“Engage in Preparation to Be Exceptionally Employable
© Dr. John Jackson, 2021
I am well aware of the conversation and debate regarding the difference between education and training. Many who have heard me speak about exceptionally employable have gently suggested that maybe exceptionally employable is not a good aspiration for a liberal arts university. You know the old stories about liberal arts graduates having to find work in the fast food or retail industries because they are not employable elsewhere. You know the other side of the argument, where the university is always resistant to change and prepares students for the world that passed two decades ago when its professors were graduating from college. I have opinions about both thoughts. I think they are both wrong.
I have spent more than 30 years in some form of pastoral ministry. In that context, people would regularly ask me the question, “In the Great Commission, which is more important–evangelism or discipleship?” My answer was always yes! BOTH are absolutely vital. You can’t have discipleship without evangelism, and evangelism without discipleship violates the biblical exhortation in John 16 to “bear fruit that remains”. I think the same way about university education. University education equips students with the ability to think, read, write, and speak well, among other disciplines.
At the University I lead (www.jessup.edu), we believe in what I call “the miracle of AND”. We believe that we can educate and equip students to be people of character, life-long learners, and have a servant heart for the world in which we live in. We also refuse to prepare people for a job; we are preparing people for life. Some research suggests that as many as 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today! (see this report here: (https://www.delltechnologies.com/content/dam/delltechnologies/assets/perspectives/2030/pdf/Realizing-2030-A-Divided-Vision-of-the-Future-Summary.pdf)
I had the privilege to attend a WASC (our accreditation agency) briefing in the fall of 2011 where research was shared from 2010 regarding what employers are looking for; in my view, these skillsets have only increased in their importance and people in the workforce with these capacities will be exceptionally employable:
Critical thinking and analytic reasoning 81%
Complex problem solving 75%
Teamwork skills in diverse groups 71%
Creativity and innovation 70%
Information literacy 68%
Quantitative reasoning 63%
So…if I could script it for you, here is what I would call the “triple braided cord” for being exceptionally employable in this and future economies:
1) Engage your academic pursuits fully; progressively grasp general studies and major focus across the span of your collegiate years.
2) Engage in a series of increasingly challenging and focused “real world” internships, work experience, and practical settings over your four years. Progressive exposure to your real world “application” of knowledge is the singular key to becoming exceptionally employable. Employers want to see increasing capacity, motivation, and results.
3) Engage with a community of relationships where you are mentored, encouraged, held accountable, and growing in and over time.
If you do those three things, you will not only be exceptionally employable at graduation, but will have multiple options to pursue. Employers are looking for people who can think and communicate well, collaborate with others well, and integrate head, heart, and hands. Now more than ever, employers need a learning workforce that carries these qualities and skillsets. I hope your college experience provides that context for you so that you can soar!