When it comes to millennials in the workplace, there’s no shortage of gaps. There’s a soft skills gap. There’s an information gap. There’s a gap between what Gen X and boomer managers want and what millennials are providing. Many analysts think these gaps stem from what’s not being taught in higher education.
I interviewed Alexandra Levit, author of “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World” and a thought leader on career and workplace issues and trends, to hear more about advice for millennials as they navigate a business world that is increasingly global, virtual, entrepreneurial and unpredictable and her advice for learning leaders as they help get young workers up to speed.
Let’s talk about the skills gap for recent graduates. What’s the problem here?
Levit: According to the 2013 Job Preparedness Indicator, an annual survey conducted by the Career Advisory Board established by DeVry University, 72 percent of job seekers are confident they know how to present their skills and experience to an interviewer, yet just 15 percent of hiring managers say nearly all or most job seekers have the skills and traits their companies are looking for in candidates.
So the problem is not that the positions aren’t available, it’s that hiring managers are interviewing dozens of people and not hiring a single one. New college grads especially are chronically underemployed because they either don’t have the skills hiring managers require or aren’t showcasing them properly on their resumes and in interviews.
Was it a problem for previous generations?
Levit: It wasn’t as big of a problem because in previous decades, organizations expected that college graduates would be fairly green and that they would have to train them. Now, more companies expect new grads to be the full package upon arrival.
So, what’s the solution? Where’s Gen Y supposed to get these skills from? How can education be changed?
Levit: I have a few recommendations to this effect.
First, college students need early exposure to careers. Many graduates are misinformed about the requirements of a career until they have already failed in their first jobs. Schools can help by opening the curtain while students still have several years left of formal education. High school students, for instance, should have field trips to or visits from various businesses to expose them to different careers.
Secondly, some students are pushed into an area of study or career based on external factors like parental encouragement or marketability. Others are paralyzed by too many choices and end up selecting the first job that falls into their laps. Skills assessment is valuable in helping students narrow the field and choose a first career that’s well-aligned with their interests and skills. One such assessment is Latitude by You Science, an online tool that combines scientifically valid aptitudes, interests and career options to empower informed decision-making.
Finally, schools should take advantage of low cost and effective soft skills training for students before they graduate (via an online tool such as the Business Roundtable’s JobSTART 101).
What’s the corporate world’s role in all of this?
Levit: In many American colleges today, career services only liaises with organizational recruiters once students are ready to graduate and be placed. This is the wrong model. Companies should be involved with universities much earlier and much more comprehensively, including building a long-term presence on campus and educating freshman students about what they are looking for.
Companies must also shift their leadership development mindsets to accommodate the way Gen Y likes to acquire new skills. In the 2013 millennial leadership study by Deloitte, surveyed Gen Yers indicated that they prefer to learn via regular interaction with senior leaders and real-world problem-solving experiences rather than classroom training. In response, smart organizations are providing young talent with cross-functional leadership opportunities outside of formal job titles so that they can work a variety of mentors and get a well-rounded view of operations.