It’s no secret most college students have their future careers at the front of their minds in the months leading up to graduation. But help landing that first job after graduation isn’t the only gift institutions of higher education can give students, even if it is the most obvious goal.
The habits, connections, and mindsets students collect during their time in college can make a huge difference in their success as new employees. Let’s look at four ways higher ed can support new graduates and help them be more successful in their post-graduate careers.
#1: Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Beyond building technical skills and knowledge, higher education also has the opportunity to help students build the type of mindset that will help them be successful as employees. Any class can cover topics such as:
- Navigating change
- Dealing with ambiguity
- Having persistence
- Handling conflict
These issues come up regularly over the course of a semester, especially in programs that include group work or difficult labs and projects. It’s up to professors to proactively introduce and discuss these topics, rather than let them take a backseat to the regular coursework.
CalState is finding ways to build growth mindsets. They provide mentoring programs in which they openly discuss the benefits of failure, the ability to improve, and the value of teamwork with their students. This opportunity gives the students involved the type of confidence and persistence that will make them more successful over their careers. One student summed it up this way:
“Operating with a growth mindset has taught me to change my thoughts about failure and welcome this long process of growth. Learning to adapt and turn around your self-doubt is constant work, but it greatly benefits students."
#2: Teaching Soft Skills Intentionally
The U.S. Department of Labor calls soft skills “the competitive edge”. That’s certainly true for job seekers, but soft skills are also a major factor in someone’s ability to progress in their career beyond just getting hired. The Department of Labor specifically mentions the importance of:
- Professionalism or work ethic
- Oral and written communication
- Teamwork and collaboration skills
- Critical thinking or problem-solving skills
When higher education focuses on cultivating these skills in addition to teaching exceptional technical skills, their students are better prepared to both find jobs and make progress as employees long after they graduate. Colleges and universities are taking note of this benefit and providing programs that focus on leadership, provide mentoring opportunities, and build community. Students can also benefit from adjacent programs like LeaderU that provide certificate programs specifically designed to build soft skills.
#3: Expect Change
One of the soft skills that is most valuable in the industry is the ability to adapt to change. In fact, those who expect and welcome change will be better prepared to adapt to shifts in their careers and make progress. This is true for both workplace issues and things happening in the world around us that can impact businesses and careers.
Consider how Covid-19, environmental changes, or moral distress in the world can impact us as people and employees. Companies want to hire — and promote — people who can handle the curveballs of life well. When higher ed institutions work to teach how skills can be used across industries, how to adapt to change, and how to value diverse perspectives, their graduates will be the kind of long-term employees who can intelligently lead through any environment.
#4: Express the Value of Advanced Skills
Employers aren’t just looking for entry-level soft skills. Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, told Inside Higher Ed:
“Employers are also willing to pay a salary premium for liberals arts skills. Engineering and information technology professionals can expect to make an additional $14,000 annually for leadership skills, $12,000 for presentation skills and $2,000 for writing skills, based on a median salary of $81,000.”
That means it’s important to express those skills on resumes when applying for jobs or promotions. Colleges and universities that offer targeted leadership programs can fill that need, as well as certificates and accredited programs that are specifically designed to build those skills — and those capabilities will serve graduates far beyond landing that first job.
Programs like those offered by FranklinCovey’s LeaderU can be combined with academic programs to help students be successful in finding jobs and making progress in their careers. To learn more about how alternative credentials can prepare your students for life after graduation, contact us.