Six Skills Students Should Master Before Graduation (Part 1)

I spoke to a faculty member recently about last year’s graduating class. We focused on two students in particular because they represented such a contrast. While both graduated with honors, only one was ready for the career that awaited her. The other…not so much. Although he carried a 3.7 GPA, he was ill-prepared for life after school. In fact, he is living at home, still looking for work.


When kids learn to play basketball, their coach always tells them to learn the fundamentals first: pass, dribble and shoot. Students need someone to help them in the same way, as they play the game of life. What are the fundamental skills we should master to be effective? I began asking myself this question years ago as I raised my own children. Over time, I began to focus on six.

1. Know Yourself.

Identity is a fluid issue, but I believe students can and should have a strong sense of who they are by the time they graduate. In contrast, there is nothing more pitiful than a sixty-year old man or woman still trying to figure out who they are. Do I wear pucca shells around my neck?  Do I dress cool?  What should I do with my career? Where are my strengths?  What are my weaknesses?  Where do I make the greatest contribution? When we are still fuzzy on this issue, we can slip into survival mode, rather than live on mission. Dr. Joyce Someone once said,You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.” In fact, I believe the phrase, “Our worst sins arise out of our innate fear that we are nobody” is more accurate than we may realize.

Ingredients in Discovering Who You Are…

What are your major life themes?

1. Burdens
What are you compelled to do?
6. Weaknesses
What should you avoid?
2. Strengths
What are your primary abilities?
7. Results
What are your most fruitful tasks?
3. Personality
What is your temperament?
8. Fulfillment
What is most satisfying to you?
4. Hallmarks
What are your past milestones?
9. Themes
What are your major life themes?
5. Affirmation
What do others affirm in you?
10. Dreams
What’s your vision for the future?

2. Develop Your Gift

Each of us has a primary “motivational gift.” It is the “hub” gift around which all of our other gifts revolve. It is the ability that we do better than most people. If we get to use it on a given day, it often wakes us up in the morning. Do you know yours?

Most people spend the majority of their time working on their weaknesses and little time sharpening their strengths. Inherently, it seems logical, but the problem is that you’ll never get a weakness beyond average. And people don’t pay for “average.” Marcus Buckingham defines a “strength” as consistent, near-perfect performance in an activity. So, here’s my question: What are your strengths, motivational gifts, natural talents, and acquired skills? If you are someone who is still looking to define these things, it’s good to know that in your gift area, you are usually at your most:

  • Intuitive
  • Productive
  • Comfortable
  • Satisfied
  • Influential

3. Find Your Passion

By this, I mean we must identify the issue that fires us up on the inside, the one that motivates us more than anything else. I believe everyone is hard-wired with at least one passion; some have more than one. Most develop and change over time. Sadly, many people never discover any passions. Their life proceeds without zest or zeal, and they live a life of maintenance rather than adventure. I have found:

  • Passion is that little extra that divides ordinary people from extraordinary ones.
  • Passion becomes a motivator and accountability partner for your highest goals.
  • Passion prevents you from getting comfortable and settling for average results.
  • Passion will make up for what you lack in resources.
  • Passion Often Emerges in this sequence of steps…
    • An interest in your life as a hobby
    • A major theme in your conversations
    • A preoccupation in your thoughts and plans
    • A major consumer of your time, talent and money
    • An issue for which you become known and  make sacrifices for

“If you don’t get what you want in life, it is either a sign you didn’t want it bad enough, or that you tried to bargain over a price.”  (Rudyard Kipling)

Tomorrow, I will share the other three skills I believe students should master before they graduate. Talk to you then.

Join the celebration for the 10th Anniversary of Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits & Attitudes!


Six Skills Students Should Master Before Graduation (Part 1)