Communications, Creativity, Adaptability, Time Management. What are two things that those skills have in common?
First of all, in my survey, hiring managers selected them as the most four essential skills they look for when hiring college graduates.
And secondly, it's incredibly hard to prove that you're good at them during a job interview! Maybe you can show how well you communicate, but the others... can you think of good ideas and solve problems while someone is peering intently at you, evaluating your every move and holding your future in your hand?
I didn't think so!
This is one of the biggest challenges facing young people today. In school, we're evaluated over and over again on what information we know. In yesterday's workplace, it was the same. A person's job and their salary was based on the training they had and the information they knew.
What you studied--what you learned in school--determined the kind of job you did. Hiring managers could look at your degree and know if you had the specific skills they needed. Or they could easily test you on your knowledge.
Now we're in a world that puts incredible pressure on companies to compete globally, while also changing the ways that business is done. Organizations are now looking for workers who have the skills needed to succeed in a fast-changing workplace. They want people who are reliable, who communicate well, who adapt/learn quickly, and who can solve problems.
And the only problem is that there is no real way to test job applicants on those intangible skills! You could be the best candidate for your dream job... and they might never know! Anyone else frustrated by this?
On this blog, I write a lot about how college-educated workers in India and other developing countries are now able to compete globally for jobs. It's a growing problem that most US students don't know much about. After all, we're much more concerned about job competitors in our same state!
Luckily, the job outlook is not as gloomy as I sometimes make it out to be. Many jobs will go overseas--even some that we college graduates thought were untouchable--but there are many reasons that companies will want to hire college students here too.
Still, as college students, it's nice to read articles like this one published on Saturday by the Associated Press. Apparently, even as demand for cheap labor soars, and the international connectivity makes outsourcing possible for jobs requiring a college major, India is beginning to find skilled workers in short supply.
India has 1.03 billion people and a huge English speaking population. Over the past 15 years, college enrollment has skyrocketed. Over 400,000 new engineers graduate every year from their universities. Indian workers do everything from accounting to graphic-development for video games--for less than half the price of workers in developed countries.
The Associated Press article, however, gives college students hope on several levels. First, it brings up the fact that many Indian college graduates are not ready for prime time when they graduate from college.
Since schools in India focus on memorization and tests scores, "'everything else is forgotten: the capacity to think, to write, to be logical, to get along with people' said Mohandas Pai, human resources chief for Infosys Technologies "The focus is cram, cram, cram, cram."
Companies are complaining that many Indian college graduates have "trouble with such professional basics as working on a team or good phone manners." Basic communications skills can be nonexistent.
And that's not the only reason we can relax a little. Another problem faced by India can be described by the article's headline "India high-tech industry out of workers." Indian universities are often operating below international standards--sometimes even with textbooks that are decades old--companies are faced with a shortage of qualified workers. Many experts say that of India's 400,000 yearly engineering graduates, only about 100,000 are qualified to join the job market.
James Friedman, an analyst who has studied the issue, reports that over 500,000 qualified people would apply for 50,000 jobs when outsourcing to India first heated up in 2000. Now that Indian firms want to hire around 180,000 people a year, however, there are only between 100,000 and 200,000 applicants who are capable of doing the job. And workers are becoming more scarce by the day.
Suddenly, the law of supply and demand no longer works so well for India. Fewer workers for more jobs = higher wages. Since much of India's outsourcing appeal is in the low wages, this will be a big problem for international companies.
So, even though outsourcing will be an issue facing college students, the article gives reasons to breathe a little easier. Many international companies will not be so excited about the coming higher wages in India and needing to spend money just to bring workers up to speed.
In America, the big educational debate over the last couple years has been the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. Parents, educators and politicians are all concerned over the ability of young Americans to compete in a global job market. Whether or not NCLB is the best way to prepare youngsters, I definitely think we're right to be concerned.
Why? Because I'm finding that we're already behind.
For the last month, I've been taking an intensive German language course in Hamburg, Germany. For four hours everyday, I attend classes with young people from all over the world. Since the students are so global, the teacher speaks only in German. Even though it's a beginner's level course, it's up to us to understand the grammar rules he's teaching us.
I come home exhausted everyday.
You're probably wondering if you read that correctly. A major American newspaper is outsourcing to Bangalore? It's true.
And they're not the only one. Manufacturing jobs being sent overseas is old news, but many companies are sending highly-skilled, college-degree-requiring jobs away too.
Because Indian workers are able to work for such a pittance, they now being used by foreign companies for business, administrative, clerical and IT support functions.* US financial service industry are projected to save approximately $30 billion from outsourcing--enough money that it doesn't matter to them that they will have to get rid of 8% of their American workplace.
Here's a few more jobs that are being sent over to India:
Students just about to graduate will be no longer be entering a stable workplace where job competition come from college graduates in the same city. The rise of offshoring has changed the value of human capital in the US and today's college graduates will be entering into a completely new competitive job environment. As a result, college grads need to work on their intangible skills--the human interaction and higher-level thinking skills that cannot be easily sent overseas.
* A pittance in American terms. Cost of living in India is significantly cheaper than in the US.
(Books used as sources after click through.)
Today, one of the biggest problems faced by organizations is how to differentiate themselves in a global marketplace filled with choices.
By increasing industry productivity and lowering costs, technological advances have made production of hundreds of goods possible and companies today find themselves contending in an extremely competitive world of business.
Lowered international trade barriers have make products from all over the world available to be purchased anywhere in the world. Increased information on products and prices through the Internet has increased consumer knowledge of that availability.
This is painful for organizations because as quality goes up and prices go down overall, a brand’s power becomes less. As a result, consumers are faced with hundreds of similar choices and brand loyalty has virtually disappeared. Organizations usually find themselves fighting in an international tug of war over a set number of customers who make many of their decisions based solely on which product has the lowest price.
In today’s world, it is no longer enough to sell a product at a reasonable quality and price. Everyone does that. Companies wishing to gain in market share must gain attention from customers in a different way. For that reason, a creative and innovative workforce has become extremely necessary to help organizations differentiate themselves in a global marketplace.
Unfortunately, coming up with new ideas and solutions is not an easy thing for most people, and they cannot become brilliant innovators overnight. Often, however, this is exactly what organizations expect. One day, the leader of a company will throw the gauntlet on the table and demand that everyone there "be creative". Unsurprisingly, this usually doesn't work.
For that reason, companies love college graduates who have shown the ability to think of new ideas and solve problems. In my survey of 559 hiring managers, 45.2% of the respondents said that Creativity and Problem Solving Ability is one of the top three skills they look for when hiring new employees.
Employers don't want run-of-the-mill employees, they want workers who can add value to their organization by helping that organization stand out in the global marketplace!
Graduating college has always been a stressful experience for young people, but today it's becoming even more intimidating. Less job security, increased job competition from around the world, high college tuition and a lot of other real-world pressures have all combined, and the result is that many college students are terrified about what will come next!
In fact, graduating college can be a lot like jumping off a moving train! I would never recommend jumping out of a train to anyone, but there are some situations where you might have to do it just to survive. (For example: a terrorist situation, a faulty bridge, James Bond casting call.) In today's fast-changing workplace, graduating college is also a survival necessity for future employability.
So, for all those soon-to-be college graduates, here's my top five reasons that graduating college is like jumping off a moving train!
5. You need to look before you leap. It's much easier to close your eyes when you do a scary jump. However, if you close your eyes as you're coming out of college, you'll probably miss some opportunities. Career success books are full of stories about people finding incredible networking opportunities in the strangest places and then eventually landing the job of their dreams. By keeping your eyes open, you'll end up in a much better place.
Photo: Many thanks to mulder.hu
Yesterday, Drew at The Marketing Minute responded to my post about 15 points of advice that hiring managers gave to me, and challenged me to say which one I believe is the most significant.
Luckily, since I've read tons of excellent advice over the last year and a half, I knew right away which one I think all college students should read:
The days of learning one skill and staying in a job using that skill are LONG gone....You must also be prepared to "go to school" for the rest of your life, but not in a traditional sense. By this, I mean that the business world changes so quickly, that one must have the ability to adapt and change along with it. This means constant study and updating your skills. Businesses (and successful employees) will always be adapting new technologies, conforming to new legislation, using new tools & incorporating new ideas...
Why do I choose this one? It's because so much of the advice I've found is incredibly helpful. There are SO many things that students can do to set themselves up for success in a fast-changing world. They can work on their communications skills, or they can become great at solving problems and thinking of new ideas, or they can devote themselves to learning as much as they can about an emerging technology. They can do all that, or something completely different!
The main thing every student needs to know is that they must expect the business world to change, and they must know that it's their responsibility to keep themselves current and employable. If they can internalize the need for lifelong learning, and actively use it to acquire new in-demand skills, they will go far.
Drew over at The Marketing Minute just wrote a blog post called "Help me give college grads a fighting chance." He starts with:
It's Spring. The birds will soon be chirping, the flowers blooming and the college grads descending like locusts on every marketing agency, marketing department and media outlet. They all want one thing -- their first real job.
I remember how scary it was. 20+ years later, I shake my head at the mistakes the grads make while trying to vie for my attention. So I decided we (yes WE) could give them a gift that will put that digital camera to shame. We can help them get that job.
He's asking for advice from people who have been there and I've decided to oblige with 15 more words of advice from hiring managers.
1. The degree you have completed represents that you were able to focus on one long term project and complete it successfully. Whether you have an English, Business, or Social Work degree, they will all fit into almost any profession one way or another.
2. The velocity of change has sped up to an amazing pace. It's important to be able to roll with the punches, learn new things, and be able to communicate your ideas faster, more clearly, than ever before. In order to make it in the workplace of the future, you need to be make yourself outsource proof. Learn lots of skills, and be able to relate all of those skills back to the business. You'll never be able to outsource proof your job, but if you are personally outsource proof, you're far ahead of most of your peers. And most importantly, it's not what you know, it's not who you know, it's who knows you. Make yourself known as an expert in your field, and you'll go far.
3. It is important today to be curious. Start each day or each project with two words,"What If." I don't look for steady, loyal employees. I look for quirky dreamers that create and innovate.
The next 12 are continued when you click through...