Are you ready for your next step? It’s a question that incites many emotions, but you’re always preparing for what’s next in one way or another. Being ready for college or a career requires internal drive; you have this, but you may not be sure where to point it.

The good news is that you don’t need all the answers today about what to pursue. What’s important right now is discovering what you’re passionate about and using this insight to plot your next steps. Employers, educational institutions and career coaches call this being college- and career-ready. But what does it mean to be college- and career-ready?

It sounds like a buzz phrase, but it has relevance. Let’s take a look at what it means and why skills and attitude are critical.


What Does It Mean To Be College-Ready?

College readiness is a part of education reform, and the ACT even has specific standards to classify someone as college-ready. These standards pertain to proficiency in math, English, science, reading and writing and can have an impact on success. 

Educational milestones are important for college readiness, but there’s more to achieving college readiness than hitting the books. Being college-ready is about being prepared to thrive in college and develop the skills and tools that will lead to a positive and meaningful experience.


What Does It Mean To Be Career-Ready?

Career readiness also emphasizes knowledge and skills in core academic areas. However, there are skills outside this framework that matter, including communicating, solving problems, analyzing information and using research to make informed decisions. Preparing for your career involves training and gaining the soft skills necessary to be successful.


What Does It Mean To Be College and Career Ready?

As a combination of the above, college and career readiness means having the knowledge, soft skills and hard skills that will set you up for success in future education or employment. In this 21st-century work environment, applicants for both must be lifelong learners and have a solid skills foundation for success. 


5 Must-Have Soft Skills To Be College- and Career-Ready 

Most of today’s modern in-demand jobs require education beyond high school. This education provides the foundation you need to do the technical aspects of a job. But you also need transferable skills that will help you throughout your career. Focus on these five:

  1. Self Motivation
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Communication
  4. Applying What You Learn
  5. Perseverance 


1. Self-Motivation

Once you leave high school, you are the key to your own success. You’re responsible for managing your schedule, prioritizing assignments and making decisions about your physical and mental well-being. 


Your growth and ambitions are affected by your choices. Cultivate your motivation by:

  • Defining what your priorities are and why.
  • Setting work-life goals and tracking your progress.
  • Finding ways to take the initiative in class, at work or in groups.


Being self-motivated is essential in college, in training and at work. Professors tend to appreciate self-motivated students, your peers will know that you can be counted on and, maybe most importantly, employers like to hire self-starters.


2. Critical Thinking

As a critical thinker, you deeply engage with information. You research and find facts to prove or disprove a theory or thought. As a result, you can be ready to provide informed opinions and explain how you reached them. This is a key skill for education and employment, helping with tasks such as writing research papers and developing strategies for business initiatives. 


3. Communication

Strong communicators excel verbally and nonverbally at getting across their point or message and are also great listeners. You’ll need to hone these skills — they will serve you well in any career. 

To become a better communicator, learn about different communication styles — how you interact with others — to understand how others perceive you. By recognizing the characteristics of these styles, you can more effectively interact. There are four main types:

  • Passive: Being a passive communicator means you don’t readily express feelings or needs and instead defer to others. Passive communicators often aren’t clear about their opinions, which can cause misunderstandings.
  • Aggressive: An aggressive communicator airs all their feelings and ideas, sometimes at the expense of others. This style can be alienating because aggressive communicators may appear hostile or defensive. 
  • Passive-aggressive: This style appears passive, but underneath, there are aspects of indirect communication or avoidance of topics. Passive-aggressive communicators often don’t consider the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Assertive: An assertive communicator is direct and honest. They respect the feelings of others but aren’t afraid to voice dissenting opinions. 


Most people use a mix of these styles in communication. It depends on the context and purpose of the conversation. Determine how you communicate and how those around you communicate so that you can make adjustments. You can make huge gains in your communication skills by:


4. Applying What You Learn

Consider how any knowledge you obtain can improve your career path. Pursue internships, part-time jobs or other programs that help you integrate what you know into real-life scenarios.


5. Perseverance

You’re likely already developed perseverance, considering the number of once-in-a-generation events you’ve faced. Whether at work or at school, you’ll need to overcome challenges. Your ability to persevere will help you learn from your mistakes and continue to grow.


Attitude’s Role in College and Career Readiness

“Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% of how I react to it.” Circumstances are often outside your control, but you can adapt your attitude. It’s more valuable than experience.

Cultivating a resilient attitude involves several things that coincide with people skills, including a willingness to learn, self-direct and adapt to changing environments. If you’re determined, you’ll be more agile and ready for what comes next.

Skills and attitude are the future of college and career readiness. Developing them can take you on many paths, whether that’s to a traditional college, a technical program, on-the-job training or specific skill courses. Deciding which path to take depends upon your passion, attributes, skills and goals. The resources to explore your options are available through pepelwerk. 


Create Your Path to College and Career Readiness with pepelwerk

Your path to college and career readiness is uniquely your own. Foster your skills and attitude for success with support from pepelwerk and our Real World of Work Program. It’s a new approach to college and career readiness designed for today’s modern learners. Explore how it works today.


Change the way you job seek — or you’ll keep repeating the cycle of applications.