Sunday, August 31, 2014

Skills Employers Wish You Had

Napoleon Dynamite: No, but who would? I don't even have any good skills.
Pedro: What do you mean?
Napoleon Dynamite: You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.
Pedro: Aren't you pretty good at drawing, like animals and warriors and stuff?

In 2004, Napolean predicted the quandary that is our labor market today.  Okay, Napolean was in fact making a point about the type of boys a girl would want to couple with.  One that has plenty of skills to show off, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills,....  It's the same in the natural world with animals, if you believe in that sort of stuff (survival of the fittest) and are not super religious.  To each his own, right?

Yet in a way, Napolean was correct about one thing: skills count!  Just ask the hundreds of CEO's who have complained now for several years about the lack of skills college graduates have.  See article: Skills Employers Wish.. The chief complaints include graduates that need additional training once hired, lacking the skills necessary to simply do the job.  The skils employers want: communication (does not equal texting skills), time management (does not equal showing up to lecture just 5 minutes late), and ability to work with others in a team (does not equal playing wingman at a house party).

I'd categorize the three skills above as fundamental.  Everyone should "meet expectations" when it comes to communication, time management, and teamwork.  Yet there are skills far more valuable.  These skills will put you or your millennial child behind the handlebars of a sweet bike.

I was not surprised when I read this article last week: Grad studied Computer Science and no job.  Featured on the Washington Post, the article profiles a recent college grad that cannot find a job in this market.  The hook?  The profiled grad studied computer science!  Not English or Philosophy or Poli Sci.  It's an excellent case study on the importance of "employable" skills.  Very few, and I mean like only a handful, of colleges teach skills per se.  Most are a mirror of our high schools, where professors stand on stage lecturing theoretical and abstract concepts that are obsolete by the time students graduate.  It's not the situation with every major of course.  I'd like to think, as a former science major, that the lab skills students learn today are relevant and useful in the Biotech world.  Majored in Communications, Marketing, Business, or Finance?  Great.  You'll be in direct competition with thousands of grads because nowadays, almost everyone has a college degree.  The graduation rate is about 60%.  Check out: College degree the new HS diploma.

"Businesses aren’t looking for college grads, they’re looking for employees who can actually do things – like build iPhone apps, manage ad campaigns and write convincing marketing copy. I wish I’d been taught how to do those things in school, but my college had something different in mind."  Quote from I studied computer science...

We can harp about professors who lack real world experience or about our education system being broken and obsolete until we're blue in the face.  The fact remains, people need skills WITH a piece of paper in hand that says you jumped the necessary hoop.  From my wealthy contacts, business owners among them, I've learned that the following skills are what people need to be hired at a high paying job:

1) Numeracy.  Do you need to use a calculator to multiply double digit numbers?  You can forget about careers that involve deal making, real estate companies, investment firms, banking, and many others.  Time is of the essence when communicating with a client, and if the client is faster at coming up with numbers i.e., offers, and you can't respond in turn with a decision, you've just lost.

2) Sales.  When is the last time you convinced someone (other than a relative) to buy something from you?  Never you say.  Guess what, you are below the curve for what is needed today.  We live in a world where things are made and sold.  That is the nature of the work most Fortune 500 companies do.  Apple: creates a new product, and then has to sell it.  IBM, GE, Samsung, HP, all have a product line that has to get to the consumer and be sold.  But there doesn't have to be a product all the time.  Services.  You have a service to offer?  You need to sell it!  You need to sway people to release their hard earned money and use it for what you offer or what your company offers.  Selling is an indispensable skill!  You hate talking to people?  Are you afraid of rejection?  Get over it.

3) Running a Business.  I'd hire a college grad that had working at MacDonald's on their resume over a college grad that has never worked a day in their life.  I cannot stress how important it is for people nowadays to have multiple experiences of working in different types of industries, doing various business component jobs.  As a high school administrator, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard well-intentioned parents say, "I just want him/her to focus on his schoolwork," as an excuse to keep Johnny on the path to an Ivy League school.  Their fears are probably justified.  Johnny will not keep his 4.3 G.P.A. up if he has a side job.  But Johnny one day will end up like this computer science grad, with no actual skills to promote himself!

4) Literacy.  Can you write?  Can you spell?  You don't have to be a best-selling author to get a job.  However, many job applications have a written portion.  If you can't spell, or if you struggle with basic sentence structure, you are at a huge disadvantage.  My suggestion:  Read some more.  Reading may be something you hate to do, but in our world, reading AND writing are like tying your shoe.  We just expect you to know how to do it.

There are certainly many other skills that are essential in today's workforce, but now I'd like to make a suggestion for parents of teenagers.  Do you want your son/daughter to be not only top of the class, but also real-world ready?  Let them get a job!  In fact, require that they do!  Just once in ten years as an administrator I have been told by a student about a business they were in and that they wanted to share with me.  This student was pitching his Network Marketing company to me and I was one amazed dude.  Here was a student learning about managing his own business, sales, communicating with an intimidating one at that, in high school!  Why can't we have more juniors and seniors learn valuable skills by doing Network Marketing?  There is no law against it.  They may not end up at the top of the line, making thousands of dollars a month, but hey the skills they'd learn would pay huge dividends after college.

So, parents, consider your teen much more than someone who has learned the rules of getting an "A" in class, much more than someone who can regurgitate information well, or take a test well.  Do your community and country a favor and instill the value of real-world skills in your offspring by pushing them out of the house and into a job!

Until Next Time!  For now I'm going to do whatever I feel like I wanna do.  Gosh!

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