Stuff You Need to Learn to Get a Real Job

Even the best colleges don’t teach you what you need to know and be able to do to get a decent job.
Top employers receive 250 job applications for every opening, but 45% of U.S. employers say a skills shortage is a leading reason for entry-level vacancies. After a hire is made, many employers experience high percentage of mistakes. Were they looking at the wrong characteristics?
A 2013 Business Council CEO survey found work ethic (96%), teamwork (94%), decision making (91%) and critical thinking (90%) to be most in demand skills–but they can be tough to spot.
Employers are looking for these skills but not finding them in candidates, according to Jeffrey Selingo, who is the author of There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow. Employers really want “critical thinking, the ability to manage multiple projects, communication, problem-solving,” said Selingo.
Koru, a Seattle-based startup has identified a similar list of seven “impact skills” that are, according to Koru co-founder Josh Jarrett, what employers need from early career talent and predictive of job performance. Smarts and technical skills aren’t enough. “Grit matters more than grades,” said Jarrett.
The “Koru7 Impact Skills” include characteristics that matter most to employers. According to Koru these are grit, rigor, impact, teamwork, curiosity, ownership and polish.

Koru7 Impact Skills

GRIT: The ability to stick with it when things get hard. When directions are not explicit, hires can make sense of ambiguous situations. Validated sub-competencies: Grit; Growth Mindset; Self-Efficacy.

OWNERSHIP: Positive and empathetic hires can be a joy to work with, contributing to great teams. Being able to not only do work in service of others, but also take initiative when things are not clear help early career talent stand out. Validated sub-competencies: Proactivity; Citizenship; Integrity; Conscientiousness.

CURIOSITY: Beyond simply asking why, curiosity can also spark innovation. Hires that are curious, not only about their product or role, but also about the roles of others, or competitive products, tend to be better informed, have better eye for detail and often ask the right questions. Validated sub-competencies: Creativity; Empathy.

TEAMWORK: There are no dark corners in organizations anymore. Everyone must collaborate to produce work and drive results. Even software developers work in teams. Validated sub-competencies: Emotional Intelligence; Collaboration; Positivity.

RIGOR: Innovative companies care about data in all areas, so we screen for the ability to read, interpret and process data quickly and in a detail-oriented way. Validated sub-competencies: Evidence-Based Decision-Making.

IMPACT: Great early hires not only can do the duties in their role, but they also understand their contribution and impact to the larger organization’s objectives. Hires with Impact are efficient, and think about the company’s success instead of just their own. Validated sub-competencies: Real-World Problem-Solving; Innovation.

POLISH: No matter your role, being an effective communicator is important for co-workers and clients like. From writing effective emails to asking thoughtful questions, workers with Polish are great collaborators. Validated sub-competencies: Communication.

There is no single test for these characteristics, but Jarrett said they can be assessed using best practice hiring techniques and data analytics. Koru is helping several large companies increase their ability to hire and develop top performing college grads using a proprietary assessment and online hiring platform called the Koru Talent Analytics Platform.
Koru offers a three week program where prospective employees complement a college education with applied learning on product development, design thinking, customer surveys and running meetings. The Koru experience includes tackling a real problem for a real company and presenting solutions to the company leaders. Working with a Koru coach, participants figure out what kind of jobs they really want and prepare for interviews.
Fullbridge offers a similar short programs focused on “professional communication, financial agility, creative problem solving and design thinking.”

Get Experience

Koru and Fullbridge are great programs, but they are for young people playing catch up.
“We used to think these skills were embedded in bachelor’s degrees, but we’re no longer seeing that, so the best ways for students to get these skills is from internship experience,” said Selingo. “That’s why so many employers are only hiring from their intern pool.”
“The most important thing students can do in college is have experiential learning: internships, service learning, apprenticeships, study abroad,” according to Selingo. He added that work experience is more important than anything students will do in the classroom.
Great work experiences can start in high school. NAF, a network of 667 career academies, requires all students to participate in internships. At NAF, “Work-based learning is designed as a continuum of experiences beginning with career awareness activities, progressing to career exploration activities, and culminating in career activities, including internships,” said Andrew Rothstein. (See NAFtrack certification system.)
The bottom line for young people: get work experience whenever, where ever you can; document it with artifacts and build references. Make sure you include evidence of those “impact skills.” Customize each resume you send away (make sure it’s scannable)–you have about six seconds to make an impression.

eduInnovation and Getting Smart have partnered with The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation to produce a thought leadership campaign called Generation Do-It-Yourself (GenDIY)–how young people are hacking a pathway to a career they love–on The Huffington Post and This campaign about reimagining secondary and postsecondary education and career skills will explore the new generation building a global economy and experiences that are impact driven and entrepreneurial.

For more on GenDIY:

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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