Everyday skills for success

Everyday skills for success

Jaime Christensen's Layout avatar

“Why are we doing this?” I hear this question more than I’d like from my middle school students. After spending some time in local businesses during an internship for educators this  summer, I’ll be prepared to tackle this question with much more confidence… “Because it WILL prepare you for the real world.” There are some things in the journalism classroom we do simply for the sake of getting things done, like designing layout pages for our school yearbook. But there are other things we do to make sure all of those young people can make a happy transition from middle school to real life…while these things may not exactly be crowd favorites, they are essential skills for success we all need for real life.

Be a Team Player!

There are times we all will be placed in groups with people we may not necessarily WANT to work or play with. While this may take you temporarily out of your comfort zone, it is a fact of life. Graphic designers interact with systems analysts, software engineers interact with finance professionals, and software developers work with human resources professionals daily, and the list goes on and on. All have the intent of building off of each other’s knowledge to accomplish a larger goal. These people don’t get to pick each other, they just do it. It doesn’t matter if we necessarily like them, love them, or don’t care either way about them, it’s an expectation in the real world.


Approach working on teams with a positive attitude in order to maximize results.

Failing isn’t THAT Bad…

Sometimes things don’t work like we had planned. And that’s okay. Take a step back, reassess the situation, and try again.

It’s been refreshing hearing people talk about dissecting code and trying new lines of commands over and over again until they got it right. That’s where the real learning happens. If you just keep playing around, great things just may happen!

Try multiple solutions to solve your problems and think outside the box, you’ll get there eventually.

Play Nice

It’s a small world! Even though you may find someone super annoying and want to start ripping hair out, fake it. You never know when you’re going to see that person again; they could be your next boss, boyfriend’s sister, or potential client. As a teacher of middle schoolers, many times my life would have been MUCH less drama-filled if I let students form their own partnerships…sorry, there are reasons for my meanness – practice niceness!

That demanding client you’re dealing with may have tons of great connections you’ll want to get your hands on, so keep that relationship strong!

Rankings are Good…PRIORITIZE!

Being overwhelmed can sometimes make you want to quit everything and just do nothing at all. Instead of succumbing to this unhelpful desire, create a list of everything you need to accomplish, no matter how big or small the task. Next, go through each item and rank its importance. Think about deadlines, the amount of time a task will take to be finished, and who is depending on the task being completed. Start ranking your list and get to work.


Don’t forget to cross those items off as you finish them. It’s almost as good of a feeling as hearing your favorite song come on the radio seconds after you change the station.

Collaboration is Key

Working with others to get the job done happens everywhere. From designing a webpage for a client to completing a writing project for a teacher, constant collaboration is a necessity. I’ve had fully completed assignments turned in before that made me question if I was speaking the same language when I gave my directions.

Have frequent checkpoints with your client or coworker. Get clarification. Ask questions when you need to – it can save tons of time and frustration in the end.

Know Your Stuff!

Research! Use your resources to help you get the information you need. Before meeting with a potential client or employer, make sure you have the background information needed to create a lasting impression. Dropping a lot of little known details in your interactions is a great way to impress and make yourself a top candidate.


Instead of asking a client who their largest competitor is, KNOW who their largest competitor is. These details can help you seal the deal!

Break it Down!

Make your projects more manageable by breaking it down into smaller, more tangible items. Every year my class starts out with a project…create the school yearbook by the last week in March. To successfully accomplish this project we hit the ground running at the beginning of the school year. First, we break it down into many tiny sections, and identify roles for all group members. We make extensive use of a calendar, establish firm deadlines, and stick to them. By establishing the scope of the project upfront and getting all members on board, this overwhelming monster of a project transforms into a friendly pet in no time.

From freelancing to being part of a larger team, identifying the appropriate project management style for you can make life much happier.

Each year with careful planning and hard work, my students leave with two things they will keep with them for life: the yearbook they worked so hard on all year long and the skills needed to be an awesome coworker, the best client ever, a favorite employee, or quite simply just a generally good human being.

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