Am I Employable Yet?
Taking on a post-secondary degree is an important decision that many students make. However, though this education is challenging and eye-opening, sometimes it can be difficult to translate what you learn in class to the workforce. This is particularly true of many university undergraduate degrees, which, due to their strict academic and theoretical nature, often prepare students for careers in research and academia, but sometimes do not provide much information on how to apply their skills in other fields.
Since post-secondary is such a grand investment, you should have at least a rough idea of what kind of work you’d like to get into once you graduate. It’s important to consider whether you are building up the skills that will be necessary to secure and maintain a job in that field. Unfortunately, good grades don’t always guarantee an easy job hunt.
Here are some employability skills that are transferable to many work environments, and what you can do now to start developing them.
Critical thinking. Problem-solving, open-mindedness, and mental flexibility are all part of this skill, and all of these things can come in handy in the workforce. Having an employee who can always see the other side of an issue, and analyze any problem down to its core, is an asset in fields from law to business to engineering.
What can I do now? Read and evaluate academic papers, solve logic puzzles, and voice your opinion in classroom discussions.
Organization and time management. In many cases, large projects in the workforce no longer come with a “late-penalty” safety mechanism. That said, staying organized and on top of things is key to actually accomplishing those tasks. Procrastination may have worked in undergrad, but it won’t fly for long; think about how embarrassing it would be for a company project to fall because you didn’t hand in your work on time.
What can I do now? Categorize your notes and course materials, plan ahead for deadlines, and keep a to-do list.
Perseverance. Good employees don’t give up after their first try—in fact, they often keep going, trying to find alternative solutions, after a number of small failures. By doing this, you’re showing the employer that the work matters enough to keep trying. This is important in the workforce because you are often faced with competing projects and difficult group dynamics, obstacles you must work to overcome.
What can I do now? Evaluate yourself when you make mistakes, push yourself to complete extra credit, and speak to your professors and teaching assistants for advice.
Improvisation. The power to think on your feet is an absolutely underestimated skill. Presentations aren’t always going to go the way you want, or you might discover information that may compromise the value of the project you’re working on. Go with it. Employers will be impressed if you are able to make the best of any situation.
What can I do now? Challenge yourself by asking “what if” questions, engage in debates, and broaden your knowledge by learning concepts from different fields.