Published: March 2, 2022

There are certain professional skills that are relevant to any job in any industry. These foundational skills are valued by many employers, and having these skills can help you become a strong candidate when it’s time to apply for internships and jobs. 

Communication is one foundational skill that can help you in school, your career and other areas of life. Strong communication skills include being able to convey thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely in written, oral and visual forms. Here are some ways you can work on building your communication skills in your time at CU Boulder.

Verbal communication

In your everyday conversations, choose your words thoughtfully and intentionally. Ask open-ended questions and demonstrate curiosity. Do your best to avoid slang, jargon, excessive use of acronyms and offensive or exclusionary language. Observe those you are speaking with—do they seem confused, are they shutting down or asking for more clarification? This can help you identify areas for improvement. 

Think about your tendencies when it comes to classroom discussions and speaking up in class, and set goals to challenge yourself. You could plan to speak up more or be more intentional when speaking if you know you tend to monopolize conversations. 

To get more practice, consider different opportunities to get involved on campus. Becoming a peer tutor, applying to be an outreach and development coach or peer career advisor at Career Services or working in customer service are all great ways to build verbal communication skills.


In your conversations, practice listening with empathy and allow the other person to share without interruption. Do your best to listen without forming your response to what they are saying in your head. To practice active listening, try summarizing or paraphrasing what was shared with you to ensure you understand. 

Pay attention also to non-verbal communication as you engage in conversations. Sometimes the words that aren’t being said are just as important in understanding what someone is experiencing or expressing.

To get more practice, consider taking on a role or part-time job that allows you to develop your listening skills. This could include becoming a resident advisor (RA), a Journey Leader, an outreach and development coach or peer career advisor at Career Services, or working in customer service. 

Conflict management

Disagreements happen, and it’s important to keep in mind that conflict is normal and natural. Whether you’re experiencing conflict or facilitating a conversation between others, working to address disagreements can lead to growth and learning. 

Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution has a variety of resources and information to learn more about conflict styles and managing conflict. For more practice with conflict management skills, consider getting involved on campus through student organizations, student boards, Residence Life and CU Student Government

Public speaking

Public speaking can include any time where you’re communicating in front of an audience, both in person or virtually. It’s common for many of us to feel nervous when it comes to public speaking, but practice can help you speak more confidently. For example, let’s say you are expected to make a presentation for a class project. Practice your presentation in front of a mirror or record yourself to watch later and evaluate your performance. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication as well, as that can either give context to what you’re saying or distract your audience from your message. If possible, practice in front of a roommate or friend who can provide feedback.

For more tips, seek out TEDTalks, podcasts or classes about developing public speaking skills. Consider getting involved in roles on campus where you’ll be expected to speak in front of audiences. You could become a CU student ambassador or Journey Leader, or participate in Fraternity and Sorority Life and student organizations.  

Learn more about developing skills

If you’re interested in learning more about developing professional skills, check out the Skills for Success program through Career Services. This self-paced program allows you to identify the skills you already have, learn about the skills you’ll need to develop and find opportunities to build skills.You’ll also learn how to talk about your skills at every stage of your job search.

If you have questions or want to bounce ideas off someone who is here to help, come to a Skills for Success express appointment or a workshop to get more insight.