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3 core skills to master for career success

August 28, 2023

Learn how to develop these essential qualities

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2023 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

Portrait of

Dakota Webber

Story by Dakota Webber, assistant director of career readiness at the West campus for Career Services.

In today’s world, technology can dominate conversations about necessary skills for today and tomorrow. These indeed are crucial skills, but what about the nontechnical core skills needed to flourish in an ever-evolving world?

Navigating the world of work means strengthening skills such as communication, equity and inclusion, and leadership — timeless for succeeding no matter how technology-driven workplaces become. The beauty of these core skills is that they transfer across any industry and any organization.  

Our team in Career Services has explored skills employers look for in our workforce. Our work is guided by the career competencies defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, as well as through interviews with employers across the Valley. 

Let’s dive into three core skills to master for your career success.

Skill 1 – Critical thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing data or information to find solutions to challenges. In the workplace, this might involve taking the appropriate course of action in a stressful work situation such as when a doctor must triage a patient in the emergency room. Another example could be an engineer having to decide what materials should replace an older material in an elevator. 

You can exercise this skill by using articles that include graphs or numerical data; practice making sense of the data. What does this data suggest? How can you determine if this data is reliable? How do you find out if the data is free of bias? Then identify a problem that the data might help illuminate. What solutions might the data suggest?

Critical thinking happens every day, and as you practice in a more intentional, focused way, you will be able to identify solutions, then communicate these more effectively. And you’ll be able to articulate the value you bring to your work.

Skill 2 – Innovation

Innovation is the ability and process of generating or approaching existing ideas in new ways. Every employer is looking for the next big idea or creative solution, and you can impress your supervisors and co-workers by leveraging this skill. A great example of innovation is Dreamscape Learn at ASU. The university identified a need for virtual reality learning driven by immersion and storytelling and found a way to create and implement this learning-by-experiencing example into the classroom.

Illustration of people cleaning up trash

Practicing innovation in your life starts with identifying areas of need in your workplace or community. For example, if you have noticed that there is an issue with littering in your neighborhood you can collaborate with your neighbors to organize a weekly cleanup day — or brainstorm even more effective ways to reduce the problem. Once you’ve identified challenges, you can take risks and collaborate on solutions.

“Practicing innovation in your life starts with identifying areas of need in your workplace or community.”

Skill 3 – Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges and do it with optimism and positivity. All of us will face some sort of adversity in our jobs; we’re defined by the way we react to these experiences. An example of resilience at work is being open and receptive to criticism during annual reviews. Resilient employees take feedback as an opportunity for growth.  

Resilience takes time and diligence to master, but one place to start is to evaluate the way you react to uncomfortable situations whether in your life or even while enjoying movies, books or TV shows. See how negative situations make you feel. This will help you recognize these feelings and reactions, so that you can begin to adjust your response when confronted with setbacks in real life.

Put it into practice

Just like building muscle, you have to work on these skills to master them. The effort will pay off. Not only will these skills help you in the workplace, they also will help you succeed in life. 

Tailored resources

Go to Career Services for numerous opportunities, from help with resumes to mock interviews, to videos and articles. CareerCatalyst offers numerous courses, such as Resilience for Everyone, Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking and more.

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Feeling the sound

August 28, 2023

An invention allows violinists to experience the music in their bodies and transforms the instrument

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2023 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

For years, violinist Seth Thorn, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, wanted to expand how people play, learn and perform on instruments. Two years ago, he invented a device called an active shoulder rest to transmit the feel of the violin’s sound to a player’s upper body. The revised version also includes small speakers. 

“The speakers balance the sound,” Thorn says. “You get the vibration on your shoulder. You get the actuation of the violin in the upper body and the diffusion of sound more spatially.”

Close up of violin with feedback device

The active violin rest uses haptics so the performer can experience the sound in their body.

Feeling the sound coming out of the violin

The active shoulder rest easily integrates into current violin playing because most violinists already use a shoulder rest to ease neck strain. A key feature is that it works with a violin’s traditional sound and strengths.

“Most of the haptic information you get with a violin is from the mechanoreceptors in your fingertips,” Thorn explains. “So adding haptic feedback felt by the collarbone and neck doesn’t disrupt those natural dynamics. It just adds feedback.”

Thorn’s active shoulder rest serves as a silent metronome, allowing musicians experimenting with digital sound and people with sensory impairments or learning difficulties to entrain rhythm — in other words, to feel the music’s beat.

It also helps students more fully fall in love with the violin. In addition to learning scales and practicing sheet music, some students use it to expand into playing something they’ve heard by ear or to improvise, Thorn says.

“One of the students we worked with at Rosie’s House, when she plucks the violin and feels the sound, her eyes are just like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’” Thorn says.

Initially, Thorn made six active shoulder rests by hand with a colleague from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. In 2022, he began sharing the active shoulder rests with Rosie’s House, a free musical academy for children in Phoenix. With a $10,000 seed grant from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the project is expanding and providing 3D-printed active shoulder rest devices, additional tools and music assistants from Thorn’s classes to more Valley schools.

Creating something new

The newest version of the active shoulder rest adds speakers. The various components enable digital musicians to add loops and background rhythms and then play music over them. Thorn compares the latest version of the shoulder rest to a combination of a guitar pedal and haptic device. 

This technology gives players numerous ways to experiment. Thorn offers this anecdote: When a teacher and a student began using it for the first time, one of Thorn’s research assistants put on a repeating musical loop that the player both felt and heard through the violin.

“The student started. And I think the teacher was kind of sitting there, a little skeptical. Just like, what’s going to happen now. And the student started improvising a melody on top of the loop,” Thorn says. “And the teacher started crying because it’s such an emotional thing in this classical music world to see that the student has another side, the ability to improvise.”

Thorn explains that the traditional way of learning the violin is to rehearse, perform in a recital and repeat. The active shoulder rest offers more ways to learn and grow.

“We’re bringing it to the ASU String Project next,” Thorn says.

The mission of the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre String Project is to offer low-cost, high-quality instruction on orchestral stringed instruments.

“Most of the haptic information you get with a violin is from the mechanoreceptors in your fingertips. So adding haptic feedback felt by the collarbone and neck doesn’t disrupt those natural dynamics. It just adds feedback.”

— Seth Thorn, clinical assistant professor 

The musical future

Soon, the newest version also will be Bluetooth-enabled, eliminating wires.

“The Bluetooth speaker will push the limits of the violin even more, creating a whole new instrument,” Thorn says. 

How else does it make a difference? For composing music and performing, he adds.

“I picture something like a whole orchestra of them. And you’re adding a little magic and fairy dust, and people wonder, ‘What is that?’ I imagine the orchestra almost sparkling.”

Top photo: Violinist Seth Thorn, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, invented and patented a device called an active shoulder rest to transmit the feel of the violin’s sound to a player’s upper body. Photos by Brandon Sullivan