College Skills Translate to the Office

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You might be surprised by how well some of the tricks you learned to get through college apply to the real working world.

The Wall Street Journal explores how soft skills are often as important to employers as your academic background. Did you study until the wee hours of the morning? Were you instant messaging friends and watching TV at the same time? You may not have realized it, but you were demonstrating an ability to manage a tight schedule, Joan Brannick, an organizational psychologist in Tampa, told the newspaper.

The trick lies in translating those student lifestyle knacks into business language. For example, class projects might be described as "cross team collaboration," using MySpace is "connecting with customers through new technologies" and studying abroad becomes "global exposure and cultural savvy." Such word- smithing comes from Warren Ashton, a recruiting manager for Microsoft, who created a useful guide to such translations for the article. (It's appended to the end.)

But, the Journal cautions, don't oversell your soft skills at the expense of your core talents:

Manny Fernandez, national managing partner of campus recruiting for KPMG LLP in New York, appreciates applicants who are able to process large amounts of information and tackle several projects at once. He notes that entry-level employees at the audit, tax and advisory firm often have to work on multiple client projects and must be able to manage their own time while coordinating with colleagues and clients.

William Hankers says that when he interviewed for accounting jobs last May, he stressed to recruiters that he had juggled a full load of classes and held an executive board seat at an accounting fraternity while maintaining an academic scholarship. Now a staff accountant at Ernst & Young in New York, the 22-year-old says he's now using his time-management skills to perform his job as he studies for the CPA exam.