Are College Grads Learning the Soft Skills Needed to Succeed?

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Are College Grads Learning the Soft Skills Needed to Succeed?

Categories: Professional Development

Earning a college degree is getting more and more expensive. There's now troubling research that indicates the ROI on these degrees isn't what these graduates expected.

College graduates have an increasingly hard time finding jobs for the skills they have learned, and many are not prepared with basic skills that can help their future success -- the so-called "soft" ones like communication skills.

Bottom line: There’s a growing gap in the workforce, with many employers finding that they cannot find qualified new hires to fill empty slots. This sounds like an economic disaster happening in slow motion. What exactly is going on?

According to the recent SSIR report “Educating a New Generation of Entrepreneurial Leaders,” most of our institutions of higher education are simply not preparing students for the most important things they’ll need to negotiate a successful career in the business world.

Would you expect universities to educate their students (regardless or major, minor, or degree program) in leadership, collaboration, creative problem solving, out-of-the-box thinking, teamwork, empathy, or social/emotional intelligence? I would.

Because those are exactly the skills -- the soft skills -- that employers are looking for and not finding in the current pool of recent graduates. A survey from the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College showed over 60 percent of the employers polled complain applicants lack crucial “communication and interpersonal skills.”

I’m not quite sure why colleges and universities aren't sending their graduates out into the "real world" with the skills employers want. And, I’m certainly not pointing any fingers, just noting that it's way past the time for these age-old, ivy-covered institutions to get with the modern age, and update their curriculums. Yes, online universities. I’m also talking to you!

For more on the education/employment gap, read this Forbes.com article. Here’s a pretty startling statistic from this article: Fourteen percent of some Google teams consist of people without any college education.

This points to the fact that Google is looking for a specific mindset, a specific skillset, which doesn’t necessarily come with a college degree. I had the opportunity to talk to someone who had been recently hired by Google (he did have a college degree).

He found the lack of structure and pressure at Google, and the emphasis on teams collaborating on new ideas, to be exhilarating -- and a bit disorienting since it wasn't what he'd experienced before. Along with his impressive technical skills, Google wanted a whole range of other skills that he had never been taught in school, but luckily came naturally to him. They wanted innovators and leaders.

What if people skills, leadership skills, and creative thinking don’t come naturally to you?

What if you’ve already graduated, sans the soft skills you need to get the job of your dreams? Skills you had no idea you were lacking? Skills you trusted you’d receive along with your higher education degree?

There is no time for complaining, bemoaning, finger-pointing, or resigning yourself to a job as a barista at the closest coffee joint!

This is the time to take stock of where you’re at in life and work, what skills you might be missing, and determine how you can most effectively acquire them. You can own your future success.

Seek opportunities at work for training, try to find a mentor who can guide you. Look into trade groups and associations in your field of interest. Always look for ways to grow. I've said for years that if you aren't green and growing, you are ripe and rotting.

For you employers who can't seem to find the right applicants to fill your positions: Why not consider supplying them with the training they need? Your entire staff also would reap the rewards -- some benefits include improved communications, better interpersonal relationships and a renewed sense of teamwork.

To learn more about what BRODY offers in the way of "soft skills" training in the areas of Relationships Management, Presentation Power, Writing for Impact and Facilitation & Meeting Effectiveness, visit this page.

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