Many students dream of getting the best education in the finest university, be it at home or abroad, and expect a smooth transition from academic life to the industry. However, this may not be true or as easy as it seems.
Haven’t you heard about studies showing the education vs. skill gaps prevalent across universities in many countries? Yes, unfortunately, this is one of the reasons you cannot be sure of getting a job even if you study abroad. Unless you are sufficiently skilled for the industry, of course.
Gaps in university learning and job-ready skills have long been a source of lament among industry professionals. This reality is particularly harsh for about 40 to 50 per cent of young graduates in the US and OECD countries. In spite of an increasing graph as far as the cost of education is concerned, the same cannot be said for the associated Return on Investment (ROI) for studying abroad.
Despite a high premium on education, the value addition from a university degree goes south with an increase in the number of students.
Is studying abroad worth it?
Just to make things clear: you and everyone else go abroad to study – and spend a truckload of money at that – hoping to get a decent job that would let you pay back your debts while ensuring a bright career ahead. But the reality is that the premium on education is not an indication of a job guarantee.
Not only that, as the students with a university degree become more common, the boost in earnings due to them decreases, thereby reducing the ROI for a college education. Adding to the problem is that most employers demand college degrees irrespective of its needs in a particular job.
This hurts both the employer and the employee, reducing the pool of talent for an employer while imposing jobs that need just a secondary degree on students with a tertiary degree. This way, many students find themselves with jobs that pay far less than their expectation, even below their break-even when taking student loan into account. For some, there is no guarantee that they may even get a job offer.
In the current age of frequent disruptions and notoriously dynamic job evolution, the notion of sticking to a particular pattern of studying abroad and hoping for a job offer has passed. The industry is now moving towards the game of pure skills and talent and giving a platform to showcase them.
Many potential hires are selected through these platforms, without giving much emphasis on their field of study in college and at times, not placing emphasis on a college degree at all. Proficiency in the job profile combined with a proven ability to showcase the talent seems to be the chosen, or rather easier way to guarantee you a job.
Freelancing and Intelligence Scores
There are examples galore of students who prefer to skip a traditional college degree in the favour of vocational skill, learn and unlearn that skill over a period of time and on that basis, work independently as a freelancer. Companies have also begun to realize the emergence of this new talent powerhouse and prefer to recruit a freelancer with an established track record for a number of job profiles.
Research has also proved that a person’s score in intelligence tests gives a better indication of his job potential that a candidate with a college degree but a poor score. For jobs that need constant learning, up-gradation and thinking, recruiters observe that candidates with higher intelligence scores substantially outperform those with a low score, irrespective of a college degree.
This gives you a picture of the evolving needs in the job market, combined with the diminishing importance of a job degree without an intelligence score to back it up. Simply put, a college degree with the good academic record is an indication of the coursework studied by a candidate, while excellence at an intelligence test is the indication of the raw ability to think, learn and reason logically and argumentatively.
These are today’s life-saving skills of the industry, in the face of intense competition and a shrinking global economic pie.
The Way Forward
The transformation of a college degree to an instrument of lesser importance has led to universities thinking the way forward for students to bridge the gap between academic learning and intelligent skillsets. While employers do attach significant importance to qualifications at a university, it is not at the cost of psychological assessments that prove a student’s learning ability and intelligence. A university degree is seen as a reliable indicator of a competent candidate, but the future performance at the job needs to be ascertained with critical skillsets to solve problems.
That being said, if universities spend more time imparting these critical skillsets and ability to constantly evolve in the workplace, the value of a college degree could go up by several notches. It is also a fact that any employer will not be impressed by you unless you can prove the ability to handle people from all walks of life, working with them, collaborating with them and managing conflicts among them.
People skills are one of the biggest gaps identified by employers in most of their candidates who have a college degree. While universities excel at providing academic attributes, they hardly nurture at skills like high EQ, empathy, resilience and integrity among students – all of which are a must for all employers in the age of rapid technological innovation.
Companies list communication, problem-solving and collaboration as among the skills that hold the most value in a potential new hire. Apart from technical skills, recruiters list candidates on the basis of growth potential, cultural fitness and adaptable nature to shortlist them. Curiosity and fire-in-the-belly are also listed as critical indicators of the candidate’s potential.
To conclude, we think that a mere study in a university and arming yourself with a degree is no longer enough to compete in the jobs arena. A candidate with a balanced approach that combines college degree with relevant skillsets across his EQ, communication, problem-solving skills and inquisitiveness has the right ingredients to be better placed for a job opportunity.