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College isn’t doing a very good job of teaching students the critical skills they need for the “real world” anymore. There’s a gap between what students are taught in college, and what they actually need to be successful on the job. But not all students are aware of this.
According to Payscale.com, 87% of graduates say that they feel prepared to start working in their field, but only 50% of hiring managers feel the same way. What’s worse is that when it comes to finding a job, almost all graduates believe that they won’t have a problem getting hired. But 51% of graduates had to deal with underemployment.
Turns out there’s a pretty big difference between what college students think they need to do to find a job compared to what hiring managers are look for.
In this post, I’ll talk about a few critical skills that college won’t teach you, and why they’re important.
Critical Skill #1: Proactiveness
College can help students grow in a lot of different ways. But it teaches them “to test” instead of helping them to think creatively. That means students have to follow a set syllabus, do all the assignments and follow all the instructions, and figure out what type of answers the professor wants to hear. That’s how they get an A.
But that same approach students become so accustomed to doesn’t translate so well when it comes to applying for a job. Most graduates scroll through job boards like Indeed or CareerBuilder, read through the job description, and if they feel like they fit most of the requirements, they send off a resume. And in many cases, they don’t hear back for a long time…if at all.
But proactive students take a different approach.
Take Nina Mufleh, for example. She wanted to get a job in marketing at Airbnb. So instead of sending out a standard online application, she created Nina4Airbnb.com.
She put together some well thought out ideas on how Airbnb could grow on her site, and sent it to the company’s CEO. She got an interview almost immediately.
Being proactive shows employers that you have the drive to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Critical Skill #2: Adaptability
The world is changing faster than ever before.
The skills critical to success in any job are changing rapidly. If you learned a programming language in school, chances are it already changed by the time you graduated. Ten years ago, Facebook advertising wasn’t a tactic that marketers thought a whole lot about. But today, almost every digital marketer has at least some experience in it.
Nowadays, graduation marks the beginning of your learning. Not the end of it.
In school, learning takes place at a relatively normal pace. You have time to do your assigned reading, work on your homework, go to office hours if you have any questions, and make sure you understand everything perfectly before the exam.
But the real world isn’t like that.
You might have to execute on projects rapidly before you get a perfect understanding of how everything is supposed to work. You’ll have to constantly keep learning by doing things like reading the right books, blogs, listening to podcasts by experts in your field, enrolling in online classes, and applying what you’ve learned by doing something.
Critical Skill #3: Critical thinking
60% of employers say that critical thinking is the skill that new graduates lack the most.
Critical thinking is the ability to gather information from sources you can trust and analyze them. Being able to solve problems and make decisions based on gathered information is something that employers place a high value on.
Seth Godin said in an interview once that if you can only do what someone else tells you to do and nothing more, then they can find someone (or something) cheaper than you to do it. If you can creatively think through problems, present solutions, and make decisions, then you’re a resource that can’t be replaced.
One way to prove that you’re a creative thinker is by coming up with new and interesting ideas for how you could help a company before you apply, like Nina did.
The growing “skills gap” between what colleges teach and what employers want is more about soft skills than hard, technical skills. In fact, only 12% of employers say that graduates lack technical skills like computer programming, and 7% say they lack skills like SEO/SEM.
What’s much harder to train are the soft skills. It’s hard to teach someone how to be proactive. Managers struggle to teach critical thinking. It’s almost impossible for them to teach adaptability and to have a constant hunger to learn more.
That’s why you’ll have a massive leg up over other candidates if you have these three critical skills before you apply.