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7 skills to learn in college for big bucks

stack of books, a green apple and money
Highlights
  • Get a sense of the big picture so you can help solve problems.
  • Develop a strong work ethic and strong powers of concentration.
  • Know how to communicate and build good relationships with people.

Do you wonder what required skills you need for a high-paying job after college?

The key might actually be some of those practical traits you acquired while pursuing your diploma.

With college students, "50 percent of the learning for their career future is not happening in the classroom," says Bill Coplin, director of the public affairs program at Syracuse University and author of "10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College."

Students also hone career-boosting skills at the dorm, dining hall, fraternity or sorority house, after-school jobs and internships.

Scientific formulas and important historic events may be vital in some disciplines. But when it comes to snagging a big paycheck, you need to impress your next boss by mastering these seven required skills:

1. How to see the big picture

Chess players learn this early, as do successful athletes. When you move into the working world, it helps to see how one little task you do for your boss fits into the larger scheme of things for your employer.

"Being a systems thinker, being able to see the big picture makes you a better problem-solver," says Katharine Brooks, director of liberal arts career services at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of "You Majored in What?"

"Today's employers want people who have vision, people who can see where something is going, not just where it is right now," she says.

2. How to work hard

Everyone pictures college as the time to party. But in reality, for the typical college student, it's a period of vigorous hard work. And today's college students are balancing studies with extracurricular activities and, very often, jobs.

That strong work ethic will really pay off when it comes time to pursue a career.

"It sounds very traditional," says Brooks. But when you look at some high-paying fields, like medicine or investment banking, the jobs require long hours and are very intense, she says.

"Being able to work hard, have good powers of concentration and good focus," is important, Brooks says.

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3. Which subjects you're passionate about

Finding the topics that you're passionate about -- what you love to do and to study -- "is what will result in your commitment to the job," Brooks says.

"College is the time to experiment, to try out different interests and different career ideas, to learn what will work and what will not," she says.

That drive is what will bring you the big bucks. One key to success, Brooks says: Find the job you'd be willing to do for free.

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