Published: April 6, 2022
problem solving

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. 

Having strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills means that you use sound reasoning to analyze information, make decisions and overcome challenges. Here are some ways you can develop these valuable skills in your time at CU Boulder.

Get involved 

Getting involved with organizations and in activities outside of your classes can help you develop skills. Joining a student organization, volunteering, participating on a research team or becoming a peer tutor are all ways that you can get involved, meet new people and work on your problem-solving skills.

However you choose to get involved, you may sometimes experience unexpected challenges or problems that come up. To strengthen your problem-solving skills, actively find ways to work through challenges and identify solutions. 

Consider part-time work

On-campus jobs offer many benefits, including the opportunity to build a variety of skills. If you already work on campus, consider different ways you could work on your problem-solving skills. Maybe that’s coming up with one or two solutions on your own to share with your supervisor if you’re experiencing a challenge. Or perhaps it’s troubleshooting ideas to help a customer with a problem. 

If you’re looking for a part-time job this summer or next semester, consider positions that will help you develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Roles in customer service are great options. 

Participate in friendly competition

Friendly competition gives you the chance to practice decision making, analyzing your opponent’s weaknesses and strategizing to win. Whether you’re competing against others in a video game or on a basketball court, any form of friendly competition can help you develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Opportunities to participate in friendly competition include

  • Intramural sports and other programs at the Rec Center.

  • Games like pingpong, billiards, bowling, poker and video game tournaments at The Connection.

  • Local recreational leagues you could join over the summer, whether you’re in the Boulder area or elsewhere.

As you compete, pay attention to how you strategize and make decisions against your opponents. Reflect on the strategies and tactics that both worked and didn’t work for you during the competition, and consider what you could do differently next time. This practice, both in friendly competition and in the world of work, can help you sharpen your skills and learn from your experiences. 

For more tips on building skills, check out the MySkills program through Career Services. Come to an express appointment or workshop to learn more about how you can build skills during your time at CU Boulder.