One of the major concerns of young people everywhere is that, once they graduate from college (if they graduate at all) the job market is going to be extremely tough.
It’s a valid concern because it’s already tough and only going to get more difficult in the next few decades. The fact is, the question “what’s your major?” isn’t just a cheesy pickup line that you use in a bar anymore, it’s a vital life question that needs to be answered before any large amount of money is invested into a college education.
In fact, most companies these days don’t even care all that much about what your ‘major’ was in college but are looking instead for a skill set that goes beyond any one curriculum that you might have followed. The ability, for example, to speak in front of a crowd, write a grammatically correct and engaging email or tell the difference between an online ad and a mobile ad are going to be quite valuable in the future.
“There is absolutely no doubt there is a talent gap when you think about who’s graduating from college today and what many corporations need,” said Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer of executive search firm Charles Aris Inc. “So many of our clients have significant talent shortages at lower levels of the business.”
What does this mean for high school students heading off to college in the near future? It means that the courses below should definitely be added to their college curriculum once they get there and, if possible, focused on while still in high school.
First off are the STEM classes, science, technology, engineering and math. “Those classes will serve that person well for the rest of their career,” Oakley says. He also points to the fact that a “big data” analytics course is a particularly smart choice. ”There is not an industry in the world for which major decisions cannot be made using data,” Oakley said.
Looking for any type of study that can get you into an internship during the summer is an excellent idea as well. Bob Nelson, the author of “1501 Ways to Reward Employees”, says that using internships to seek out talent is one of the ways that management is closing talent gaps. Not only that but the experience that a student will get during most internships can go a long way to getting them hired at a real job once they’ve graduated
Getting a deeper understanding of how businesses work can help a graduate to excel as an employee or, if they desire, build their own successful business. That’s why taking at least a few courses on business and economics is extremely important. Even if they don’t have their own business, the courses they take will help them to better manage their own personal finances.
We mentioned above that the ability to speak in front of the crowd is an asset that companies are looking for and, with that in mind, a great recommendation is to take at least a few theater arts courses in college. These enable a person to become more comfortable speaking in front of groups, something that can translate to the office or boardroom quite nicely. An “improv” class would be a wonderful idea as well as joining the debate team and an introductory course on law and/or ethics. “Classes like that require you to form an opinion, to write about it, and defend it,” said Oakley—all things that can sharpen critical thinking and presentation skills.
Any type of writing course is also an exceptional idea because, frankly, the average college graduate has absolutely horrible writing skills and they’re vitally important. “We have heard and seen from countless clients that young people today just don’t have good business writing skills,” Oakley said. We’re not talking about term papers here but courses where the professor actually teaches students how to craft things like email messages, short stories, letters and so forth. (Another option would be to take a grammar course as well.)
Finally there’s leadership studies. “If you’re someone who’s focused on harder kinds of sciences or math, courses and activities that give social skills, that encourage teamwork and that help build creativity and develop creativity are really valuable,” said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. He says that employers want new hires to be able to demonstrate leadership ability as well as the other qualities and skills that we’ve talked about.
So if you have a child that’s college-bound sometime in the next few years, you now have a great idea of the types of courses that they should, if not concentrating on completely, be at least dabbling in a bit in order to be as “well-rounded” as possible. Trust us, it will serve them well once those hard partying… correction, we mean hard studying days of college are over.