I often mention (lecture) to students about essential skills before they head out in the real world jungle of challenges and opportunities. Below you will find the Seven Musts that I’ve come to realize myself over time:

  1. Speed Reading: I and two of my three adult kids took a course and swear by its merits in terms of increased personal productivity and self-satisfaction. This offering also usually includes comprehension, recall, and vocabulary building. There are many programs out there. I recommend the Institute of Reading Development (headquartered in Bethesda, MD). Some formats are just 10 hours on one weekend or a night a week for several weeks.
  2. Time Management: I recommend Alan Lakein’s small paperback book ‘How To Get Control Of Your Time And Your Life (Signet, 1973). Time is one of the few resources that we can be in control of. We’ve heard the perennial slogans ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’ and ‘failure to plan on your part doesn’t necessarily create an emergency on my part’. This skill will also alleviate stress in that you will have more time to do the things you both have to and want to do.
  3. Foreign Language: Hispanic origins (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain, South America, and Mexico) now make up more than 50% of the US population. Needless to say, you must pick up Spanish fluency. Spanish, unlike the difficulties in learning English, is coined a ‘phonetic’ language, i.e., it’s meant to be spoken out loud and actively listened to, in that it is somewhat easier to learn than English and some other languages. I am an Anglo and I’m semi-fluent in Spanish via the Berlitz Language Centers.
  4. World Geography: This subject must’ve skipped my developmental education requirement so I decided to take it at a community college a few years ago. I gained more than I bargained for because the course incorporated other disciplines as well such as history, culture, politics, geology, etc. It’s now great to point to a map and know where a certain country is situated and to prioritize my future vacations with some beforehand knowledge.
  5. Real Estate Finance: Also known as mortgages. Your primary home is the most important (and expensive) acquisition in your life. Did you know that a mortgage broker license in most states is a mere 24 hours of education (usually Friday-Sunday, 8 hours a day), an end of course exam, a state exam, and a few hundred dollars outlay? That’s it! And now you’ll feel confident when interacting with bankers, negotiating the terms and conditions of your own residence and other real estate investments. In addition, family and friends will come to rely on and trust you for your professional advice and, best of all, it only takes one deal to close to make your initial outlay back and then some.
  6. Communication & Networking: Whether we like to hear it or not the world revolves around making contacts, i.e., ‘who you know and not so much what you know’. Andrea Nierenberg (Nonstop Networking, 2002) is the network queen. she has spent a lifetime full-time networking. Her contact database that she still keeps in close touch with is in the thousands. The science of mneumonics deals with memory recall. People love hearing to be called by their first name. Start practicing remembering peoples’ first names by associating some characteristic or trait about them right after you first meet them and then revisit their first name in your mind the very next morning to solidify your memory. Flawless communication skills (oral, written, and presentation) are necessary to thrive in the real world. Take a public speaking course and/or join Toastmasters International to practice your speeches in front of others. Take an English composition course. Read often and everything (you’ll be able to do this after a speed reading course) and it doesn’t hurt to have a pocket dictionary around to look up the context a word is used in immediately in order to confirm understanding. Brush up on all the available features of Powerpoint including graphics, sound, timing, and animation to delight audiences. Steve Jobs is the king of powerfully rehearsed presentations. You’re only as good as your last presentation that people will remember and want to return to hear you again.
  7. Health & Fitness: Get in the habit of going for an annual physical exam to make sure you’re ok. Eat right, exercise moderately, and get sufficient sleep. Staying on top of this one will make doing the above 6 a whole lot easier.

Congratulations on graduating college!