Higher Education Without a Higher Purpose and Plans?

higher education, training, entering the workforce

If you are currently completing a higher education or have recently received your degree, chances are you feel totally unprepared to enter the job marketplace.

This is not entirely your fault, as multiple studies have recently confirmed that modern colleges and universities are not effectively preparing students for life after college.

The problem is that secondary education facilities are run like businesses and see students as customers. This creates a conflict of interest, where what is most profitable for the school is rarely what is best for the student.

If you feel your education is failing to prepare you for the real world, then it’s time for you to take your future into your own hands and make sure you have what it takes to succeed in today’s marketplace.

The Disappointing College Grad

Survey results indicate that employers are not thrilled with the performance of recent college grads. Nearly one-third of employers surveyed said that grads were not at all prepared for real work, and more than half added that they had significant difficulty in finding any good candidates for a position. 

Due to a general acceptance that a university degree does not indicate a quality employee, recruiters are beginning to place less and less importance on a candidate’s academic credentials.

Instead, they look first and foremost for work experience and place emphasis on internships or work completed while still in school. 

Extracurriculars are also considered and are often valued more highly than a candidate’s GPA. This trend is especially disrupted in states with high concentrations of college graduates, such as California.

“The state of California has the largest public post-secondary education system of all 50 US states. Vocational and technical training, as well as science and liberal arts degree programs, serve around 1.7 million students at 137 colleges in California annually. It is one of the strongest systems of public education in the world. “(Source)

If the significance of academic achievement continues to decline, then booming job markets like Silicon Valley are going to be faced with a sudden vacuum of employees.

Get Ahead of a Broken System

The ineffective system of higher education is probably not a good sign for the health of the nation as a whole but the silver lining is that smart, ambitious individuals can take advantage of the current situation and use it to get ahead.

Seeing as many employers are dissatisfied with the performance of the average college grad and are finding it difficult to recruit new hires if you can prove that you are prepared and have the right experience then you will become a highly in-demand employee.

The specific process of preparing yourself for the job market depends on whether you are still in school or have already graduated.

If you are currently a student, you should begin looking for an internship or a part-time job that you are qualified for.

At this stage, you need to accept that pay is not a factor, and that an unpaid internship now might pave the way to a six-figure salary somewhere down the road. 

Since you are still a student, you have more flexibility in the kind of work you are able to take on, as your only priority is accruing relevant work experience rather than supporting yourself or building a career.

You should also keep in mind that employers today place more value on extracurriculars and leadership activities than they do on GPA. 

You may have been warned a thousand times to put your studies first and not let clubs or sports get in the way of your grades, but that is beginning to look like outdated advice.

Use your discretion, but it might not be a bad idea to shift your focus away from academics and more toward other pursuits.

As George W. Bush recently remarked during a commencement speech, he is living proof that even a C-student can be president.

Give Them What They Want

You might find it demoralizing to read study after study claiming employers are dissatisfied with modern college graduates, but the upside is that many of these surveys also asked follow-up questions about how these students could improve.

In other words, they got thousands of potential future employers to literally tell you what to do if you want them to hire you.

The most common answers were that students should spend more time researching both the specific organization they are applying for and the industry they want to work in as a whole.

Too many students simply take it for granted that their education has prepared them for anything, so by looking into what specific challenges you will face you will be able to gain an edge over the competition. 

Employers also strongly recommended that students hone their interview skills and put some additional effort into resumes and cover letters.

This makes sense since the most common complaint among recruiters was that grads were lacking in both written and oral communication skills.

By presenting your potential employer with an excellent resume and interview, you can demonstrate right away that you do not share this deficit with your peers. 

Employers are also starting to place more importance on attitude and work ethic, which are both qualities you can demonstrate with a good interview.

Multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently urged grads to focus more on developing their integrity, which he claims will get you further in life than any skill.

As far as academic credentials are concerned, the only thing that really matters to recruiters is the applicant’s major.

As long as you are pursuing the right degree, you should not worry too much about the academic side of things.

Next Steps

Whether you are still a student or have recently graduated, there is no better time to start preparing yourself for the job market than right now.

You can start by identifying areas where you are lacking and where your higher education is not helping you move ahead. 

Experience is the best teacher, so start searching for and applying to jobs as soon as possible. If you have no real experience or practice with handing out resumes and going to interviews, you may have to fail a handful of times before you get it right.

The sooner you get those failures out of the way, the sooner you can start succeeding!

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Amanda Wilks

Amanda Wilks is a freelance writer and guest blogger who has an insatiable thirst for all things self-development and self-growth. A valedictorian of Boston University she realized early on how important it was to create a plan for where she should be heading after graduation. To see where Amanda's work, thoughts, and ideas led to, go @AmandaWilks01.

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