School Is Cool: 6 Important Career Skills You Learn From Pre-school to College


For most of us, our earliest school memories include getting basic lessons on things like the alphabet, simple math and getting used to being away from our moms. And while those pre-school to grade school-level memories are likely pretty different from your current life as a working adult, a lot of those early learning lessons impact your career success in a big way, whether you realize it or not. The same can be said for college and beyond, too.

We can all probably agree that the subjects we study in college (usually!) contribute to the direction our careers will take in general. But if you think about it further, there are actually quite a few other things you learn in the academic setting that, while unrelated to the major you picked, still end up being very important career skills.

Here are 6 important career skills you learn from pre-school to college, that you might not have even realized that you did:

Communication Skills

Having the know-how to clearly communicate ideas to others who have different perspectives than you is one of the most powerful drivers of success. And students who take the time to talk with teachers and fellow students improve this skill and take it with them into the work world. For example: need to send an email to your manager about needing to push a deadline? Think about what you might have said to a professor for extending a due date on that homework. 

Also remember that communication is a two-way street. Knowing how to share your position or opinion is just one part – it helps to have sharp listening skills, too. Hearing what another person is saying helps you build a stronger case for your opinions, as well as bond with the person talking. Ultimately, strong communication skills are something you begin learning throughout your school years and those lessons stay valuable in the long run career-wise.

Some great food for thought: the companies that ranked best on kununu (by their own employees) were way better at “communication” than those that performed worse, which just further proves how important communication skills are in your career:

  • Among highest rated companies on kununu (4 stars or higher), the average rating for “communication” is 4.08 stars
  • Among lowest rated companies on kununu (2 stars or less), the average rating for “communication” is 1.05 stars

Time Management

There will always be tons of ways to slack off and have fun. And it’s totally ok to do those things! Just not all the time.

Students who learn how to balance studying and class work with participation in organizations and non-profits, and social events build an important skill set – balance. Focusing on just one part of college life won’t make you a well-rounded person. Instead, learning how to manage all of them well sets your up for a successful, productive career long-term.

Collaboration Skills

Except for a handful of really lonely jobs, most people don’t work by themselves all of the time. And even if you’re the type to want to just “do it all yourself”, it pays to learn how to be a valued team asset and work cohesively within a group of individuals who have different perspectives and ideas than your own. This is exactly the type of thing you learn during those days (and nights) of  school team sports and group projects.

The bottom line is that once you’re in the work world, collaboration with other coworkers is inevitable.  Developing a good attitude, especially towards people you don’t necessarily like personally but have to work closely with, is truly priceless in building a successful career. 

How to Learn from Failure

While it’s tempting to only take on easy projects that you know you can tackle, that’s no way to learn, grow and challenge yourself. The only way to push yourself to your full potential is to take on difficult (yet meaningful) challenges that in reality have a chance of failure. This is true both in the school setting and in the work setting.

Clever students dig into bad grades or poor performance to understand what went wrong. It’s taking steps like this that helps build knowledge and prepares you to better tackle similar future situations. On the other hand, chalking shortcomings up to someone else’s fault or unfair teachers sets your career up to sputter once you get into the real word.

Leadership Skills

The earlier you take on leadership roles, the more prepared you will be for different leadership dynamics in the work world. College organizations, committees, and non-profit roles all offer great opportunities to work on leadership traits. And also, securing a mentor is another priceless way to learn about the attitude and thoughts of a good leader.

Whether you need to figure out how to effectively lead and motivate a couple of team members or an entire department or company, just remember that leadership skills don’t just magically appear on the job – they likely started taking shape while you were in school. 

Ability to Accept Change

If you looked for a common trait among all failed careers and companies, one of those would definitely be failure to adapt. In school, students have to deal with new classes, instructors, living arrangements, and a variety of people. Learning to ride the ebb and flow of life and seeing change as an opportunity instead of a threat benefits you greatly down the road. Positively handling changes in management, duties, and co-workers build your reputation as a can-do team player, and does more for your career than straight A’s ever could.


Key takeaways:

  • Valuable school lessons reach beyond books and the classroom.
  • Your school memories can benefit you long after you’ve graduated if you think about them through the right lens.
  • Make the of what you learned at school by working to incorporate the above career skills and lessons to your day-to-day work-life


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