Graduation is both exciting and terrifying. You need to find a job, find a place to live and deal with immense competition. Are you employable though?
It seems that every year a new set of items are added to the already long list of things that makes new graduates employable. The benefit of unpaid internships seems debatable today, even though just a few years ago they were considered an absolute necessity for new grads. A well-composed resume, with information relating exclusively to professional experience, was the needed a decade ago, whereas today adding personal experiences to your credentials is said to be preferred by hiring managers. Even that is contested, though.
Trying to maximize your employability might seem daunting especially considering the breath of information available, which is also more often than not contradictory. To help, I have curated this list of extremely useful items to help any new graduate maximize their employability.
The Harsh Truth
Unfortunately, the post-recession world has completely changed the rules of the job market. In times past a so-called “light” college degree, such as psychology, sociology, history and humanities guaranteed higher lifetime earnings. But, a recent UK study shines a much dimmer light on the lifetime earnings of college graduates taking into consideration student loans and tax inflation. The study found that 1 in 10 college graduates did not have better lifetime earnings or employability than non-graduates.
Predictably, it found that the type of degree vastly affected earnings. But, unexpectedly the study found that graduates from affluent families, regardless of field of study, on average earned more than their less advantaged counterparts. Data from Payscale further shows that lifetime earnings of bachelor degree graduates in certain fields of study are equal to the lifetime earnings of associates degree holders. In essence rendering the last two years of some graduates’ college education obsolete..
Simply Learn Code
That’s not where the applicability of code stops, though. The world, especially the corporate world, is obsessed with data, and the only way to extrapolate important and relevant information from data is with a computer. The problem is that every organization’s requirements are different, luckily the tools to get those different sets of information are the same: code. Think of someone with a working knowledge of coding as a blacksmith; they just make it out of raw materials and their knowledge. I doubt I need to tell you why that makes a programmer such a valuable individual.
Experience Before You Graduate
Although I mentioned earlier that the value of internships has come into question recently, that doesn’t mean that they are completely without value. Having experience before graduation will not only give you some padding on an otherwise thin resume, it will also give you something most employers look for in all candidates, which brings us back full circle to experience. Even if the work you do during college doesn’t seem relevant to the industry you would like to work in, hiring managers have come to appreciate a diverse work experience in recent years.
Of course, it's always a good idea to spin your previous experience as related to the position you are working in. For example, if you worked in your University’s library you could say that help you develop efficient communication and organizational skills. If you work in the university’s food court, you could say that you developed the ability to work effectively in a team and that you have highly developed communications skills. Every job you’ve ever held has had some sort of relevant experience. Maybe I should mention that when I say “every job” I mean “every adult job.” Mowing the lawn on Sunday doesn’t really count.
The Personality Factor
Something that seems to be a reoccurring complaint employers levy against new graduates is that they are ill-equipped to enter the workforce, and most of the deficiencies are due to the lack of interpersonal skills. In this NY Times article Jamie S. Fall, Vice President of HR Policy Association, a group of upper-level HR officers from large companies says that most young candidates have a severe lack of fundamental skills such as problem-solving, oral communication, decision making, managing multiple priorities and flexibility/adaptability.
And although these new graduates have other skills, such as the ability to search for things online, they can seldom discern where that information can be used and in what context. In a Huffington Post article, an even more disturbing pattern emerges: employers seeking grads that know how life works. They say although most grads today have impressive academic credentials, they have very little else to offer. This might be due to what society does to the younger generation, compared to the previous one. There has been an increasing emphasis on systemic education and waning emphasis on real world experience. Parents have been protecting their children against real life. This results in individuals ill-equipped to cope in the real world.
When in college you should look into classes that are outside your field of study that will help you cover gaps that traditional education might not cover. Classes such as communications, calculus, economics and the aforementioned computer programming are all assets and augmentations for traditional education. In an economy and business world that is data obsessed even Statistics can be beneficial because it will teach you how to look at numbers and extrapolate information from it. All of these classes encompass knowledge that is applicable in almost all fields, from simple lower level employees all the way up to executives.
I found during my research that more employers are saying that new graduates aren’t employable instead of asking why they aren’t. It’s not only the obligation of the graduates themselves, or singularly the educational institutions that nurture them or even the parents. It’s all of these. The graduate must seek personal enrichment, and academia must start making the distinction between the completely theoretical and the applicable and finally parents need to realize that without real world experience their children will not only have difficulties getting a job but most probably they will have immense problems keeping a job.
Finally, employers used to offer extensive training and continued learning programs for their long-term employees, honing and helping the people that work for them, become the best fit for the company. These types of programs have all but disappeared from the face of the planet.
What do you think about this topic? Are young graduates truly ill-equipped to join the work-force or is it yet again a generational and communicational gap? Let us know in the comment section below.