In order to truly answer the question of what’s wrong with our education system, we need to start asking the question of what determines success in one persons personal life and professional career over another’s? Are there certain types of behaviors and mental models that equate to success? How and where does one develop these mental models and behaviors?
For more than a decade, I’ve sat at the decision table with leaders ranging from the most powerful companies in the world to companies that are just two to three years out the door, and the analysis and outcomes are essentially the same. Decisions pertaining to promotions quickly overturn technical skills in favor of critical soft skills. Why?
“Because technical skills ultimately have a ceiling limit, and as you rise in an organization, the skills you are measured on are more vast, varied and beyond the sphere of technical competence.”
For a long time now, a degree has been the net norm, with the ultimate differentiators setting a graduate candidate apart being, ‘are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses?’ – ‘how have you demonstrated leadership skills?’ – ‘have you shown progression throughout your life?’ – ‘what additional skills do you bring to the table: critical thinking, cultural diversity, strong communication skills?’ – and so on.
Now take these initial screening questions, and apply them into the practical realities of being in the job, and you’ll find that the questions essentially tap into the next level of analysis, such as: ‘how has your past experience prepared you for this job?’ – ‘do you apply a critical mindset to problem solving?’ – ‘do you bring a point of view that shapes the next wave of advancements?’ – ‘do you demonstrate innovative thinking in staying ahead of the market?’ – ‘how do you connect to and influence those around you to drive success?’ – ‘are you an authentic leader?’ – and so on.
If you look at the questions as a whole, whether you’re a graduate applying for a job, or already in the workforce looking to progress in your career, which of these questions are actually taught to you in your undergraduate college degree? Did sitting in a classroom provide you with a critical mindset? How about self-awareness and innovative thinking? Did the classroom build confidence in your ability to have your own point of view? Did it allow you to become confident? Teach you how to influence others? If you answered yes, thats awesome! My guess is you had a strong eco-system of experiential opportunities that were part of your undergraduate degree program. If you answered no, you’re not alone, because universities are not equipped (and not designed) to teach you the critical soft skills that define success.
Our research is telling us that even the best of colleges often struggle with finding ways to augment traditional learning models with meaningful experiential insights that build critical soft skills.
“And the real thought provoker is: students are starting to challenge the value of spending an average of four years of their life getting a college degree.”
There’s a significant pool of students who don’t believe a college degree has the ability to set them up for success in their career. So what’s the alternative? Education institutes are going to have to step up and challenge their current teaching models, or they’ll have to chose to accept lower enrollments rates as students find alternative education institutes that provide them with the ‘real’ skills that they, and organizations, equate to ultimate success.
For a student, the key is not to think of your future as an ‘either or’ game. It's not. It's an ‘and’ game, which basically means you need to come to the table with strong technical AND strong critical soft skills in order to truly become a successful individual in both your personal and professional life.
ABOUT EXPERIENTIAL INSIGHT
If you’re a student or recent graduate looking to design your career and your life, then we believe the most effective and affordable solution for you is Experiential Insight. We’ve taken the proven executive coaching model off its pedestal and we’re making it accessible to students and recent graduates so that you can start to develop the critical soft skills that will set you apart. We are doing this in a way that is global, virtual, ridiculously affordable, and never been done before.