From Classroom to Career – What Skills Will I Take With Me?

backpack to briefcaseLast Thursday we hosted a Campus/Community Roundtable where we invited business and not-for-profit managers and leaders to join with faculty and administration to talk about Liberal Arts degrees and their transferability and applicability to the world of work.  Before the session we conducted a survey to discover what attributes are most frequently needed in order to be successful in a variety of fields including: education, insurance, banking, legal, not-for-profit, marketing, communications, business consulting, and government.

The skills that were ranked as “very important” included:

  • Communication oral and written (93%)
  • Teamwork (87%)
  • Problem-solving (87%)
  • Critical thinking (87%)
  • Ethical decision-making (87%)
  • Analytical thinking (87%)
  • Work ethic (87%)
  • Passion for excellence (86%)
  • Accountability (80%)

We also asked our community partners about the frequency with which these skills are used.  The skills that were cited as being used daily by the largest number of people were:

  • Communication written (87%)
  • Communication oral (80%)
  • Problem-solving (73%)
  • Critical Thinking (73%)
  • Teamwork (73%)
  • Time management (73%)

After reviewing the survey responses, we worked in groups on real-life case studies, where we looked at how the skills that students acquire during their degree and the teaching methods used, can help prepare our graduates to deal with a wide variety of work situations ranging from dealing with difficult clients in a call centre, to developing and running targeted promotional events.

What was abundantly clear is that the skills that you use to succeed in a liberal arts degree are the same skills that you will need to succeed in your career.  That being said, many of you do not realize or are not confident in identifying your value to employers.

As we have heard time and again, the careers that exist today are not the careers that will exist 5 years from now.  Even if the job title is the same, the type of work and how it is done is likely to change dramatically as our culture, economy, and technology evolve.  Thus, what employers are looking for most of all is someone who can learn and adapt quickly.  When you write a paper, or prepare a group project, when you participate in a community-based learning course, or deliver a presentation in a class, you are demonstrating and refining many of the same skills and attributes that you will be required to use in your career. It is the process, perhaps even more than the theories and concepts, that is important.  Whether you remember that on this date in 1429 Joan of Arc raised the siege of Orleans or that the protagonist in Much Ado About Nothing is Beatrice is not likely to have a dramatic impact on your career trajectory. However, your ability to work with others, conduct research, synthesize information and convey it in an articulate and concise manner will.

If there are other ways that you think a liberal arts degree helps prepare you for the “real world” or if you have a personal example, please post a comment.

For more information on skills that employers are looking for check out these links:

Top 10 Skills Employers are Looking For

Employability Skills

What Do Employers Really Want

Published by lessstressedstudents

Clare Tattersall is the Manager of Undergraduate Services for the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Western Ontario.

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