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The Career Readiness Myth Higher Ed Can’t Shake

Career Readiness
Career Readiness | Confidence | Soft Skills

Article Summary

  • Between 1980 and 2015, there’s been an 83% increase in jobs that require better interpersonal, communication or management skills.
  • Jobs requiring stronger analytical skills have increased by 77%.
  • Career readiness is becoming more and more dependent on less common skillsets.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When we think of college, “career” is often the next thought. Now more than ever, students and families are expecting a college education to lead to better job opportunities. Seen as the means to either graduate studies or job readiness, college is now synonymous with preparing future generations for the workforce of tomorrow.

While this might not be a revelation, today’s job market is fraught with change, which makes the definition of career readiness a moving target. Technologies like automation, machine learning and AI are impacting organizations more than ever—and with these changes come shifting expectations from employers. The same employers who are sorting through stacks of applications from recent graduates.

The surprising part? Higher education may not be measuring up.

To help instructors and students understand the disconnect in career readiness, prepare for the modern workforce and capitalize on opportunities available today, we explored a career readiness myth holding students back using data from the best source possible: employers.

The Myth: College Students Graduate with the Skills to Succeed in Today’s Workforce

As businesses evolve, technology changes and employee expectations shift, employers are seeing increasing gaps in crucial skills they view as imperative to the success of their organizations. In fact, between 1980 and 2015, there’s been an 83% increase in jobs that require better interpersonal, communication or management skills. During the same period, jobs requiring stronger analytical skills increased by 77%.

The takeaway? Career readiness is becoming more and more dependent on less common skillsets. Let’s take a look at the skills employers say are lacking today, and dive into strategies you can incorporate into your lessons to empower students for their futures.

What Employers are Missing the Most

To find out which skills employers miss most in recent college graduates, we aggregated their responses.

Chart: What Skills Employers Miss the Most From Students


What About Students?

With employers listing communication-related skills as one of the most important—and most lacking—skills in employees, how do current students rate themselves? According to a study conducted by Hart Research Associates—which measured student confidence and employer observations—student confidence may be higher than it should be:

Chart: Student Confidence vs. Employer Observation

Addressing the Career Readiness Myth

While students focus on mastering course concepts and honing the technical skills they think will boost their career readiness, it’s clear that they’re lacking in skills that business settings require. For example, recent graduates must be able to synthesize and demonstrate their skills and experiences in interview settings to get a job.

Once hired, recent graduates need the proper foundational knowledge and interpersonal skills to navigate and thrive in a professional setting. Can they confidently participate in meetings? Do they communicate clearly and concisely on the phone or via email? Students often focus more on meeting course expectations than they do on developing the skills that are harder to capture in a student transcript or resume.

So how can educators help their students tackle the myth that they’re ready for the workforce? Consider the following tips:

  • Share insights and bring employer expectations into the conversation
  • Teach and assess soft skill development alongside your lessons
  • Incorporate career readiness skill-builders into existing coursework
  • Share career opportunities related to your students’ fields of study

Want to Explore Other Career Readiness Myths?

Check out our ebook, Career Readiness: 4 Myths Debunked, for even more common myths hindering students and their career readiness.