Graduates: New Skills Frontier

The concept of a career is an ominous task for even the most accomplished people. What do I commit to? What do I train for? Will I still like it in 10 years?

Today’s graduates spend the bulk of their young adult life working toward their aspirational career goals. They spend their young high school lives being top of class to get into the degree and university they need. They spend their time at university training and taking internships to be well set up to win graduate jobs. They spend their time in graduate roles to secure a permanent role in a well-respected company. Its go, go, go until all of a sudden you reach 40 and realise – what am I doing with my life?

The sad reality is that a lot of money and time is invested in upskilling and specialising in a field, that many students are ill-prepared to face the changing nature of the job market. The reality is that “…two-thirds of today’s five-year-old’s will, in about 15 years, find themselves in jobs that don’t exist yet,” (Forbes Online, 3 October 2018). The flip side of this is that the majority of graduates entering slowing industries could face a need to reskill and rethink their concept of career as new unknown fields take over the job market.

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It is a bleak outlook. But it is possible to do something about it now. Many large-scale firms are already anticipating a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and refocusing their hiring efforts on areas that very few people consider – ‘soft skills.’

Soft skills are those innate abilities that some people have such as ease of presence, engaging communication, social and emotional intelligence, adaptability and problem solving. These are what employers -particularly graduate employers- are looking toward. “…Corporate giants such as KMPG and PricewaterhouseCoopers… now value [soft skills] … more than technical ability,” (SMH Online, 15 March 2015).

If you are one of the unlucky who are not born with an innate sense of soft skills, entering into a career of your choice with the knowledge that it may not be around by the time you expected to have three kids and a Maserati can be daunting. The good news is there are ways to develop these skills.

First – stop relying on your education. Education is always a fantastic thing to have, but do not forget the importance of problem solving and adaptability. You will likely find a number of company restructures in your career and the ability to be flexible and succeed in the face of adversity is a skill your employers will always desire, regardless of your industry.

Second – be active. You only get in what you put out. There are many fantastic opportunities to get involved and develop your soft skills to better prepare. If you happen to still be studying, get involved in campus life – there are a multitude of societies and groups that will encourage you develop soft skills as well as offering potential connections as you develop your career. For those already on the full-time work grind, there are a multitude of professional development courses established specifically to enhance your soft skills in the areas you need most. If you are lucky, you may even get your workplace to help cover the cost!

If you are currently on the job hunt now, have a chat with your recruiter or the hiring manager for the roles you apply to. They will be able to provide some much-needed industry advice and enable you to better prepare to win you the role you most desire.

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