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Why is Critical Thinking Important?

The ultimate goal of going to college is not just to get the degree, but to land a career as well. Obviously, employers want to make sure you are qualified for the job by having the appropriate degree, but they also need to know if you have the skill set too.

The top 5 skills employers look for include:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Professionalism and strong work ethic
  • Oral and written communications skills
  • Leadership

Why is Critical Thinking Important?

Critical thinking is necessary for almost every job. Employees need to be able to analyze evidence, question assumptions, test hypotheses, observe and draw conclusions from any form of data. Critical thinking is not just a skill, but a habit formed to help with problem-solving.

Although critical thinking can be taught in the classroom, it needs to be applied during studies and real-world experiences so you can make a habit of using critical thinking in your daily life. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, critical thinking skills are the top priority for an employer to hire someone. Although critical thinking skills are what employers desire and find most essential, the average employer thinks recent graduates are only “somewhat proficient” in critical thinking skills. This means that, while employers think critical thinking skills are 99.2% essential, only 55.8% of graduates are proficient.

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

By engaging in active learning, students will begin to apply critical thinking skills to their work. Active learning occurs through many opportunities. Whether it be a cooperative educational opportunity, an internship, practicums, labs, or field experience, active learning puts the students directly in the situation they would be handling in their career. By doing so, the student not only gains real-world experience but is able to put their problem-solving skills to the test and truly begin to develop them.

Critical thinking skills can also be developed through engaging students in learning during class. By being involved in class discussions, activities and engaging with other students and the professor, you will not only develop your problem-solving skills through collaboration but will also work on your teamwork skills.

The Importance of Teamwork & Collaboration in the Workplace

While college group projects at times might feel burdensome, these team assignments will prepare you for your future workplace environment. Teamwork is necessary for jobs all across the spectrum. From construction work to marketing, nursing to acting, teamwork and collaboration is a vital part to keeping the organization or company running smoothly.

By interacting and collaborating with your colleagues, the organization or company will have growth and success. Everyone has a different skill set they bring to the table. By interacting with your co-workers, you may reach a better conclusion or idea than you would have on your own. When arriving at your new career with quality teamwork skills already in your pocket, you can be a step ahead of the competition. Although critical thinking skills were something many employers thought graduates could improve on, teamwork and collaboration were skills most employers were highly impressed with. 97.5% of employers think teamwork and collaboration are important in the workplace while 77% believe that graduates are demonstrating these skills proficiently.

A few other reasons employers strive for graduates with teamwork skills is that those skills can promote unity in the workplace, teamwork can provide improved productivity, it promotes work synergy, and can provide new learning opportunities.

Professionalism & Strong Work Ethic

There is one thing every employer has in common: they want their employees to have a strong work ethic and be professional. No matter what job or career you find yourself in after graduation, your employer will expect you to have a strong professionalism and work ethic.

There is one characteristic every employer wants their employees to present: professionalism and a strong work ethic. No matter what job you find yourself in after graduation, your employer will expect you to have strong, professional social skills and a great work ethic. In the Employer Career Competencies survey, all employers rated “Professionalism/Work Ethic” as 100% essential, but stated that only 42.5% of employees exhibit these behaviors.

Developing Professional & Work Ethical Skills

Throughout your daily classes, activities and work schedule, you have opportunities to continue developing your professional skills. These skills can be developed through simple tasks such as being punctual and having a professional attitude. They also may be developed through more time-consuming tasks.

Some of these tasks may include finishing your work in an efficient and timely manner. People who practice strong work ethic  are less likely to procrastinate the task at hand are the first to step up and take on a new task. By having a professional attitude and strong work ethic, employers will be more interested in considering you for promotions, new jobs, or other positive outcomes.

Oral & Written Communication Skills

In this technological day and age, shooting a quick text to your friends or family may not include proper grammar, which in turn, can result in a decline in your written or oral communication skills. Another way your communication skills may decline is by the lack of face-to-face conversation. While being proficient in digital technology is necessary for many careers, technology should not be used as the only means of communication. This reduces the quality of face-to-face conversations in the workplace. These are also skills that many graduates can improve on. 95.9% of employers find communication skills essential, but they believe only 41.6% demonstrate efficiency in those skills.

Improving Oral Communication Skills

Over-communication is one area of improvement that is relatively simple to overcome. The simpler the message, the more likely the message is to be accurately received. Keep your message short, clear, and concise.

Another method of improving oral communication is by engaging your audience. By not only talking, but also by creating a conversation, you can better communicate your ideas and concepts as well as hear new ideas, questions, or various input.

Lastly, be a listener. To improve your skills and communicate effectively, you first and foremost must be a good listener. By genuinely listening to what others have to say, you are able to provide more thoughtful answers and comments.

Improving Written Communication Skills

In many careers, written communication skills are just as important as oral communication skills. You can start to improve your written communication skills by organizing your thoughts. When you are writing, proofread your work to see if it sounds jumbled, like your rambling or like the thoughts do not flow. If this is the case, try creating an outline for your work first, to make sure your thoughts are in a cohesive order, and then begin writing.

This will make your work seem more professional. Another simple issue may just be your own lack of confidence in your writing. If you feel stressed that what you are writing does not sound like quality work, use a program like be a listener or Microsoft’s “readability tool” to see how your work sounds, whether or not you have structural errors, and so forth.

By improving your communication skills, you will not only become a better associate but can become a better leader as well.

Leadership Skills

Although on 68.6% of employers are looking for graduates with quality leadership skills, most employers think only 33% of employees demonstrate leadership qualities. By combining critical thinking, teamwork, professionalism and work ethic, and communication skills, you can become a great leader in your workplace.

First, you have to find your leadership style. Once you identify your strengths and what your standards of excellence are, you can begin to develop your leadership style around those qualities. Once you have honed in on your leadership style, you have to begin creating a culture of self-reinforcing behavior and practices. When people see that you are enthusiastic and passionate about the work you are doing, they too get excited about their work. By creating this upbeat culture, productivity and workflow will increase. Alternatively, seeing lack of enthusiasm and passion will have the opposite impact on the workplace culture.

Developing Leadership Skills

Evaluating your skills and establishing areas of strengths and weaknesses to improve upon is the first step to landing your ideal career. By practicing and applying critical thinking, teamwork, professionalism and work ethic, oral and written communication, and leadership skills, you will become more desirable to many employers.

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