Academic Personal Professional Development Study Skills Education Essay

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My name is Dimitrios Zisopoulos. I was born in Athens, Greece but I have been living in the United Kingdom for the last 3 years. I am currently studying BSc Business Information Technology in Swansea Metropolitan University, Wales. From a young age I have been interested in computers, both software and hardware. When the time came to choose which path to follow, I was certain that technology was the right choice. In order to achieve my goal, I knew that I would have to acquire certain skills and attributes that would make my way to become an IT specialist easier. Setting that goal in mind, I have been trying to better myself in a personal and academic field.

I consider myself a confident university student, acknowledged as reliable. I have learned to accept personal responsibility of various projects assigned and think of myself to demonstrate a fast and logical approach to problem-solving. I possess good interpersonal skills and excellent teamwork. Since I love the subject I am studying, I am very energetic. I also consider myself to have quite good understanding of the subject and a rapid learner, even in areas beyond my knowledge. Finally, I enjoy new challenges, I am open to new ideas and adapt easily to new tasks.

2 - Skills Evaluation

I. Skills required for successful High Education learning

In order to be successful in both academia and professional life, a student has to possess a number of transferable skills. There is not one skill that is considered to be essential but rather a combination of them. These skills lead to excellence and are partly necessary to increase employability. Developing skills for succeeding at a university employs a mechanism and a series of practical methodologies which aim at raising your level of achievement, of keeping your focus on the targets you have defined in the learning process. Achieving both good grades and a high level of knowledge passed out at the university increases your chances of getting a job even if the course studied is not so popular in the labour market. The skills one must have in order to do that are divided into 5 categories. [1] [Figure 1 & 2]

Personal Development

Assertiveness

The ability of expressing your rights/needs in a constructive and positive way.

Self-Development/Survival Skills

Activities, study and tasks undertaken by students voluntarily in order to increase their level of self-knowledge.

Interpersonal Skills

Interactive

The ability that enables you to interact more with the community of a university, participate.

Teamwork

The ability to collaborate with a group of people in order to achieve a common goal.

Management/Leadership

The ability to act as a leader, take responsibilities and manage a group of individuals.

Communication Skills (Visual, Written and Verbal)

The ability to effectively convey your point using visual, written or verbal ways, such as presentations, constructing reports using formal language and the ability to converse confidently.

Technical Skills

Numeracy

Ability to use and work with figures.

Computing skills

The ability to be able to use modern technology to help you study.

Creative

The ability to be creative, "think outside the box".

Intellectual Skills

Problem-Solving

The ability to use your analytical and critical thinking skills in order to come up with various ways of approaching and resolving a problem

II. Skills required for successful Employability

Since university is a warming up session for your career, many of the skills already acquired during academic years are also essential for successful employability. It is widely understandable that every company is looking for a variety of mixed skills and experience. However, in today's world, it is no longer enough to be able to provide the company with your expertise in your field since there are a majority of people who can provide as much as you do. On the other hand, it is possible to enhance your academically required qualifications, by acquiring the following skills which will give that extra that is needed to be above the average of the candidates going after the same position as you do. [2]

1. Strong Work Ethic

The ability to be honest and accountable in the job.

2. Positive Attitude

The ability to be optimistic even in the most difficult situations so as to improve the workplace environment.

3. Good Communication Skills

The ability to communicate efficiently with your co-workers, to express needs and requests in a productive way.

4. Time Management Abilities

Just like in academic years, the ability to effectively manage your time, goes a long way with your employer.

5. Problem-Solving Skills

The ability to provide a solution to a problem, looking at it from different angles and choosing the most appropriate way without affecting the working environment.

6. Acting as a Team Player

The ability to work for the common good and to be leader when the situation requires you to.

7. Self-Confidence

To be confident and to be able to freely express your ideas without the fear of criticism.

8. Ability to Accept and Learn From Criticism

9. Flexibility/Adaptability

The ability to adapt to new situations and rise up to the challenges.

10. Working Well Under Pressure

The ability to meet your goals and complete your tasks despite being under pressure (e.g. deadlines)

III. Positive attributes and areas for improvement and enhancement.

A. Positive Attributes

One of the many positive attributes that I have is my ability to be able to communicate with people that come from different backgrounds. Those good communications skills allow me to teach and train others as well as read their body language which is essential to avoid any uncomfortable situations. This ability stems from my sensitivity and caring for fellow co-students. However, these attributes have to be well controlled and balanced in order to avoid any emotional responses that would lead to conflict. [3]

Another positive attribute that I find essential for an IT specialist is the creativity and the ability to think outside the box. This is enhanced by being exposed to different ideas and comments that make you think from different points of view. Moreover, combined with continuously acquired knowledge of various fields and skills, creativity can be one of the most precious advantages one can have. [4]

As I mentioned before, since I have a great passion for computers, my knowledge in the field is good. Moreover, working with numbers and having a practical mind as a scientist on the way, gave me excellent problem solving skills. Quantitative reasoning (5) along with a fairly good depth of knowledge and practice leads to a series of functions that make a good analyst as well as increase creativity. Comparing, contrasting, evaluating and selecting [6]. Selling is another point of interest for every IT student as it is one of the most wanted skills from companies. Therefore being able to manage the buyer and the seller as well as enhance presentation skills is essential.

Additionally, I have the skill to be able to read complicated texts and understanding the meaning as well as being able to read between the lines and select the useful information. Keeping in mind my education in the English language as well as the years spent in UK, I consider myself to be good in writing things in my own words as I continuously increase my vocabulary. Paraphrasing is a great ability to have, both in academic and later on years.

Specifically to my studies, I am confident enough to say that I have the knowledge of IT to be able to help myself in my academic years. Hence, this acts as an endless circle where the more IT knowledge I acquire, the more I can help myself and so on. Also, referring to my interest in my fellow students, giving them advice and information about a subject that I am more knowledgeable of, or even repeating and conversing about it, helps enhance my memory which is very advantageous in my academic and professional life [7]. Moreover, another skill that I strive to develop and acquire is confidence when presenting. It is understandable that the majority of people, like me, are not too keen on presenting in front of crowds even the smallest ones. Even though that stems from personal confidence issues, university is a great chance to be taught on how to overcome that issue. Pre-presentation planning is vital in order to successfully have an oral presentation. Hence, dividing the presentation into sections and timing [8] are two things that my professors have been teaching and resulted in me being confident enough to give stress less presentations.

B. Mildly Problematic Attributes

One of my mildly problematic attributes is the lack of confidence to try new things as well as express my own ideas. Resulting from low confidence [9], as mentioned above, this lack of confidence can cause a drawback in my academic life. However, being constantly exposed to university life and getting closer to other students, as well as taking on projects that include presentations, can enrich my confidence.

In able to succeed in the academics, a very important attribute is to be able to gather information from various sources. As I am still in the process of learning how to do that as well as learning the advantages students have , I am lacking the information on how to track down a sufficient amount of sources, besides looking on the internet, and consequently my assignments suffer.

As the world is technologically advancing, internet has been since many years the main source of information. Problems though arise, since anybody can have their opinion on every subject without being criticized. As a student, this is an issue since I have to constantly compare and contrast information and decide which one is true or false. Critical thinking and evaluation of arguments and different points of view comes in handy in these situations. However, I often find it hard to do so which can lead to chaotic situations of indecisiveness.

Another mildly problematic attribute of mine is the ability to manage a variety of writing skills in an appropriate way as I often mix the different kinds together and result in an unclear way of expressing myself.

Although I try, I always seem to find hard to understand other peoples' points of view since they might be far from mine. As a consequence, managing other people and teamwork is not one of my best attributes, however, I don't let it be a big problem. Since I am not able to reach to decisions on my own, I find it hard to help others to decide subjectively. Moreover, I often question other peoples' opinions and I have to overthink them which leads to my lack of taking directions of other people as I am afraid that by agreeing with them will lead to my expression being lost.

It is essential to point out that negotiating is not one of my best attributes as I find hard to balance opinions and express demands which stems from the fact that I am quite rigid.

I have always found it hard to voice my opinion clearly and to the point as well as speak out against injustice, thinking that it might jeopardise my future. This however does not affect my integrity, since if I understand that this injustice will be affecting my team as a whole, I take action.

Although organising information and planning is one of my problematic areas, I have fortunately identified the issue early enough to be able to reverse it. As mentioned before, word-processing and writing reports or even official letters is a problem resulting from my organizational skills. However, during years I found new ways to be able to improve them and minimize the problem.

Finally, my ability to recognise my problematic areas and ask for help is rather bad. My interpersonal skills are not efficient therefore it is logical to have some doubt on estimating the needs I have and therefore seeking help.

C. Acutely Problematic Attributes

As I am in great lack of a firm self and confidence, it is hard to keep myself motivated. As a result I quickly run out of patience when handling a big task. This leads to bad time management and falling behind deadlines. Lack of patience and organizational methods can have a severe effect on my academic work.

Having an issue of gathering information and storing notes may lead to having a bad strategy on starting a new task or assignment. Lacking of organization of notes and information often has a great impact on my assignments despite the fact the knowledge is already there and ready to be used but not reachable.

Having a fear of the unknown and be dealt with situations that I haven't dealt with before, leads to issues when dealing with the general public even by phone. The fear of having to deal with a "difficult" person and get in an uncomfortable position where I might get "humiliated" is an effect of my somehow low self-esteem. This may cause serious problems as people might confuse this with inability to interact with people and awkwardness which will have an effect both in my personal and professional life.

Alongside with my problem of voicing my opinion, being good at arguments and debating is not one of my skills. Fearing of the unknown and not believing enough in my abilities leads to lack of decision making and managing changes.

Although I am aware of the fact that peoples' mistakes are inevitable, it often slips my mind that those mistakes have to be recognised and examined to the source in order to avoid making them again. I am in lack of determination and perseverance and ability to set my own goals, however reassessing myself and recognise my insecurities and problematic areas, is increasing my patience. The non-clarity of the goals I had originally set for myself is in accordance to the viability of those goals according to my self-esteem. Maintaining a high level of motivation was always a problem for me, since it is hard for me to assume a long-term positive psychology having many obstacles that come my way. Moreover, a combination of the problems above, results to my inability to take responsibility of my own actions.

Last but not least, as my time management is bad, I often find myself in times of crisis and panic. This leads to extreme stress for my academic workload.

3 - Action plans

I. Academic Skills Action Plan

II. Personal/Professional Skills Action Plan

III. Assignments Action Plans

IV. Assignments - Gantt Charts

4 - Application

I. Time Management

One of the most important skills Study Skills taught me, is time-management. By using action plans and later on, Gantt charts, I was able to organize my time more efficiently in order to distribute more times spent doing my assignments and revision. Until the middle of the first semester I was finding hard to balance my social life and my academic life. I was feeling that in order to achieve successful academic career I would have to completely abandon some of my hobbies that would take up a lot of time. What I haven't realised was that it was not the time that I was spending on my social life that was taking up a lot of time, but my bad planning of the rest of the time, the time in-between. I would always start researching and writing up my assignments quite late, thinking I have time in my hands, it would eventually result in anxiety, panic and loss of control. In fact I found that this loss of control terrified me and instinctively I re-prioritized to positions of importance personal matters whose actual priority was small or none, all of this to escape completing the assignment. This process I later found to fit as a glove in Covey's matrix [10], quadrants III to IV.

Covey's Matrix [10]

Although I initially found it hard to stick to my planning, I was able, not only to relax but to improve the quality of my assignments as well. It made me realise how much time was getting lost without proper planning and how correct use of that time would, in the end, dramatically increase my results. No matter how many assignments were due, I was able to effectively distribute my time between my academic and social life, without feeling that I compromised anything. I was able to enjoy my social life without any guilt and I was feeling more confident about my work since I knew that I was properly prepared for it. An example of how I used this skill is the System Analysis & Design module. At the start of the year I was really struggling, mostly resulting in quitting my home studying session. I got really disappointed and I was almost certain that I would fail to pass. I needed at least, 50% more time than I was currently spending on it but that would mean that I would have to either compromise my social life, or it would occupy time that should have been dedicated in studying for other modules. That was until I was taught how planning can resolve this. And that's what I did. Upon creating a timetable of my academic life and observing how much time was wasted, I was able to distribute my time better and gain the extra hours I was looking for.

II. E-Portfolio

Creating a portfolio was essential for my personal and professional development. I was able to pinpoint my goals and prioritize the tasks needed to achieve these goals. I started off by uploading notes into my Google Drive, which later on helped me in my assignment preparations as well as my revision since I already had an organized file of anything I would need. I created a personal plan that incorporated my long and short term goals, which not only help with my personal discipline and organizational skills but also served as a moral boost every time I checked off a goal of my list. Moreover, I was able to enhance my professional development by including personal statement, C.V. (curriculum vitae) and Jobsites that will help me in the future job hunting. Listing all my qualifications, personal and academic achievements in a folder will make it easier on an interview as well as show organizational skills which is much appreciated in today's industry. Last but not least, it is a great opportunity to show my academic work as a sample of the achievements I have reached the past years.

III. Presentation Skills

Another aspect of my academic life that was really suffering was my presentation skill. I was literally terrified every time that I had to present a topic in front of my classmates, despite the fact that most of the times my knowledge on the subject I was presenting was more than enough. Every time I was preparing my presentation I couldn't help but to think how tiring and uninterested would my audience be. After reading the tips provided by the study skills lecture, I was then able to produce a more thought-provoking presentation that would help me convey my topic more efficiently to the audience. Having learned how to design a presentation and generally what to do and what not, gave me a big moral boost and eventually I was able to reduce my pre-presentation anxiety.

5 - Evaluation & Conclusion

To conclude, study skills are an essential part of every university student and future professional. Study skills will bring vital assets to one's life by teaching you how to manage your time, how to practice self-discipline and how you can become a confident and more productive person. I have learned how to identify my strong and weak points as a student and as an individual too. All these different study skills helped on emphasizing on my strong points and improve my weaknesses. To demonstrate diversity, these skills are not only useful in one aspect of a student's life, it can be useful in all aspects needed. As far as academic life is concerned, utilizing the knowledge I gained from Study Skills, increased my productivity, re-instated the balance between my social life and my studies and gave me confidence that will accompany me to my future career in IT too.

Hence these study skills are crucial in a person's life so they must be practiced not just recognized. Study skills also can be improved by practice and that is what the student life ensures to provide, during classes and assessments. This also helps build confidence in students so that when they progress into their career life, all the skills that they have been practicing are put to task. The more efficient and good the skills the person has, the more progress are gained in career.

6 - LinkedIn Profile & e-Portfolio Screenshots

Google Drive e-Portfolio

Basic Portfolio Format - Google Drive

DADD Folder - Class Notes + Photo of the board.

Professional Folder Containing my CV, To-Do and Job Vacancies

7 - References

[1] Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers (2006) 'Personal transferable skills', in Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers (First Ed.) The Smarter Student Skills and Strategies for Success at University. England: Pearson Education, pp. 34-35.

[2] Kate Lorenz (January 26th, 2009) Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters, Available at: http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2009/01/26/top-10-soft-skills-for-job-hunters/ (Accessed: 13th January, 2013).

[3] Elaine N. Aron (2006) 'The Clinical Implications of Jung's Concept of Sensitiveness', Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, 8(2), pp. 11-43 [Online]. Available at: http://www.junginstitute.org/pdf_files/JungV8N2p11-44.pdf (Accessed: 14th January 2013).

[4] Fink A, Grabner RH, Gebauer D, Reishofer G, Koschutnig K, Ebner F (2010) ' Enhancing creativity by means of cognitive stimulation: evidence from an fMRI study.', NeuroImage, 52(), pp. 1687-1695.

[5] Robert Mayes,Rachel Bonilla,Franziska Peterson (2012) 'Quantitative Reasoning: Current State of Understanding', Quantitative Reasoning, 1(1), pp. [Online]. Available at: http://coe.georgiasouthern.edu/QR/QR%20Overview%20-%20Mayes,%20Peterson,%20Bonilla.pdf (Accessed: 20th January 2013).

[6] ITS Tutorial School () The skills of problem solving, Available at:http://www.tuition.com.hk/the-skills-of-problem-solving.htm (Accessed: 29th January 2013).

[7]Student Development Centre (2009) Effective Memory Strategies, Available at: http://www.sdc.uwo.ca/learning/memory.html (Accessed: 29th January 2013).

[8] Monash University (1 December 2009) A guide to oral presentation, Available at: http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/quickrefs/11-oral-presentations.xml (Accessed: 3rd February 2013).

[9] Myers Jane, Willise John, Villalba Jose (2011) 'Promoting Self-Esteem in Adolescents: The Influence of Wellness Factors.' Journal of Counselling and Development, 89(), pp. 28-30 [Online]. Available at: http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/J_Myers_Promoting_2011.pdf (Accessed: 3rd February 2013).

[10] Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill (1996) First Things First, Free Press.

8 - Bibliography

Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers (2006) The Smarter Student Skills and Strategies for Success at University, First edn., England: Pearson Education Limited.

Robert Anthony (2003) The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence, First edn., Brisbane, Australia: Total Success Publishing.

Robert Todd Carroll (1990) Student Success Guide - Study Skills, First edn., Sacramento City College: Sacramento City College.

Stella Cottrell (2003) The Study Skills Handbook, Second edn., New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Walter Pauk and Ross J. Q. Owens (2011) How to Study in College, Tenth edn., Boston, USA: Wadsworth.

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