Skills New Grads Need


Newly minted graduates are venturing forth, armed with the knowledge and skills needed to build solid careers. But has school really prepared them for success?

Perhaps not.

It appears there may be some things they don’t teach in school. But what’s missing?

How do universities prepare graduates for work?

For the most part, they are well-prepared for their fields. Schools generally do a good job of teaching students what they need to know. Grads are ready to fulfill employer expectations when it comes to technical know-how, and many employers recognize they’ll need to augment a new grad’s, education.

Employers tend to be good at on-boarding new grads as well. Employers are pretty good at explaining what’s expected and how things work at the organization. They’ll provide close supervision and in-house training to newbies as well.

But, there are some areas where employers find new grads lacking.

There are some common shortcoming, however

It’s the less tangible abilities employers find missing in new grads. One is attention and concentration. Some new grads may have difficulty focusing for extended periods, especially when a task is more complex or hard to execute. An employer I worked with said he was happy with a new recruit’s technical ability, but he found when the recruit got stumped, he would jump to another less complex task. The grad had trouble staying focused and seeing things through.

The ability to focus requires self-discipline, and graduates can train themselves to extend their attention spans, and minimize distractions. Watch out for temptations to surf the net, check your phone or email, especially when a task is difficult, or you feel frustrated or defeated.

The story doesn’t end with concentration…


Being fresh out of school can be a problem if there’s a tendency to believe what you’ve learned is the best way to do things. When a colleague does things differently from the way the grad was taught, friction can occur. I worked with a new recruit who was upset when her co-worker seemed to be taking short cuts. The graduate said, “That’s not how you’re supposed to do it.” But the short cuts were her colleague’s way of making things more efficient. New grads need to recognize technical ability eventually combines with years of experience, so asking questions first before deciding that a co-worker is doing the task wrong is a good idea.

Time pressure is another

Many grads have experienced deadlines at school, as well as the pressure to produce good quality work on tight timelines, especially if there was competition for grades. That said, time pressure at work is different from time pressure at school. Work-related time pressure centers on having to temporarily put aside your own needs, wants and desires, so you can fulfill your boss’s demands, which can come as a surprise if you’ve never had to do it before – even for those who have co-op, apprenticeship or internship experience.

This derives from a shift towards meeting the demands of others and temporarily subverting your own needs and can feel unfamiliar and a bit stressful at first. It is worth remembering that grads have spent most of their adult lives in a school environment where they were in the role of a client paying for a service: their education. The transition from service consumer to provider is an important shift, and adaptation to the change is sign of growing maturity, and is key to success.

Tips for employers

Lack of maturity, distractibility and a seemingly ‘know-it-all-attitudes’ can frustrate employers, but there are ways to help new grads. When it comes to increasing maturity— supervisors can show they care about new grads while holding them to high standards.  Ask new grads to take on projects and check back on how they’re doing. New grads are hungry for feedback, so don’t be afraid to give them more than older employees.

Also, just because the newbie is a keener try not to put too much on their plate. Monitoring the new recruit’s workload and safety with them is important. Meet regularly to check-in. Distractible grads benefit when they are told things like:

“If you run into a roadblock come and see me. Don’t start something else”.

And make sure you let them know what a road block is!

“A roadblock is when you’ve tried to figure it out by yourself, and then you’ve asked two separate co-workers for their thoughts. Then, you’ve looked at it again yourself and, you still don’t know how to proceed.”

That’s a good time to ask your boss.

But above all, remember that if you have a know-it-all, they are probably trying to impress you.

That, or there’s a disconnect between how they learned something and how other staff are doing it. Ask them about what they know, and invite them to see the similarities, as well as the differences between what they were taught and how the company is doing things.

Don’t forget though, learning can be a two-way street—some grads may be able to teach employers a thing or two, as well. You hired them for a reason!

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