From education to employment

How Competitions Further Skills Growth

Many humans have a natural competitive streak. They use it to push themselves, whether competing against other people or trying to top a personal best result. Competitions can be especially advantageous for people who want to increase their skills.

Competitions Give Entrants Feedback from Industry Leaders

Judges pick contest winners in many ways. Some have scorecards and require people to meet specific requirements to earn points. In those cases, the person with the highest point total is usually the winner. However, some results are more nuanced. For example, writers often enter competitions because they want feedback from published, well-respected authors. Those people often serve as judges.

In any instances where competition participants get input about their performance or efforts, learners can apply the pointers to foster self-growth. Receiving feedback also allows people to understand more about their opportunities for improvement in ways that may get overlooked during self-assessments.

Focus Can Increase When a Person Competes

A 2015 research paper detailed how competitive environments can make people pay more attention when doing tasks requiring physical effort. The scientists reached that conclusion after finding competition caused faster response times in participants. They made a previous correlation between response time and increased attention.

Competitions indeed cause people to focus in ways they might not if they weren’t competing. For example, before contests begin, participants may rearrange their schedules to beef up on the skills likely to get tested. Or, if they’re entering a contest that requires bringing a piece of equipment, they may devote countless hours to tweaking it for best results.

Some competitions, such as RoboRAVE International, which brings robotics enthusiasts from around the world together, also require people to work in teams of at least two people and have a coach. Skill-building happens in many ways during such situations.

For example, working toward a common goal while on a team requires people to collaborate and put solely personal interests aside. They also learn to take direction from the coach, as well as other teammates. Plus, because individuals often don’t want others to perceive them as a weak link within a team, they’ll frequently force themselves to focus on improving their skills for the contest even more than usual.

Competition Participation Can Make People More Appealing to Prospective Employers

When people go back to school as non-traditional students, they probably have different goals than they did when considering higher education as a teenager or 20-something. The changes that come with being older mean adult learners should set themselves up for success by doing things like meeting with advisers or looking for options that help them maximize their study time.

The opportunity to embark on a new career path keeps adult learners motivated. When non-traditional students are striving toward that goal, they must stay mindful of how taking part in competitions could help them stand out in the job market later.

For example, hackathons are increasingly popular competitions.

Statistics indicate more than 1,000 companies ran hackathons in 2016, collectively giving people nearly 3,500 such contests to enter that year. Besides the fact that participating in something like a hackathon can help someone flesh out their resume, these competitions provide excellent networking opportunities.

Many businesses host them because they’re hoping to solve specific internal problems or ones their clients are facing. In other cases, companies are explicitly screening hackathon participants for characteristics they’d like future employees to have. 

Since hackathons make requirements work in teams on particular projects for a few days at most, people learn to work under pressure and recognize each other’s strengths. Individuals can expect to leave with a sense of achievement and another event to add to their resumes. Some may get job offers as a direct result of taking part in a contest like a hackathon.

Contests Let People Practice Problem-Solving Skills

After entering a contest, a person should be prepared to solve problems. Some might happen on the day of the event, while others occur beforehand. Many competitions even task people with overcoming a known obstacle.

For example, the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE asks people to develop mobile solutions that help adults improve their literacy. Some of the judges for that contest also used a 12,000-person field trial to learn which of the participants’ proposed technologies and features worked best for adult students over time.

Regardless of a person’s overall goals, they’ll almost certainly need to take problems in stride and learn to overcome them. Competitions could be instrumental in helping them further develop those all-important life skills. 

Competitions are Immensely Valuable

Competitions can enrich the learning experience for the reasons outlined here and others.

As such, they should get viewed as necessary and crucial parts of a learner’s progress.

Kayla Matthews, Editor, Productivity Theory

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