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Candidate Guidance

How Universities Are Failing Their Graduates, Part 2

By 06/11/2014No Comments

Unemployed Graduate photo from ShutterstockFailure to Launch was a 2006 romantic comedy in which Matthew McConaughey was a thirty-something who was perfectly happy living at home with his parents. Unfortunately, the term “failure to launch” has become more generally associated in the 21st century with college graduates and other twenty-somethings who are living at home out of necessity. Their situations are not nearly as romantic or comedic as the Hollywood movie and are, in many cases, the indirect results of a shortage of certain life skills.

In my last post, I proposed that the worst way our universities are failing their graduates is by failing to provide them the skills to make effective career choices, manage their careers, and conduct successful job searches for jobs they desire. I suggested some extra-curricular remedies.

In this post, I want to address another way I believe universities are failing: Graduating students without real-world skills and an understanding of how to be productive members of corporate teams.

It’s not 1971 anymore, Alice

When I graduated in 1971 with a degree in engineering, I didn’t realize that my alma mater university had provided me lots of theoretical knowledge while missing many real-world skills. I didn’t mind that the job I got wasn’t a close fit for what I had studied during the preceding four years. I was just happy to be out of school and able to have a decent paying job that would support me and my future family.

If I could transport today’s graduates back to 1971, I imagine they would feel the same as I did then. I imagine they would be as successful in their careers as I and my Baby Boomer peers were. After all, they are as competitively equipped as I was. And therein lies the problem. Today’s graduates are entering an era of decreasing (decent) jobs and ongoing economic/industry/professional turmoil. The skills I lacked didn’t deter me, but these skill shortages in today’s job market DO deter graduates and other young adults.

A recent LinkedIn study of early-career college grads

A recent study by LinkedIn regarding early-career college graduates revealed what today’s employers are seeking from them. Among its findings were:

  • “Fifty-five percent of employers put a premium on the ability to work well with others.”
  • “45 percent of employers want to hire people with strong oral communication skills”
  • “Having a positive attitude also goes a long way for 45 percent of employers”

Unfortunately, universities don’t consider such content as core to their curriculums. And they likely never will.

How young people can bridge the educational chasm

So, what can be done? Here are a few ideas I have… and I’d love to hear yours:

1. If practical, seek an internship and/or volunteer for a cause for which you are passionate. These will allow you to experience the “real world” and gain an understanding of the importance of interpersonal relations.

2. Attend some Toastmasters meetings to gain insights into areas in which you can improve your oral communications skills.

3. Perform an attitude check. I have an exercise at the end of the first chapter of my book. You can download it here.

What do you think? What ideas do you have for helping young job seekers gain such skills and a positive attitude?

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