Five things every student should learn before graduating

Recent college graduates must find new ways to bring the skills they learned in school to the workplace

Arizona State University professor Jeffrey Selingo shares five crucial characteristics recent college graduates need to compete in the job market from his new book, "There Is Life After College." 

1. Digital Know-How

It's not enough to know how to use a computer or social media. While many students entering the workforce are considered "digital natives," research has found that nearly 60% of these "digital natives" lack basic technology skills such as sorting, finding, and emailing data from a spreadsheet. And real technical knowledge must go beyond the basics. Programming is now needed for many jobs—even those in industries that are not traditionally related to technology.  

"Every major company today has been transformed into a technology company," says Brian Fitzgerald, head of the Business-Higher Education forum. "Even non-tech jobs are tech jobs."

Learn more: How students use technology

2. Agency

In college, students learn to follow the rules and be good test-takers, but life after college presents challenges that require the ability to navigate unfamiliar terrain. Students need to be ready for whatever comes their way, especially in such an unpredictable job market. They must be able to engage in activities that will boost their problem-solving abilities.

Students can prepare for new demands while still in college by seeking out opportunities such as internships, studying abroad, and cultivating relationships with faculty and staff. 

3. Curiosity 

Students must express curiosity about the world around them, going beyond just the subjects they are required to learn in school. 

"If you don't seek to learn, you don't try new things," says Bob Iger, CEO of Disney. "I don't think you can run a business today in a very dynamic marketplace without being curious."

When interviewing people for jobs, Iger asks candidates about books they have read, movies they have seen, and where they have traveled "to determine their level of curiosity."

The 6 experiences that turn successful students into successful employees

4. Flexibility

The skills students learn in college will be applied quite differently to on-the-job tasks. To learn to do this successfully, students need to participate in activities that allow them to exercise problem-solving and apply their skills to a range of situations.

5. Humility

Recent graduates may be instilled with the new-found confidence that comes with successfully completing college, but a tough job market may serve as a wake-up call to be more humble.

"New graduates need to be patient about their careers and realistic about their roles within a company," Selingo says. "Given we're going to be living longer and working longer, patience is perhaps the most important quality in life after college" (Selingo, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 4/18). 

200 more ways to set your students up for success

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