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Empowering College Students For Today’s Workforce

Are you a parent of a college student? As your child enters college, a variety of skills are needed in the transition. They need to organize their week with a schedule of classes, get to classes on time, complete the assignments, and plan for long-term projects and exams. Those skills, while evident to onlookers, might be challenging, particularly freshman year, but they are essential to learn and apply to the workforce in the years ahead. I would like to introduce a list of additional skills and competencies your son or daughter will need to be ready for success in the workplace. As I write this blog, I wish someone could have informed me about this when my two adult children were in college.

The goal of this article is to review the topic of career readiness. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), “Career readiness is a foundation to demonstrate requisite core competencies that broadly prepare the college-educated for success in the workplace and lifelong career management.” NACE lists eight career readiness competencies that students can demonstrate in various ways. They include:

  • Career & Self-Development
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Technology

Career & Self-Development: First and foremost is the ability to develop one’s career through the awareness of strengths and weaknesses, navigating career opportunities, and networking to build relationships. I would argue that this can start in the Freshman year with the assistance of an academic counselor, career coach, on-campus career center, teachers, and parents. Some of the critical behaviors include:

  • Awareness of strengths and weaknesses
  • Advocate for oneself and others and ask for what they need
  • Develop relationships with favorite teachers who could serve as a mentor. Leverage these relationships with teachers who could help out professionally.
  • Develop goals for one’s future career
  • Seek opportunities to learn outside the classroom
  • Apply for internships to learn about fields of interest and gain experience.
  • Volunteer to participate in education, training, or events to support one’s career

Communication: To clearly and effectively exchange information, ideas, facts, and opinions with others. This includes demonstrating verbal, written, and non-verbal body language abilities. In the world of texting, students need to practice communicating verbally and in writing. While teachers can assist here, activities that help students promote communication skills should be considered based on the student’s interests, strengths, and challenges. Examples include working a part-time job directly with customers, joining an on-campus club and communicating as a team, or simply sharing with teachers when assistance is needed on an assignment.

Critical Thinking: Identify and respond to needs based on understanding the situational context and analysis of relevant information. Examples include having the student make decisions using sound reasoning. If they need a new phone, have the student explore and analyze the products, make price comparisons, and devise a rational plan to share with a parent. Another example parents can use is to discuss a news topic that the student is passionate about. Have the student communicate their perspective.

Equity & Inclusivity: Demonstrate the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills required to engage and include people from different cultures. We live in a diverse world where our children will be interacting with co-workers from various ethnic, racial, and sexual preferences. Encourage them to keep an open mind to diverse ideas and new ways of thinking.

Leadership: Recognize and capitalize on personal and team strengths to achieve organizational goals. Encourage your child to participate in leadership opportunities on and off campus. Examples include serving as a role model to other students participating in a campus activity to take the lead or co-lead on an activity or project.

Professionalism: Demonstrate effective work habits and act in the interest of the larger community or workplace. Sample behaviors include having integrity, being accountable to self and others, being on time, being present and prepared for class, prioritizing and completing homework and projects for class, and showing dedication and effort for school work. They might seek assistance from a coach to develop these positive work habits.

Teamwork: Build and maintain collaborative relationships to work effectively toward common goals while respecting diverse viewpoints and shared responsibilities. Sample behaviors include listening to others without interrupting, managing conflict, being accountable for their part in a team project at school, and volunteering for an organization and internship.

Technology: Understanding and leveraging technologies to enhance efficiencies, complete tasks, and accomplish goals. To be open to learning new technologies and also know what technical skills are needed on the job for students that have selected a major and career path.

The good news is many employers are focusing more on skills versus degrees and experience in hiring new graduates. To secure a first job, recent graduates naturally need the right skills for the jobs they are applying for. They also need a solid foundation to demonstrate competencies that prepare them for the workplace. For ADHD students they must understand their strengths and weaknesses and “ask for what they need” to gain confidence in themselves and take responsibility for their school work. This will carry over to the workplace. To help students create success, we can encourage them to develop the competencies mentioned in this article to secure internships and part-time work and strategically participate in campus activities to learn about the world of work. I believe it takes a village to shape our students for the future of work.

Victoria Roche, MSW, PCC

Victoria Roche, MSW, PCC

ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach