Career Readiness for College Graduates: Got Skill Set?

college graduates job seekers


Career Readiness for College Graduates: Got Skill Set?

Let’s talk about career readiness. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

You’re about to graduate from college. You’ve worked long and hard to make it to this point in your career journey. Do you feel prepared to launch a job search? Are you confident employers will perceive you as a qualified job seeker?

According to a Cengage study, over 70% of employers admit to having difficulty finding quality candidates. We’re living in tumultuous times amidst the Great Resignation, political turmoil in Europe and other regions, and post-pandemic difficulty adapting to the changing workplace landscape. 

But what’s the real root of the difficulty employers face in finding qualified, interested candidates? 

Many researchers, educators, and employers believe a lack of career readiness is to blame, particularly for Gen Z job seekers. They cite Gen Z as “the most vulnerable group of workers.” 

As a job seeker, this should pique your interest and motivate you to take action. 

What Is Career Readiness?

Career readiness is a combination of skills and learning which prepares job seekers for career fulfillment and success. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) considers career readiness a “foundation from which to demonstrate requisite core competencies that broadly prepare the college-educated for success in the workplace and lifelong career management.”

career readiness

Ultimately, career-ready job seekers have already done the hard work to prepare themselves to succeed in the workplace. 

As a recent college graduate and entry-level candidate, how do you become career-ready? Which skills do you need to focus on building? 

Career Readiness Competencies: Skills and Attributes

If you’re a student or recent graduate, you can assess your level of career readiness by considering how you measure up in terms of career-readiness competencies. 

NACE identifies eight core competencies for career readiness: 

  • career development 
  • communication 
  • critical thinking 
  • equity & inclusion 
  • leadership 
  • professionalism 
  • teamwork 
  • technology 

Other organizations and experts emphasize additional career readiness competencies. These include planning, work ethic, financial literacy, social-emotional learning, and perseverance. 

Why Career Readiness Matters for Job Seekers

There’s so much hype out there about career readiness. But does it really contribute to success? Should it matter to job seekers? Why?

Matters to Employers

Remember, over 70% of employers admit it’s challenging to find qualified candidates. And career readiness is the direct link between what you do as a job seeker and whether employers perceive you as qualified.

Career readiness should matter to you as a job seeker because it matters to your future employers. 

job seeker

Ensures Strong Soft Skills

According to a LinkedIn Global Talent Trends Report, almost 90% of employers state that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s due to a lack of soft skills. Soft skills are simply interpersonal skills that are a combination of talent and ability. Of the eight NACE career readiness competencies, seven are soft skills

If you want to ensure career readiness, build your soft skills. 

If you want to ensure employers perceive you as qualified or career-ready, hire you and keep you, build your soft skills

Leads to Greater Career Success & Fulfillment

Most importantly, you should invest in building career readiness because it leads directly to career fulfillment and success. When you build a solid foundation of strong soft skills, work experience, great work ethic, and emotional intelligence, you become what employers call “top talent.” And top talent is what employers are looking for.

Yes, you need to learn the ropes of your industry and career field through higher education and training. And, you absolutely need to earn the best scores possible. 

But a high grade-point average, excellent cover letter, or perfect resume will only take you so far as a job seeker. 

college graduate

If you want to ensure you’ll land jobs, earn promotions, and find purpose and meaning in your career, you need more than technical talent or hard skills. You need soft skills and career readiness competencies. 

Employers want to hire people who:

  • work well with others 
  • treat others well 
  • know when to speak and when to think 
  • collaborate creatively with peers 
  • complete tasks on time 
  • include others despite differences

Employers want to hire career-ready job seekers. 

Building a Foundation of Career Readiness

Chances are, your university has already helped you build a foundation of career readiness. But you might feel your foundation is missing bricks or mortar, or that you could strengthen your foundation to help you feel more steady. How do you do that? 

Assess Career Readiness

The first step in improving your level of career readiness is assessing where you are currently. How can you adequately and accurately determine career readiness?

You can take self-assessments online or through your career development office on campus. Whatever means of assessment you choose, be sure to seek outside help in assessing yourself. 

The problem with self-assessment is we all tend to see ourselves inaccurately. We either believe we’re stronger and better than we are, or we view ourselves as much weaker than we are. To see ourselves realistically, we need objective insight.

Ask a mentor, faculty member, or career services staff member to offer their feedback and insight on how you measure up to NACE’s eight core competencies. This is a simple way to start a helpful conversation.

Seek Mentorship

In addition, you should also seek mentorship. 

If you don’t currently have a career mentor, get one! Mentorship is key to your career success. 

What’s the difference between career mentors and workplace mentors?

Many companies assign new employees a workplace mentor. This is a colleague with more years of experience and greater depth of knowledge who can serve as a guide and source of feedback. Workplace mentors can help new employees learn the ropes, understand company culture, and prepare for future promotions. 

career readiness

However, a workplace mentor isn’t someone you might feel comfortable talking to about difficulties within your shared workplace. You may hesitate to trust your workplace mentor completely with company-sensitive information. Additionally, your workplace mentor has a vested interest in your success within the same organization. 

A career mentor, on the other hand, will hopefully stay with you for years. Your career mentor doesn’t care WHERE you work; they simply care that you find fulfillment and success in your career. Career mentors can provide objective, honest feedback because they have no vested interest in your tenure with any particular organization. 

When you’re searching for a career mentor, consider whether your mentor models strong soft skills and demonstrates career readiness. Use the NACE competencies as a guide. Observe your mentor or meet face-to-face to discern your potential mentor’s character, attributes, and career readiness skills.

If you hope to learn from this person, be sure your mentor is someone you want to learn from and whose career you want to emulate.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get obsessed with being the perfect candidate.

The perfect candidate doesn’t exist.

Instead, focus your energy on building a firm foundation. If you do, you’ll become a strong, viable, qualified job seeker. Many job seekers will not strive to improve their career readiness. That’s okay; it just creates a wider gap for you to fill. 

college graduates

Wherever there is a void, look to fill it, and employers will consider you an invaluable asset.

Your first professional entry-level job is right on the horizon.

Bethany Wallace
Bethany Wallace
Bethany Wallace partners with mission-minded organizations to build better workplaces through soft skills solutions. Bethany aids leaders in strengthening workplace relationships through communications consulting, training, executive coaching, keynote presentations, & career coaching. Bethany enjoys presenting research at conferences and contributes regularly to major publications & recognized podcasts, including Glassdoor, College Recruiter, Zip Recruiter, Jobscan, FlexJobs, the New York Daily News, BusinessTech, Human Resources Online, Life After Teaching, Love Your Story, The Conversation Guy (10 Minute Mindset), Everyday People Podcast, The Success Chronicles, and more.

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