A higher education today may not be as effective at preparing students for the real-world job market as a higher education twenty years ago. It’s more important than ever to find a college that really focuses on developing you into someone who can be successful in the future.
If you are already in college and feel that you are not going to be prepared by the time you graduate, then it is time to take matters into your own hands.
Too many students mentally segregate their time spent pursuing higher education from time spent building their career afterward, thinking they will not have to worry about that until they graduate. Somehow these students are surprised when they graduate with no idea what to do next.
If you want to succeed, you need to develop a business-focused mindset now and start building your career as soon as possible.
Set the Right Course by Picking a Forward-thinking School
If you have yet to enter university, congratulations, you are already ahead of the game. The first step is choosing an institution that will develop the skills you need to get ahead in today’s world.
Traditionally prestigious schools, including Ivy League universities, are not necessarily the best option anymore.
Everyone has different opportunities available to them and you must work with what you have, but if you can, select a school with forward-thinking courses that incorporate social media and modern technology into your education, as well as quality extracurriculars that offer development opportunities beyond the world of academics.
You can find these schools scattered across the map, but California colleges and universities tend to adapt quickly to new trends thanks to their proximity to Silicon Valley and other innovational hotspots.
If you are in college already, you can still steer things in the right direction by learning which skills matter in today’s world.
Learn what Robots Can’t
Historically, employers in all industries focused on hard skills, or concrete skills such as the ability to fix a car or program a mobile app.
According to a study of hiring habits conducted by LinkedIn, modern employers are more interested in soft skills.
These skills are more personal aptitudes such as knowing how to communicate clearly and work as part of a team.
A large part of the reason graduates have trouble finding work after college may be that most people simply are not aware that this change has happened. To employers, the most important skills a candidate can have are communication, organization, teamwork, and critical thinking.
But many top universities are still prioritizing hard skills and academic knowledge.
Even the soft skills that are part of a traditional education, like leadership ability, are skills that are least desirable to employers.
Candidates trained in communication and teamwork can fill any position, but one trained in leadership has a narrower set of capabilities.
Across the board, employers report having difficulty in finding people who possess these skills, and some have even said they would rather hire someone with no hard skills at all rather than no soft skills.
Any practical skills needed for the completion of a job can usually be taught while doing the job, but soft skills are more elusive. This shift in focus can be traced back to a shift in the job market toward service or other non-routine jobs.
Going forward, this trend will only escalate as routine manufacturing jobs become automated.
Work in the future will likely emphasize creativity, empathy, and other soft skills that robots are unable to provide.
The Answer is Around You
Knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things. Many students, after learning they need to develop their soft skills and take immediate steps toward building their careers, will complain that they have no opportunity to do so.
One survey found that a majority of college students believe internships are of the utmost importance and intended to complete several before graduation, but also found that very few students had followed through on that intention.
Investigating further, it was found that students generally fail to take advantage of available career-building opportunities.
Only 1% of students had taken advantage of online networking to connect with a mentor, and less than 30% took advantage of career training services offered by their schools.
They were almost universally active on social media, but used it almost exclusively for personal and leisure activities rather than networking or career-building.
Very few produced their own content, such as by writing a personal blog.
Den Schawbel, a managing partner at Millennial Branding, says that the main reason modern graduates cannot find jobs is that they fail to develop their personal brand before and during college.
If your school is not properly preparing you, don’t use it as an excuse for inaction.
Learn to narrow your focus to tasks that will build your brand and kickstart your career, rather than just stricty worrying about your academic studies.
Take Action, Take Control
Now you know the two things you need to focus on to prepare yourself for the job market; developing soft skills and building your personal brand.
It is no coincidence that these activities both fall under the general theme of taking responsibility for your own success.
Schools are not effectively preparing students for the real world, but to be fair, that is not entirely their fault. The employers of yesteryear were looking for reliable, obedient workers who could show up to do the same job and do it consistently day after day.
A structured education system was perfecting for creating that type of employee.
Today, however, employers are looking for innovators and self-starters, and not for students who wait around hoping opportunities will fall in their lap.
If you are having trouble finding an opportunity, create one. Start something or make something, so that when an employer asks what you are capable of, you can show them.
A university cannot teach you to teach yourself, and a professor cannot develop your character for you. You have to do that yourself.
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