do that for school or work, the process is the same!

  4. Getting Things Done:  If you develop the habit of putting your assignments into your calendar and planning your time accordingly – balancing the various demands of school, work, fun, etc. – then you will have developed the time management skills necessary to juggle the various competing demands of any workplace where there are no extensions. 

  5. Just Showing Up:  If you’ve learned how to show up to class, show up to office hours, show up to labs, and just generally be present for your school experience, then you have developed another key professional skill (read our blog on “Just Showing Up”) because on the job you must show up for work, meetings, calls, and appointments as scheduled.

You probably didn’t even notice that as you learned all sorts of material through your schooling experience, you probably picked up those 5 key professional skills that bosses are looking for and expecting. And if you haven’t yet mastered those top 5 skills…well, it’s never too late to learn!


The bonus skill that I want to add here at the end is NETWORKING. I’ve made some fantastic contacts and friends through networking who have opened professional doors for me, including the door we walked through when we sold our company to Wize, a bigger and better EdTech company. You can read more about that here.

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