Using Your Academic Skills in a Career

You’ve spent a lot of years studying now. And probably without really noticing, you have developed your academic skills quite considerably – regardless of what stage you are at in your school career. This blog is going to look at using your academic skills in a career and how they could be also useful for you in future careers. And not just as a teacher, researcher or lecturer – although obviously this could be one of the first careers that comes to mind. Turning academic success at school into career success isn’t just a case of getting good results – obviously! The skills you have developed to get these grades will be just as useful outside of the ‘school gates’ as inside.

So what are academic skills? Cardiff Met university suggests ‘academic skills are made up of core skills, such as academic writing, presentation skills and referencing, which underpin more complex skills, such as critical thinking and reflective practice’ ( Another way of identifying academic skills is to view them as the strategies and habits that help you succeed at school. So ones like time management, organisational skills, collaboration and problem solving. I’m sure you can see how all these skills, and others, will be really important for a range of professional careers.

Here are six academic skills to improve your employability.

1) Self Reflection

This isn’t about over analysing yourself and your faults! But thinking through what you find difficult, or easy, what motivates you and how best you work will all help. For instance, when do you produce your best home work? Is it late at night when the house is quiet, with a deadline the next morning? Or do you work best in small bursts, when you are fitting in homework around your other commitments?  Knowing how you work best will really help in the future, as well as now!

2) Time Management

How good are you at managing your time? Do you leave everything to the last minute or are you good at planning ahead, to make good use of your time? For a lot of professional jobs, you will have some autonomy about how you achieve your work objectives – alongside client or team commitments.

3) Presentation skills

Some people seem natural at this. Natural or not, with practise, you can improve! Part of this is ‘breaking down’ how to do this better. Some of it is in the preparation, knowing your content well rather than having to rely on notes or powerpoint slides. Also, doing things like making eye contact with people you are presenting to, making sure you ‘dress for success’ to give yourself confidence and practising beforehand will all help. Even successful stand up comedians and university outreach staff whose jobs revolve around presenting do get better over time.

4) Collaboration

Whether you end up working on a new vaccine, legal case, design engineering or something else, you are likely to have to collaborate with other people. Even computer programmers do – regardless of the myth around them working on their own in work cubicles! This will involve multiple skills like listening, communicating your ideas and taking constructive criticism. Quite often this is how good ideas are turned into practical solutions, in response to all sorts of work issues.

5) Communication Skills

How good are you at listening to others? Do you tend to just wait until its your turn to talk or do you actively listen to what’s being said? How good are you at clearly expressing your thoughts or ideas? Or do you just shrug your shoulders and give minimal answers? Actively listening to other people can actually be quite tiring, but will give you a chance to really understand what someone is trying to say. And if you aren’t great yet at expressing your own ideas – why not practise this? For instance with the sports team you play with, or Duke of Edinburgh group you are with?

6) Research Skills

This isn’t just about developing scientific knowledge! Being able to research well and use primary sources effectively is useful in a variety of roles, from journalism, criminal investigations and sports nutrition. Being able to find and then interpret information and apply it to a given situation is really important in most careers – and you are developing these skills whilst you are studying.

Having read this list, how would you rate yourself for each? No one is going to be equally good at all of them. The good thing is that you can develop these skills further, with practise. There are other academic skills, which haven’t been mentioned here, if you’d like to see how these relate to your future career why not take a look at  

And if you do a degree in the future – either full time or as part of an apprenticeship, you will develop these skills further then too. In fact most universities will offer you support to do this, for example

So, now that you know your academic skills will have some use outside of the classroom, does that motivate you to intentionally use them more fully now?

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