The college experience gives students the opportunity to learn, explore and grow their minds and independence. And most college students believe that the skills they learn on campus are preparing them for the real world, but many employers disagree.
A study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) compared responses from employers and college students to questions related to career preparation, and in many key categories, college students appear to have missed the mark. While college students think they have the relevant skills to succeed after graduation, fewer than three in 10 employers think that college grads have the ability to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings. They also think that this group lacks critical thinking skills and written and oral communication skills.
So how can college students bridge the gap between college and the real world? Here are a few ways to start:
Gap #1: Hard knowledge vs. soft skills
Memorizing theories, concepts and equations may land you an “A” on your next exam, but just reciting hard facts won’t get you far on the job. Work to make connections in your classes that will help you apply the high-level knowledge you’re taking in every day, and focus on building the soft skills that so many grads lack. Push yourself to deliver a top notch presentation or take the lead on a group project. Those experiences will help you in the long run.
Gap #2: Study life vs. work life
Class, study, friends, sleep and repeat. That’s how most college students spend their four years on campus, but once you land your first job, your schedule will adjust to accommodate the nine-to-five grind along with the many adult responsibilities that come with it. To prepare yourself for this switch, look for ways to get valuable and relevant work experience while in college. You’ll get used to a more realistic work schedule, while also bolstering your resume.
Gap #3: Short-term goals vs. long-term vision
With your eyes focused on graduation, it can be easy to forget about the career that awaits you. Short-term goals will guide you through your final semesters, but you also need to start building the foundation for a long-term vision. It can be daunting to think of your life years down the road, but by outlining your long-term career vision, even in broad terms, you can focus your job search to the companies and positions that will get you where you want to be quicker than your peers.
By recognizing the gaps that exist between your college experience and the real world that lies just beyond graduation, you can focus on honing the skills that matter, both to your future employer and your future career.