Congratulations on your degree! Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that, while you are well qualified for our job openings, you are not ready to work in the real world. You may be forced to live with your parents until you’re actually employable. Good luck!
According to the 2017 Future Workplace Survey released recently by world-leading academic publisher McGraw-Hill Education, fewer than half of all students feel prepared for their professional careers.
Perhaps more concerning are the results of a large study conducted by Boston-based Bentley University, which reveals that two thirds of business leaders feel that newly-hired recent graduates are not ready for a career and that their unpreparedness actually harms the productivity of the companies.
Clearly, there exists a major disconnect between getting a good degree and acquiring actual employability skills. Business coaches insist that employers are looking for new hires who possess the know-how and the soft skills to get the job done, and then some. Here, their top five actionable steps that soon-to-be graduates can take right now in order to ready themselves for the transition from backpack to briefcase…
1. Look before you leap
Some students are pushed into an area of study or career by external pressures, such as parental pressure or marketability. Others are paralysed by too many choices and end up choosing the first job that falls into their laps. In the same way that, before performing surgery, a doctor requires an X-ray to establish exactly what’s going on inside, so any student embarking on a course of study needs to look inside and note his or her strengths and skills, passion and purpose. Only once you’re clear on your aptitudes and interests will you be able to narrow the field and choose a career that’s well aligned with who you are as a person.
2. Roll up your sleeves
The Bentley University study also found that a quarter of all business decision-makers and 18% of corporate recruiters define work preparedness by “work ethic”. But, less than 10% of the students questioned believe the willingness to work hard is what makes them career ready. The reality is that, while a degree may get you to the door for an interview, it’s only part of the employment equation. To land the job, employers aren’t only looking at what you know; they want to know what you can do. And there is simply no two ways about it – only by showing up early, staying late and giving your all will you make things happen. As American businessman Mark Cuban puts it: “Be prepared to work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take your job away from you.”
3. Adjust your attitude
According to data gathered from some 1.5 million students and professionals worldwide by Stockholm-based employer branding firm Universum, 88% of employers are looking for a good cultural fit in a prospective employee, rather than any particular skill set. In other words, the vast majority of employers aren’t asking the applicant if they have mastered their company’s systems, but rather: Does this person exude professionalism? Are they excited about the company? Are they confident? Do they crave challenge? Will they self-motivate and self-monitor? Do they have the potential to become an asset to the company? “Ultimately, the most successful applicant is the one who walks into every interview with her hand outstretched for a handshake, has done her homework on the interviewer and company and is dressed to fit effortlessly into the culture of the workplace” says Universum’s study leader Joao Araujo.
4. Gain real-world experience
The world of work can be a culture shock for new graduates who have spent the last 15-plus years in places where success is defined by As on report cards. And unfortunately, many of the key skills today’s employers are seeking are largely developed through experience in real-life learning labs – such as a part-time job, an internship, volunteer work, and campus activities – that aren’t always required to earn a degree. Whether or not professional skills are taught in your curriculum, you can still treat your classes as if they’re part of the job. Use this time to work on making a good impression on your lecturers and professors by dressing professionally, using positive body language, and prioritising attending every class, submitting assignments on time, and getting involved in class discussions.
5. Learn to love the challenge
An overwhelming 97% of business decision-makers surveyed in the Bentley University study believe that a commitment to lifelong learning is a key trait in prospective employees. Learning through challenge – be it by way of a tough course or a demanding extramural pursuit – builds confidence that you will be able to use well into your career. In fact, some business coaches maintain that it is far more important that students challenge themselves than that they graduate cum laude. They insist that employers will always value a person who is willing to tackle challenges head-on over one who gets stuck in the weeds.
While a good education is certainly a step in the right direction, that piece of paper isn’t where it ends. Use your formative study years to grow outside the lecture hall. From early career planning to helpful internships, your focus should be on becoming a well-rounded graduate with an eye on the future.
Interested in taking the first step towards career advancement? Studying coaching at SACAP can help you develop the skills you need to progress in the business world, and help others do the same. Accredited coaching courses on offer include a Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching, a part-time Coach Practitioner Programme and an Advanced Coach Practitioner Programme. For more information, enquire now.