Grads, Feel Like Your Diploma Might Not Be Enough? These Are the Skills You Need.
Ah, college graduation -- a time to celebrate hard work and achievement ... and then immediately panic about what comes next (or maybe that was just me).
My first message to any new grads feeling that way is to take a deep breath and relax for a moment. Hopefully, you will have a long and rewarding career, but there's no need to have it all mapped out right now. In fact, considering how quickly technology is changing job descriptions and required skill sets, you might very well have to change course a few times along the way, regardless.
Career paths aren't as linear or strictly defined as they probably were for your parents and grandparents, but this is actually a good thing. You'll have more latitude to experiment and find your fit without worrying you're locked in for life.
My second message is that you are not alone. Many of us, from avid scholars to more reluctant students, come out of school feeling like we don't have "job skills." And, no, I'm not just talking about archaeology majors. I've talked to plenty of grads with newly minted degrees in business and STEM subjects who realize they absorbed a lot of theoretical content but didn't necessarily learn how to be a practitioner.
My third and most important message is that you will have to keep learning new things, despite the fact that you just received a diploma. This is the work environment your older colleagues face, too. None of us can expect formal education to deliver everything we will need to know over our entire careers.
So, with all that uncertainty, where should you direct your lifelong learning efforts? Fortunately, I have a few suggestions.
No surprise here. While not all of us are engineers or programmers, most of us use technology to do our jobs. There's no better way to stand out from the pack than to equip yourself with a baseline of tech skills to enhance your overall qualifications. For example, if you're interested in marketing, consider learning to code your own campaign landing pages or run your own SQL data queries.
To be more specific, check out recent research by Upwork, which found that employers' most sought-after skills include big data/analytics, marketing/sales automation, internet of things and digital advertising. That aligns with my own company's marketplace trends, where our corporate customers are taking courses on web development, data science and cybersecurity.
When someone as cutting-edge as Elon Musk admits his company went too far, too fast, on automation in its factories, it speaks volumes. Robots will certainly improve in performing certain complex tasks, but we humans still have plenty to offer than can't be automated.
That's why it is incumbent on all of us to look beyond hard skills and develop the soft skills machines can't replicate. These include things like critical thinking, leadership, creativity and so on. And, despite what you may believe, you can improve your soft skills at any age.
Curiosity and the love of learning tend to go hand in hand. Exploring a range of topics will make you a more well-rounded employee and, to put it simply, a more interesting person! Algorithms can only make connections based on the data they are fed, but humans make surprising, imaginative associations all the time that spark new ideas and solutions.
Your next work breakthrough might very well spring from something learned in a drawing class or discovered while watching a science documentary. Just check out this amazing collection of real-world innovations inspired by nature! Your personal passions and curiosities could even grow into a side hustle that makes you extra income and even launches you into a different career you hadn't thought of before.
Best of all, picking up real job skills doesn't mean making a U-turn back into the classroom. There are plenty of options for learning when, where and how best fits your current routine. Obviously, I'm biased in favor of taking online courses, which allow you to easily and affordably test-drive lots of different possibilities without making a huge commitment.The best online courses, as well as more formal programs like bootcamps or internships, will also give you a chance to complete real projects you can include on your resume and show interviewers. If you're feeling insecure about what college actually taught you to do, you'll gain confidence after you've built your own first mobile app or sketched out a prototype.
So, go ahead and have fun celebrating your graduation with friends and family, but skip the post-grad panic! Your best learning is yet to come.