Technological advancements and an improving economy suggest a bright future for graduates seeking employment, but there is still great debate over the necessity of a degree for prospective employees. The global job market is shifting and still relies heavily on the structure of academia, but there are steps that you can take outside of structured education that increase qualification for esteemed careers.
1.9 million graduates from America’s ‘Class Of 2017’, are set to enter a working world that offers more potential than ever before. Employers will hire 5% more graduates compared to last year, and a burgeoning gig economy offers a lucrative channel for new entrepreneurs to launch their own careers.
As business environments develop in tandem with global advancements in technology and a strengthening economy, the future looks bright. Yet, more and more students are finding their newly acquired bachelor degrees are not the ticket to employment they once thought.
According to Harvard Business Review, two-thirds of college graduates will “struggle to launch their careers”. A degree may open the door, but it won’t necessarily get you through it. In fact, large corporate companies such as Ernst & Young are removing degree classification from entry criteria, claiming there’s “no evidence” that university achievement equals success in the workplace.
While the global job market shifts and morphs, academia remains firmly rooted in theoretical study that does not reflect new business demands. The Ivory Tower has failed to keep up with a fast-paced global job market. But, by focusing on three areas of development, graduates can get ahead and better prepare for the world of work.
Traditional education tends to focus primarily on developing cognitive intelligence and theoretical knowledge. Improved cognition – a person’s thinking skills and ability to learn – is a valuable skill developed through higher education. Yet, increasingly employers are questioning the transferable skills learned from academia.
Facebook and Google, in line with Ernst & Young thinking, both claim that a degree is not a necessity, still, 80% of the hires of these tech giants hail from America’s top 200 colleges. Google’s senior vice president Laszlo Bock explained that many of the roles require skills such as “math, computing and coding” and academic achievement in these areas is “an advantage”, as reported by the New York Times. Outside of this, the No. 1 quality Google looks for is “learning ability”.
While there is a case to make for academia in priming students for continued development, there is great debate over the real use of a degree. Bock acknowledges an increase at Google of the “proportion of people without any college education”. This means your degree is still valuable, but employers are looking for more transferable skills. If you want to broaden your learned expertise there are a huge number of massive open online courses (MOOC), available through platforms like Coursera. Alternatively, government backed degree apprenticeships, from institutions like the Tech Partnership, offer a combination of academic learning and on the job training.
By 2020, Georgetown University estimates that 35% of jobs will require a minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree, and a total of 65% will require some form of postsecondary education. Your academic achievement is still important, but it is just one part of what is needed.
In a fast-paced world of increasing distraction and growing interconnectedness, Peter Senge and Daniel Goldman argue, a new approach is needed to help students succeed. Their concept, described as “triple focus”, can be broken into three parts; self-awareness, empathy and your relationship with the larger world.
Through developing these skills of emotional intelligence and communication students are better equipped to deal with the complexities of the world. Education Week echoes this proposal, citing research from Howard Gardner and his identification of “intra-psychic” and “inter-personal” intelligences. This means the ability to manage the self and relationships with others. And this approach is not confined to the academics of academia, it is reflected in the hiring behaviors of the most desirable workplaces today.
Facebook engineer recruiter Will Barnett recently took to Reddit answering questions from the public regarding the hiring and selection process. “We’re a culture of builders … of hackers. We don’t just expect our engineers to move fast and ship stuff, but everyone in [sic] focused on building product and services that create a more open and connected world,” he said.
A commitment to personal development through focused interior practices from practicing mindfulness, meditation or physical exercise such as Tai Chi or yoga are all examples of self-mastery. Today, this is easier than ever with a plethora of online resources and groups, from Facebook groups and events, and tools like Headspace and Mindvalley that teach people a range of personal skills to help face larger challenges in the world. This is particularly pertinent when considering the webs of interdependence we navigate in the world of work.
Ultimately it is all about the quality of impact you make in the world. Academia is designed to prepare people for the future, but this doesn’t mean you have to wait until after graduation for this to begin.
More and more, graduates are expected to have relevant experience; from the aspiring writers tending to their online blogs, to the estimated 1.5 million internships filled every year in the U.S. While this form of work experience is more prevalent in high prestige businesses, Forbes reports that in 2014 97% of large employers had plans to hire interns.
Back to Harvard Business Review’s original article, the major difference between the successful one-third and those experiencing difficulties, is that they started planning for the workplace while still at college, and 80% had a minimum of one internship.
Explore internships and apprenticeship options, for example using sites like Internships.com or Looksharp.com. A number of projects also help provide business advice to aspiring entrepreneurs with their own business ideas. The DO School Start-Up Lab helps participants to develop solid business models, plan resources and understand organizational requirements, with a focus on maximising societal impact. Or drop in to your local Impact Hub, to take advantage of the global collaborative network that supports people launching new ventures.
Get on LinkedIn and check-out how people in your industry started off. Take advantage of alumni schemes and reach out to people in your network for insider knowledge and connections. Key your ear to the ground and get involved at local industry events.
With so much happening in the world today, new entrants to the workforce need additional competencies to meet these demands. It means you need to be a communicator, a collaborator and to turn a critical eye to current approaches. All this goes beyond the skills you learn through established academia. The successful graduates of the Class of 2017 will be those that focus on connecting with others and the wider world, helping you to build a career in an increasingly interconnected and complex global job market.
Peter Merry is the Chief Innovation Officer at Ubiquity University, a new accredited online university that combines learning with social innovation.